I first heard about Bastion whilst listening to a PC gaming podcast in 2011 where the people talking sounded excited at almost everything about it. They spoke about the unique visuals, how it looked hand painted, and of course about the compelling story as narrated by the dude with an amazing voice. The game became that sort where I’d hear only positive things about it, and so I picked it up fairly cheap during a Steam sale later that Winter. I played through it twice back to back (if you’ve played through it once you know why). And afterwards I was so impressed that I bought the collectors pack from the developers Supergiant Games (I still wear my Caelondia Masons t-shirt) and wrote them an email to express my enthusiasm and enjoyment of Bastion.
Sometime later SGG announced Transistor, and in recent years games I can recall only 3 times that I’ve felt any true enthusiasm and excitement about game announcements. Deus Ex Human Revolution, Guild Wars 2, and Transistor. Well OK Skyrim also made my tongue water with anticipation but not many games manage to tick all the boxes I need for it to be considered worthy of hype, but because of Bastion, Transistor certainly grabbed and held onto my attention.
Today I finally finished my first play through of Transistor. And it’s taken me 7 months to do so. Not because it’s difficult, but for the same reasons I don’t behave like a starving dog in a nice restaurant. I take my time, I savor the atmosphere, I pay attention to everything and everybody around me, I think about each bite of food, each sip of wine should remind you where you are and to enjoy it. I like to make an experience of the entire evening. Playing Bastion for the first time was a busy affair. To experience everything instantly and get more of it into my brain, filling it up with all the hype. The second play through gave me more reasons to say “Wow!” and be amazed about new things I missed the first play through. I did not want this to happen with Transistor. I wanted to make it an experience that lasted.
Most of my Transistor time over those 7 months was spent looking around the screen, absorbing the colors and lines, the textures of the environments. Sometimes it was on in the background as I studied, lights falling across my screen to some nice chill music. The city areas are designed to be familiar but with their own style, each piece looks unique with a color selection that could be dark and brooding or bright and stunning, and often a mix of both giving you more synaptic triggers in a 5 minute span of time than some other games manage over 5 hours. It’s like playing in the artists head as they imagined their ideal city forming in front of them. Learning how each area seemed different, yet similar, made me see the process as a whole.
Traditional art is something I really appreciate but have never really made an effort with. I have some paintings from friends, and I’ve been to art galleries and art shows but I think maybe because I can’t interact with art the same way I can with a game, I get a different set of rules that I understand as separate. Baldurs Gate 2 with its hand drawn maps really blew my mind, a piece of art made into an interactive environment. Much more recently Bastion gave me a similar feeling, it’s environments being one of the prettiest I’ve ever played around in. And in comparison to Transistor, Bastion was training wheels in this respect. Transistor is so gorgeous.
Experiencing this game is like having every sense initiating at the same time. Well, besides taste, I couldn’t taste the game. But I could absorb into it with sight and sound, which is what I want a game to do. I want a game to get right into my muscles and nerves, and sit there for a long time. I want it to make me enthusiastic about loading it up. I want it to offer more than just having fun, I want it to really pull me in and say “Just look at this”. And Transistor did that to me, for 7 months.
It is fun though, lot’s of fun. The combat system allows a person to set up a series of moves that gives a sense of pride in creating set plays that perform beautifully. And as soon as it’s all over you’re not left feeling hollow, instead you are back in that beautiful environment and the music comes back in and guides you on your way. Instead of being bombarded with visual stimulants, you are eased back in to an environment that plays the long game with your attention. It’s a constant high standard of visual, audio, and exploratory stimuli. Id’ rather that, then the ups and downs of some other games whose balance is too much one way or the other. Too slow and mundane, or a constant stream of adrenaline that you become resistant to it’s periodic awesomeness.
To end here, I think that when one is passionate about something, patience comes naturally. I’m no longer the most passionate PC gamer, I don’t mix my own blood into my water cooling system, I don’t pray to Gaben before I sleep, and I don’t surround myself with all the games media available to be 100% informed of everything ever. However, it is an awesome feeling knowing I can become passionate about a game like Transistor. It reminded me that gaming is more than just getting from A to B in the fastest time, it’s about really enjoying something on as many levels as you can open yourself up to. Like a good night out, in an excellent place, with your favorite company, where you all enjoy good food and drink. And while I wish that more games would trigger all of the good areas in the brain, and tick all of the boxes like Transistor did, I am also quite glad that they do not as I quite like how special a game like this can be, how it distinguishes itself from all of the others. Instead I think it’s more important to experience something fully and appreciate it as a beautiful and fun event you can enjoy every once and awhile, to elevate what ever it is over the usual day to day stuff, and that the experience is something you can remember as both positive and productive.
Steam store: http://store.steampowered.com/app/237930/
Supergiant Games website: https://www.supergiantgames.com/games/transistor/
The Transistor Wiki: http://transistor.gamepedia.com/Transistor
Here’s a good Steam guide if you need one: https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=262238260&insideModal=1