Mento's May Mastery '16: Day Six: Transistor


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It's the third day with Supergiant's cyberpunk action-RPG, and I'm starting to run out of topics to discuss. I could start by delineating my build in greater detail, but then I'm frequently changing most of it around to see if new combinations work better and also to learn more about the people behind the Functions; it's telling that they're all social leaders, as the Camerata appeared to have a plan in mind about controlling the populace through the voices of some of its most notable civil servants and celebrities. Each little tale, once fully filled in, explains who the person was and their importance to Cloudbank, and how they eventually ran afoul of the Camerata and got their souls absorbed into the Transistor days prior to the game's events.

However, there's a few Functions I've kept locked down because of their vital utility. The first is Breach() with Crush() as one of its upgrades, as Breach() is a powerful attack made stronger by how Crush() will stun foes for a few seconds. It not only holds them in place for follow up attacks, but ensures that I have some time to get away once my turn is over. The extremely fast and weak Ping() is best employed with status effects, because you can quickly hit multiple enemies with the same status effect for little cost. For now, it's grouped with Switch(), which turns enemies over to my side, and I occasionally add other status effects like Purge(), which is essentially poison damage over several seconds. For passives, I usually stick on the powerful Void(), which gives a base damage boost to every offensive active Function, and Help(), which is the 1/4 proc superpower skill I discussed last time. I might also have Jaunt() and Bounce() as my other passives, which can reduce the cooldown between turns and generates a protective shield for a few seconds after a turn is over, respectively. I'm sure there are plenty of other combinations that work wonders - I've tried a few while playing the game's Function-specific bonus "tasks" in its backdoor hub area, but forgot most of them - but those are the ones working for me right now. I do appreciate that there's a lot of breadth here, even though it always leads to that slightly unnerving feeling that you've spec-ed incorrectly. Still, you could say that's an uncertainty present in a lot of RPGs.

The game is getting... odd.
The game is getting... odd. "End of Portal 2" odd.

Beyond that, I can really only talk about the minor details that I appreciate. Like how collecting cells - which appear after defeating enemies and will turn back into enemies after a few seconds, Joust egg style - makes a little Final Fantasy VII menu select "bwip" noise (there's a lot of incidental Final Fantasy flourishes, I swear). Or how you'll occasionally see a ghost image running towards the next objective if you get lost wandering around. Or that Red will find opportunities to communicate with both the world and the friend in her sword via posting on internet terminals, since she can't speak via conventional means. There's also the story arc of the game in general, which starts as a quest for vengeance and answers and then becomes something else entirely as events in Cloudbank spiral out of control.

It's not perfect though. Because the game eschews grids for its tactical "turn mode", it results in a lot of inaccuracy that can be irksome when registering whether or not an attack has the right range or line of sight. After a turn is executed, the list of stacked commands play out as enemies float around in slow motion, but sometimes an enemy will fly off in a direction you don't expect and an attack late in the chain no longer lines up correctly. That's especially true of the penetrative Breach() and the area of effect Functions like Spark(), Load() or Tap(). Some enemies get way too frustrating to deal with on a constant basis, such as the tenacious hound-like Fetch, the vision distorting Snapshot, the respawning enemy-healer Weeds and, most recently, a very powerful "Man" enemy that never seems to leave its masked state, making it impervious to all harm somehow. That these enemies keep gaining health after leveling up even though your weapon Functions have the same damage output throughout the entire game (barring a few specific Functions that can increase damage in an upgrade role) is just an irritating exercise in bullet spongery. There's also the fact that there's no random battles or real opportunities to grind: the next fight will almost always be determined by where you are in the story, and it's not always easy to predict if it'll be another regular battle or some challenging boss encounter. That makes it extra annoying when you've moved some Functions around in less effective roles to unlock their lore entries.

The wave-based Performance Tests are a joke. 20% to the next level for all those enemies? Even this far in I cannot ascertain how experience gain works in this game.
The wave-based Performance Tests are a joke. 20% to the next level for all those enemies? Even this far in I cannot ascertain how experience gain works in this game.

I'm not quite at the end of the game - there's an encounter coming up that gave me my first game over because I cannot get my head around it, as it involves two of those constantly-stealthed enemies that can knock off half my health bar with just one of their constant homing attacks - so it might be that I'll have to put a bookmark in it and come back. (The more likely scenario, however, is that I'll just divide my time tomorrow between finishing it and playing a substantial amount of the next game.)

The Verdict: Inconclusive. From what I've played, though, I'd give Transistor four stars and a solid recommendation.

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