Transistor: Starting at the Point of No Return

The beginning of the end.

Storytelling is, without a doubt, a paramount aspect in most games. It invites players to new worlds, to embark on new adventures and to live new experiences. But, not all stories are told in the same way, and how one unfolds casts an impression in most players. So, what if we started right in the middle of the story, in the climax? That’s Transistor.

Transistor is most likely one of the most beloved games from the collective genius of the San Francisco based studio Supergiant Games. It’s a hack and slash with futuristic tints that introduces the player to the very crisis that gives way to the beginning of the end. If you haven’t played it, or intend to do so, I’d recommend not reading any further for there may be spoilers ahead. But! If you’re wondering if it’s worth playing: it is, and not just because of its plot, but because of its gameplay, music and beautiful art. Having said that, shall we go over Red’s story?

Welcome to Cloudbank! Home of one of the greatest voices in the planet: Red’s. Or so it was, as in less than two minutes in, we see how Red loses both, her voice and the life of someone precious to her to one mysterious object by the name of Transistor. With such a start, Transistor demands our attention from the very first moment, as we stumble with a plot we know close to nothing about other than the fact that someone was murdered in front of us in some futuristic city. In other words, we begin right at the beginning of the end with little time to try to make sense to what our eyes see, and even less to react to the next danger, the Process, and the Camerata.

It may seem odd at first to come across such a violent beginning, but Transistor proves over and again why it’s such a great choice. While we may not know much of Red’s world or why someone attempted to take her life, those questions are easily dismissed as the Camerata threatens Red’s fate as well as her city’s. A city that has lost almost all its population and has become run over by The Process, robots under the very command of the Camerata.

A rough start if anything, but even in that apparent chaos there’s a guiding principle: Transistor. The one sword that somehow captures the soul of the man who saved Red’s life becomes a character in itself. As a man’s voice drifts from the sword asking, explaining and giving glimpses to who the enemy may be, what their motivation could be as the mysteries start uncovering themselves, and why was Red right in the middle of it all. A strange narrator that sometimes becomes unreliable, and we start wondering what will happen if we also lose him, or what’s left of him.

Indeed, Transistor takes on this way of storytelling like no other because it focuses on the sword and the singer. Even if there was a past to them, its importance only becomes clear when everything starts to go wrong, right when the game starts. By choosing to tell their story this way, as players we seek to discover the secrets, get the context, try to understand the train of thought of all those involved. This way of narrating may not be the usual but it works perfectly with Transistor. While it may not be the first game to use this approach, it’s one that leaves you with a thirst that’s hard to quench unless you get to the very end. A bittersweet ending, granted, but a rewarding experience nonetheless. So, if you ever wondered whether it’s possible to start almost at the end, it is, and Transistor is one of the greatest examples of it.

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