Transistor is the Spiritual Successor (not a sequel), to Supergiant Games' previous hit Bastion. It features the returning voice talent of Logan Cunningham as the titular weapon. The gameplay is a mixture of real-time action (similar to Bastion) and tactical RPG-like elements; "Planning Mode", A.K.A. "Turn()", can be used to plan a chain of attacks and move around at high speed when executing the plan.In the city of Cloudbank, a young singer known as Red is attacked by a mysterious organization known as the Camerata. Somehow, she survives (although she loses her voice) and is transported across town where she finds the dead body of a man she knows. Impaled in his stomach is a mysterious sword called the Transistor, and contained within the sword is the soul of the man himself. Red takes the sword, and together they set out to discover the intentions of the Camerata and stop the dangerous force known as the Process from overtaking the city.
This game provides examples of:
Abstract Scale: The interface sometimes lists some useless flavor data on interactive items (like the number of steps on a staircase). Some of it dips into this, like measuring "Opinions swayed" on a poster, or Junction Jan's "Satisfactions guaranteed."
Action Bomb: Haircuts, a mook spawned by Man that flies into Red and explodes on contact. It can be attacked to make it detonate early, potentially harming Man if he's caught in the blast.
Alas, Poor Villain: All of the Camarata get rather sad deaths. After a long boss fight, Sybil is reduced to flailing about on the stage and even the Man in the Transistor, whom Sybil murdered, feels bad for her and asks Red to put her out of her misery. Grant commits suicide over the horrors his actions have wrought, and Asher follows suit as he can't bear to live in a world without Grant. Royce has a rather disturbing panic attack when he fades away after Red defeats him.
Arc Number: Abusively uses many numbers related to computing, architecture, and general online fora mechanics. Sixteen slots of available input and functions which loops to 32 functions after a certain level. "Hello World" is essentially the base function for any language. Two achievements (1024, 2048) point to another trope.
"When everything changes, nothing changes." The Camarata creed, which is mentioned at least twice, comments on the nature of all-encompassing changes, many of which has occurred through out the game, such as how Cloudbank votes for the weather and the color of the sky, the complete destruction and processing of the city, as well as the fact that every one went to the country in the end. Though should Red let Royce win, then instead, Royce gets to completely rebuild the city.
Action Dress Rip: Red rips her ballgown and dons the coat of the dead man just before the game begins.
Anti-Frustration Features: No matter how small the remaining amount of Turn() processing left, any function you have can be used regardless of how much it would go over that leftover.
Apocalypse How: The Process is slowly devouring everyone and everything in Cloudbank.
Apocalyptic Log: The news terminals are an ongoing version of this, with the reporter covering the Process slowly overtaking the city culminating in one final news story with the reporter standing with the last survivors and saying goodbye to Cloudbank before they're all processed.
Area of Effect: The Spark() attack. Load() can also be used to create explosive mines, or modify abilities with explosive effects.
Art Deco: Cloudbank's architecture is like a fusion of Midgar, 1920's art deco, and TRON's vision of cyberspace.
Assimilation Plot: The Process and Camerata are processing everyone and everything they can throughout the game. It's only "intentional" on the part of the Process, as that was its function. The Camerata suffers a collective My God, What Have I Done? moment when the Process runs berserk.
Awesome, but Impractical: Using Help() as a passive command gives you a 25% chance of becoming a Superuser whenever you use Turn(), giving you access to the unique Kill() command that has the highest base damage in the game, but it can't be enhanced with support commands and using it once takes up your entire Turn(), meaning you can't perform any combos with it either.
Back from the Dead: When killed, Processes will drop a cell which can then be collected. If you fail to collect it, it will either regenerate back into the Process you just killed, or a speedy little black Cell which only needs to be killed to get rid of it for good. Some Processes spit out nearly a dozen of these things when they die, all of which regenerate into black Cells.
Back Stab: Attacking Processes from behind gives you bonus damage.
Bleak Level: Cloudbank as a whole slowly becomes this as it gets processed. Eventually Red returns to the Empty Set, and finds that almost the entire area has been processed, and by the time she gets to Fairview she finds it's been processed entirely.
There's a lot of cool skills, but Crash() is by far the most useful standby you'll have. It has a decent attack speed, decent Turn() cost, stuns, synergizes well with most other functions, and its only drawback is short range.
Jaunt() is simply a low cost dash move. Slap Help() into it and half your enemies will be busy clawing at decoys you left behind as you dance around like a bunny on crack. Put Load() into it and you'll be bombing Processes left and right just by moving. This'll cost you a fair bit of MEM, though.
Charm Person: Switch(). Charmed Processes can't be damaged by the player, and will switch back instantly if hit a second time.
Chekhov's Gun: The very first terminal of the game talks about a potential project to build a bridge from Cloudbank to Fairview. Near the end of the game, Red and the Transistor end up building the bridge themselves to meet up with Royce.
Chekhov's Skill: Red's Flourish ability causes the Transistor to fly out of her hands, which is fun to mess around with. She uses this ability at the very end of the game, operating the Transistor remotely in order to commit suicide.
City Noir: Cloudbank definitely has a lot of noir aesthetics.
Clipped Winged Angel: After defeated Sybil the third time, she starts to transform again and the Man in the Transistor warns you to be prepared for another fight. All that comes out of the transformation is a mortally wounded and completely harmless Sybil and several cores that never turn into enemies.
Collision Damage: Cull() as a passive or Help() upgraded with Cull() allows Red or Luna, respectively, to inflict this during Turn().
Combinatorial Explosion: Every new function you find has one of three uses: Active, Upgrade, or Passive. Active uses the function as a weapon. Upgrade uses the function to enhance another weapon, and Passive enhances Red herself. There are a total of 16 functions to choose from, so there's a lot of ways to mix and match. In New Game+, you unlock additional copies of the functions which allow you to stack them for even more combinations.
Continuing Is Painful: Played with. If you are killed, one of your functions is overloaded, rendering it unusable, and your life bar is restored. Depending on how you've set yourself up, this can range from a mere annoyance to making the battle outright unwinnable. Once you run out of functions, you're bumped back to the last access point with the option to turn off Limiters to make the game easier. Assuming you survive, the overloaded functions will be recovered at the next access point.
This is intentional and well-planned by the devs. The highest-cost function is lost first (most likely the favorite which the player dumped a bunch of powerful upgrades into), forcing players to equip and try out different functions at the next save point.
However, this all works to the player's advantage. When you lose a function it refills your health bar, effectively giving you four health bars to finish difficult fights with. Losing a function you were relying on forces you to adapt your strategy, which gives you lots of chances to find the many hidden interactions and strategies in the game.
Cool Bike: Red gets to ride one for a little while near the start of the game, and again on the return trip.
Cut Song/Dark Reprise: Inverted. The game includes some "processed" versions of tracks (like the version of In Circles that plays during the fight with Sybil) that aren't included in the official soundtrack.
Cyberpunk with a Chance of Rain: Subverted, the Transistor wishes it would rain to help hide your tracks. However, Cloudbank's weather is controlled by public ballot and rain isn't even an option. Later on you get admin access to the city and can make it rain or snow.
Darker and Edgier: The game is noticeably darker than Bastion. While Bastion takes place After the End, Transistor puts the player right in the middle of the ongoing apocalypse as they get to watch everything fall apart around them. And unlike Bastion, nobody survives to the end of the game (or at least nobody survives unprocessed.)
Deadly Euphemism: It soon becomes clear that "The Country" is a nice way of referring to the afterlife.
Cheerleaders cover nearby enemies in these (or Red if she uses Switch() on one). Later versions can also shield themselves temporarily in addition to their targets.
Red can get a one-hit shield that recharges after a while with Bounce().
Democracy Is Flawed: Everything in Cloudbank — from the weather to the color of the sky — is decided by public poll. This has left the city constantly changing to suit whatever whim the citizens have, and frequently left the less-well off at the mercy of a tyranny of the majority.
Seems to be the motive of the Camerata as well, seeking to build a better system through the use of the Transistor and the Process though the exact details are never revealed.
Load() lets you plant a massively damaging bomb that eats up almost half your Turn() gauge in base form. But once you've got the hang of it, it's downright deadly. Use it to upgrade Mask() to perform explosive cloaking, turn it into status debuff mine with an increased blast radius, or use Crash() to chuck it at foes like a mortar.
Ping() is practically useless on its own, as even with its high attack speed its damage is negligible. Paired with other functions, though, it becomes valuable support tool.
Breach() has low attack speed and high turn cost, but also pierces destructible objects and does high damage. A bit impractical by itself, but rather useful as a modifier for other functions. Used with Turn(), it does massive backstab damage and can hit multiple targets.
Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Evil is putting it a little strongly, but Grant and Asher seem to have been married, as they share the same last name and it doesn't at all seem to be due to blood relation. When Asher isn't using his messages to Motive Rant at Red, he's expressing concern for Grant. Some lines from Royce make it clear this was hardly one-sided devotion on Asher's part.
"But Asher, he meant something to Grant. Really fueled his fire."
Fallen Princess: Red, who goes from famous singer to mute outcast in the game's opening section.
Field of Blades: The final boss arena has copies of the Transistor in the background, all dropped into the ground blade-first at various angles. They scale up fractally, with a mountain-sized one filling the sky.
Foreshadowing: The song "We All Become" is basically the plot in musical form. Asher and Grant's fate also foreshadows how Red ends the story.
Gone Horribly Wrong/Right: Royce Bracket found the Process was responsible for Cloudbank's ever-shifting nature, and drew it forth in its raw form. Then he realized that it was not under his control any more.
You Will Not Evade Me: Its main purpose in all upgrade forms. If installed as passive, it will make you draw in dropped Cells faster and from further away.
Gray Goo: The Process is apparentl responsible for the constant changes in Cloudbank behind the scenes, but when it was extracted, it began to convert everything into more of itself. Without the Transistor to guide it, it knows nothing more than to convert. Red has a chance to literally "draw" a new future on said canvas, but decides to kill herself to be reunited with her friend.
Hope Spot: After the final boss, Red is given the opportunity to rebuild the city, restoring it to her former glory with the Transistor. She doesn't.
Implied Love Interest: The Man in the Transistor and Red... well, until he flat out says it the end anyway.
Improbable Use of a Weapon: Though the Transistor looks like a sword, Red never actually uses it as such. Even her most basic attack has her slamming it into the ground and firing a burst of energy from the eye on the side. The only time she uses it like a proper sword is when she impales herself with it at the end of the game.
In Medias Res: The game abruptly starts right as Red pulls the Transistor out of her friend, with exposition kept a little vague thanks to averting As You Know. It isn't until Red returns to the Empty Set that the player finally sees the events that got them where they started at in the first place.
Inside a Computer System: Maybe? The city's so computerized that either everything is a digital existence inside a computer system, or just so cyberized it's like being in a computer system.
Interface Screw: Snapshots take pictures of Red during a fight, obscuring the screen. On higher levels they also black out parts of the screen with a Fog of War when Red enters Planning Mode.
Invisible to Normals: Apparently only Red (and possibly the Camerata) can see things that have been processed, as late in the game, when several skyscrapers have been fully processed, there's a news story about them flat-out disappearing. Another possibility is that possessing the Transistor is what decides it.
In Their Own Image: The Camerata is trying to pull this. Red actually gets an opportunity to after Cloudbank's reduced to a "blank canvas", with the Transistor as her "brush", but she instead decides to catch up with her friend... by killing herself and being integrated into the sword.
The Juggernaut: Jerks are constantly on the move, jackhammering their way through any cover.
Kill 'em All: By the end of the game, Cloudbank is completely processed, with no confirmed survivors, and Red kills herself with the Transistor. The game still manages to pull a happy ending out of it, as she is now within the Transistor and lives with her lover in the Country.
Magic from Technology: All of the Transistor's Functions have names and parentheses like computer code functions. Among other things, the Transistor is meant to control the Process, which in gameplay takes the form of combat against the Process. You are figuratively typing out commands to terminate processes when you queue up moves during Turn(). But it all looks like you casting magic spells.
Mighty Glacier: Jerk. Slow moving but tears down covers everywhere it goes. Higher versions also have a Get()-like function to drag you to them.
Mind Screw: Much like Bastion, major details about the story and setting are intentionally left vague and never elaborated on, leaving players to fill in the gaps.
The Very Definitely Final Dungeon is this in spades. Nothing makes any sense, you are still running around going to unknown addresses, and you are listening to an estranged scientist rambling about a object all three of you know even less about.
Minimalist Cast: Not quite to Bastion's extent, but there are seven characters in the entire game (not counting the couple of people that are processed into the Transistor at the start of the game), and one of them is a news reporter who never interacts with the other characters, one of them is transformed into a Process by the time you meet up with her, and another kills himself before the player can meet or even speak with him.
Mirror Boss: The final boss, Royce, fights you with another Transistor. He can use Turn() like you can, can use all of your functions, and has four lives from a full set of functions. Agency tests employ the same mechanic.
My Rules Are Not Your Rules: Despite this mechanic, the final boss uses more functions than should technically be possible after several rounds.
Not only that, but the Final Boss sometimes talks for extremely long times, forcing you to wait for, in some crazier cases, a solid minute before he even starts making a move. The fact that Royce does this a lot while in his Turn() is something that tells you about his overall personality.
Mythology Gag: Starting a "recursive" run plays the first sentence spoken in the game in a distorted manner (and voiced by a different character). This is very similar to the New Game+ from Bastion.
The Central Theme from Bastion occurs here again. Only this time, the player isn't even given the option to start over again, seeing that the protagonist is Driven to Suicide.
Never Say "Die": Most of the time dying is referred to as "going to The Country". The vagueness is further compounded by the game's lack of details about what kind of world (if any) exists outside of the city of Cloudbank.
New Game+: The 'Recursion' system allows for replaying the game from the start of the story, retaining all your unlocks and giving you a chance for second grabs on your functions. The quirk here is that the Processes stay leveled up, so you end up fighting much stronger ones right from the start.
Nobody Poops: Averted. A one time deal, Red can use a washroom in the records hall. The Transistor lampshades that they have been running around for a while and he won't look while she does her business.
No Cure for Evil: Averted. Weeds can repair any damaged Processes that come within range.
Nothing Is Scarier: Pure white means there is nothing left, and is erased out of existance. The return "Hello World" trip home ''amplifies this effectively.
Powers of Two Minus One: As is fitting for the setting, 2 of the achievements require you to do 1024 and 2048 points of damage in a single Turn() during Practice and another 3 require you to reach level 8, 16 and 24. You also start with 16 MEM and the most you can get is 32.
Subverted with Red's friend inhabiting the Transistor, who's a pretty good guy. When his eye starts glowing, it's certainly a warning... but the danger isn't the Transistor, its a gigantic Process called the Spine causes the Transistor to screw up somehow just by being in the area.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The basic premise of the plot is Red tracking down the people who stole her voice and killed her friend.
Scenery Porn: Rampant. Cloudbank, whether abandoned, in disrepair, or slowly being integrated, is one jawdropping sight.
See You in Hell: "See you in the country" is a somewhat less insulting version of this, apparently. It's the last thing that Asher says to Red in recording after he suicides, and she types it right back at him.
Self-Imposed Challenge: Similar to the idols from Bastion, you can apply Limiters to the game. These give you an experience boost, but make the game more difficult in various ways.
Shout-OutTo Shakespeare: The words "The Country" pop up repeatedly throughout the story, in reference to a place where people go and never return from. Sounds innocuous at first, but it takes on a darker meaning if you recall Hamlet, and then consider why people might be "evacuating to the Country" ahead of the Process.
Shrink Ray: Enemies debuffed by Void() will shrink. Stack it up multiple times to make them tiny!
Sigil Spam: Yellow upside-down triangles appears on Red's dress, the back of Red's friend's jacket, and in the Empty Set.
Soul Jar: The Transistor "absorbs" the consciousness of the recently deceased, who then become new abilities called functions.
Spanner in the Works: Red's friend, the Man in the Transistor and the "Breach()" function, had completely destroyed the antagonists' plans by getting killed and processed by the weapon instead. After Red goes off with the weapon, absorbing the other people that have been turned into data, things just start to go downhill fast...
Summon Magic: Basically what the Help() function is. It lets you summon a friendly Fetch named Luna. This can be upgraded to summon two
Sword Drag: The Transistor is so huge that Red has to drag it along with her, leaving a shower of sparks as she goes.
Take Cover: Encouraged. Several enemies can't see through it - others can, though. And a few can break it down.
Taking the Bullet: Red's nameless friend gets trapped in the Transistor when he pushes Red out of its path.
The Unreveal: It's possible to catch the tail end of Royce explaining his theory of the true nature of the Transistor, just as you emerge from one of the backdoor areas. Despite the Transistor's request, he declines to repeat himself.
Theme Naming: Attacks and skills in planning mode are stylized like names of functions in (most) programming languages. Transistor says "Hello world" at one point near the beginning.
Many things in the game are named after computer or mathematical terms, like the Empty Set, Raster Plaza and the Backdoor, or the authorities being called admins.
And lampshaded. If you stack up enough damage the UI replaces the "OVERKILL!" indicator with an incredulous, "DO YOU EVEN READ" and shortly afterward, "YOU'RE JUST MEAN". Also, the Transistor will sometimes comment on Red's ruthlessness after you execute an overkill attack.
Despite this, however, it can be worthwhile to pile on a little overkill. The game only predicts damage based on current position. It is not 100% accurate.
One achievement requires doing 2048 damage in the practice arena. The total health of the five enemies within is only 1750.
Tron Lines: The Transistor's glowing blade is reminiscent of a printed circuit board, and many explosions and other effects created by the Transistor make lines of energy that flow in grid patterns across the ground.
In a lesser example, Red's jacket has an inexplicably glowing yellow triangle on the back which she took from her friend/lover.
The Unfought: Two members of the Camerata, Grant and Asher, are never actually fought, having committed suicide just before Red could reach them. Especially surprising in regards to Grant, who was played up as the main antagonist in both the launch trailer and the game itself. He never gets a single line of dialogue.
Variable Mix: The music becomes more muted when Red enters Planning Mode, and sometimes humming is added in. The player can also control this with a key that causes Red to start humming when not in battle. The official soundtrack even includes versions of tracks both with and without Red's humming accompaniment!
The boss fight with Sybil starts out with In Circles playing, then as the fight goes on it slowly shifts in a more distorted, electronic "processed" version.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: The Camerata were fed up with how ephemeral Cloudbank had become, constantly changing according to the whims of its citizens (right down to the weather and even the color of the sky). Unfortunately, their plan to put a stop to that went out of control and triggered The End of the World as We Know It.
Royce:So, who gets to go first? How about... me. (Boots up his own Turn())
And earlier than that:
Asher: This is a formal admission of guilt. I solemnly swear everything written here is true. Know that I am responsible for these heinous acts perpetrated against the city of Cloudbank. My accomplices are Sybil Reisz, Royce Brackett and Grant Kendrall. We alone are to blame. Perhaps our worst sin is you will get no justice. For now, we all share the same fate.
Later, when starting a Recursion, Royce says "...we're not going to get away with this, are we?"
Where It All Began: Tracking down Royce takes Red back to where she first got the Transistor.
You Are Worth Hell: In the ending, Red and her friend have been processed, and now live happily in the Country.
Your Soul Is Mine: Every time you grab a trace from some poor dead person, you are essentially stealing their soul. The Man in the Transistor gets some minor satisfaction out of absorbing and exploiting Grant and Asher for all the trouble they've caused.
Zerg Rush: Switch(), when upgraded with Help() and Spark(), has a very amusing effect. When it makes contact with an enemy, all three Switch beams will spawn a dozen or so allied Bad Cells.