To start, this is the best roguelike that I’ve ever played. I initially started it on PC through the Epic games store but finished it off on the Switch. During the move my computer had to be boxed up, but then they put it out on Switch and it was calling to me. That meant that I had to start a new save file since the cloud sync wasn’t set up at the time. I “beat” the game a few weeks ago but I just wanted to catch up on some of the games I put down and didn’t get my thoughts out on.
I feel like there are three things that make this game feel like such a winner in my mind. The first has to do with the art style. Everything just looks great. Characters, drawn by Jen Zee, have a fresh style that is unique to the Supergiant Games aesthetic. Granted, that aesthetic is all hers. The color pallet is vibrant and pretty. This is even more important than it sounds because you’re going to playing these levels, in one variation or another, over and over. So you have to not get tired of seeing the same environments and artwork on each run.
The second aspect of the game design that makes it so great is the sense of progression. It’s something I didn’t feel in the other roguelikes I’ve played. Every single run in this game is worthwhile. Let’s say you’re looking into leveling up the improvements on your mirror, then as you make your run you can select the correct rooms to enter so that you get those rewards from clearing the room. This is because almost every room you clear out has multiple exits, each with a symbol above the door denoting what’s in the next room. It’s a great little mechanic that makes playing the game feel less random and gives you more creative freedom in the choices you’re making.
That progression system extends to the weapons available. Instead of others that have dozens of different options, this one is limited to just 6. The major difference being that all six weapons are good. You might end up preferring one over another, but you never feel handicapped when you take one over the other. What happened with me is that I had a really good run with the bow, which caused me to focus on that particular weapon to take me to the end.
The third pillar of the game that makes it so great is the way it plays. Seems like a pretty obvious thing for a video game to want to get right. Movement and combat feel good in the hand. Each weapon is easy to use and not too difficult to master. Enemies won’t just one-hit with cheap deaths. So it plays more like a standard top-down action game. The skill comes in dealing with mobs of enemies and the combinations of attacks they can fill the screen with. If you get slammed or slip up a little bit, you don’t just feel defeated from it, the game will often give you an option to select a room with healing or even the ability to extend the size of your life bar. You can get boons that give your attacks added abilities. That adds to the metagame of finding the right build for your play style, but that only comes from experimentation and seeing what works best for you. It’s hard not to simply enjoy playing this game. It feels good in the hands and it’s so easy after a run to emerge from the pool, talk to everyone, and start up another run.
Even after you do what you’re character has set out to do, you can keep playing. The dialogue almost never repeats itself. Greg Kasavin, the writer, has put something like 300,000 words into the script. Which is insane for a roguelike game. When you do finish the game for the first time, you haven’t maxed out all of your relationships, and you’re probably not leveled up all the way, so it’s a great game to pick up and play over and over.
Final Score – 9.4
I simply love this game. It’s a modern-day classic and is my favorite roguelike. That is such an odd thing to say, I kind of felt like the roguelike scene was a bit stale and played out, apparently it only took this title and the small team of people making it to show me how wrong I was. Perhaps it’s finally time for me to go back and give Transistor another try… Or maybe I’ll just this again.