Supergiant Games really hit on something special with their first game Bastion, but their follow up, Transistor, has been out for almost two weeks now. I’ve only gotten a chance to play through the game once, and it took me about six hours. I liked the game, I did, but I think we need to talk about the play time.
First off, I will say that the game has a fantastic soundtrack, great gameplay, and a terrific aesthetic. In no way does a weak story make a game bad, like I said I would personally consider Transistor just as good as Bastion in a lot of ways. But, frankly, the game is too short. I recently wrote a piece about this incorrect idea we seem to have that the more hours we can pump into a game, the better it is. So rest assured, I’m not saying that six hours isn’t long enough.
What I am saying, though, is that six hours isn’t long enough for Transistor. I was really enjoying the game, getting into the cool, sci-fi atmosphere that Supergiant Games built with this title, and after about five hours I felt like I was really getting the hang of the combat system and was really looking forward to unraveling the mysteries of this world.
Then the game presented me with the final confrontation and suddenly it was over. It might have been worse since I made an effort to play through the game in only two sittings, but it still felt like it was over too soon. I still had so many questions, and so much more I wanted to do. Sure, there’s a “recurse” mode (basically a new game plus that lets you keep your unlocks and progress level), but that still meant I would only be playing through the same story and encounters again.
Story continued on page 2, with spoilers for Transistor and Bastion.
I hate to draw comparisons between Transistor and Bastion, because plenty of other people have already done that, and they are very different games. In terms of story and plot structure, though, Transistor actually seems to be the opposite of Bastion. There’s a part in Bastion where you’ve almost finished the main task you’ve been trying to accomplish, and suddenly something happens that adds an additional three or four hours to the game.
Honestly, I was expecting a similar situation with Transistor, some kind of event that would prolong the game. Instead, the game ended at what felt like more of a half-way point. There were still several questions I had that were never answered, and I felt as if I had only progressed about half as far as I could.
The whole thing is exacerbated by the fact that I couldn’t really wrap my head around the levelling up in the game. It seemed that you gained a set amount of experience points per enemy encounter, but there are only so many enemy encounters throughout the game. You can add “limiters” that make the game more difficult but give you additional experience, but the end result is that there’s really only so much you can level up in your first playthrough.
There’s also a total of four characters you’re trying to chase down in the game, and two of them take their own lives, which felt a little anti-climactic, but also meant that the game only had two boss fights. Like I’ve said before, short games don’t bother me at all (Portal is one of my favorite games of all time), but Transistor felt like it ended too soon. Not that there needed to be more hours tacked on artifically to the game, but it felt like it could’ve benefited from a little bit more balancing.
Still, despite these complaints, I really enjoyed Transsitor, and don’t at all fault the small team that makes up Supergiant Games, but for those looking for a satisfying, fully-fleshed out plotline, you may be disappointed. For those who want some fun gameplay and an awesome soundtrack, though, you’ll be more than happy.