Supergiant Games‘ first foray, Bastion, needs no introduction, but the indie developer’s next project, Transistor, leaves Bastion‘s titular deconstructed world for a sooty, neon future noirscape. Players direct Red, a singer on the run who finds the swordlike Transistor – and inside it, a partner to help her evade the assassins sent to stop them from uncovering a conspiracy of abduction and murder.
On Supergiant’s blog, the latest post opens the possibility of revisiting the world of Bastion, but the experience of building a new world to tell a new story was too irresistible for the Supergiant team to pass up.
“I think one of the things that people enjoyed was our fantasy world with its own distinct feel that we had fun creating,” said Supergiant Creative Director Greg Kasavin. “We wanted to see if we could do it again, but there were certain themes that wouldn’t be appropriate for Bastion‘s world.”
If Bastion was Supergiant’s take on fantasy, Transistor is their take on science fiction, and it shows in the new role for Supergiant favorite Logan Cunningham. Known for gently leading the player with his western drawl as Bastion‘s Narrator, Cunningham plays a softer role as the soul residing in the Transistor. Once Red plucks the titular swordthing from a body, Cunningham’s voice is along for the ride, a link to the mysterious dead the pair find along the way and, in time, a caring partner for the hunted protagonist. Moving away from Bastion was a universal decision for the team, but keeping Cunningham’s voice was important to Supergiant’s storytelling style. Though the soul in the Transistor’s voice is more of a detective than an omniscient but glib narrator, retaining the accompanying voice allows players to advance at their own pace.
And advance they do, through the lushly-drawn quadrants of lonely streets peppered with pursuing bots’ bullets. The isometric engagements are spliced with side-scrolling interludes wherein the massive city, ablaze in neon, looms over Red and the soul in the Transistor – one of Kasavin’s aforementioned themes, of the pair’s growing intimacy against the alienating grandeur of a metropolis filled with malevolent things.
“The single most important thing for us about Transistor was to make sure that it had its own distinct voice,” Kasavin said.
Unlike Bastion‘s post-Calamity game world that fills in as the player progresses, Transistor‘s streets and structure sit idly locked by those hunting Red. Whereas Bastion comes together around the player like a re-forming memory, the soul inside the Transistor finds streets changed from his earthly days. Supergiant Art Director Jen Zee’s style makes Bastion fans at home with her hand-drawn art direction, swapping rustic tiles for urban watercolor.
Terraced blocks litter the combat zones, bringing a digital edge to the game’s lush look, but it’s a reminder of the balance Supergiant needs to strike if it wants to lure in gamers looking for something beyond Bastion while retaining the fanbase that adores Supergiant’s signature visuals.
Despite similar elements to Bastion, Transistor is striking out to prove that a scrappy woman and a talking sword will take you willingly into its strange, dark world.