The upcoming game from Supergiant, spiritual successor to the critically acclaimed Bastion.
I needed to talk about sound design, there's so much to talk about here, so hold onto your butts.
From the very start we have an atmospheric show of force, we’re plunged into a packed restaurant or bar and slammed mid-performance into Red’s show and then quickly dunked into the cold water of silence with a somewhat startling intake of breath.
"When you speak, I hear silence. Every word, a defiance. I can hear, oh, I can hear. Think I’ll go where it suits me. Moving out to the country. With everyone, oh everyone, before we all become one."
The song, so clearly a Darren Korb composition is catchy as heck and one I can see becoming a refrain for potentially the end of the game much as Zia’s theme was for Bastion. Ashley Barrett’s voice is clear and sweet as always and we’ll be hearing a lot of it throughout the game.
Disregarding the scene with the dead fella and the Transistor showing the Supergiant trademark of Narrative that absolutely grips you when you think about it, but completely doesn’t get in your way if you don’t want it to, we head straight into a semi-combat scenario in which the soundtrack pumps and throbs along, providing a keen sense of urgency as we pass through to the second area.
This is where stuff becomes really interesting to me.
Note how when the transistor’s special ability is engaged (hard to miss, time stops and everything goes a different colour) ALL the treble and percussion drop out of the music. It feels like we’ve been plunged underwater, everything is slower here, calmer, we can stop and plan. Ashley’s voice just floats over it all, as if this is what Red would do if she was planning and humming to herself along with the music. As if she’s right there in the Transistor with you.
It’s such a beautiful and lonely theme too, I find myself listening to these parts over and over again just for that haunting floaty feeling that voice gives you.
So let’s talk about Logan Cunningham’s voice, the one coming from the Transistor itself (it lights up when he speaks! Awesome!).
If you played Bastion you’ll recognise it as Rucks' voice, the narrator and your main companion throughout the game. With… a couple of notable differences.
The first is immediately noticeable, whereas Rucks' voice was right in your ear, clear as day, deep and earthy as a canyon (and why wouldn’t he be, I mean he was sat next to you telling you the story) the Transistor’s voice is filtered, it’s like it’s talking out of every circuit and movable part it can. Almost like the voice of a telephone, not on the other end of a telephone, the thing itself.
The second difference is pretty obvious too, the Transistor speaks TO the protagonist as the game plays out, whereas Rucks simply described the Kid’s actions in Bastion, the Transistor has opinions and plans. Real agency. That’s a helluva point to narrate from, the hands of your protagonist.
After we view the poster (with more awesome scenes absorbing the personalities of the dead, something I’m really excited to see more of)
we’re treated to yet another song, this one a kind of lazy blues progression.
This gives me hope that we’ll have a very much more vocal oriented and comprehensive soundtrack to Transistor, I’d like to see two versions of each track, both in and out of the planning mode as they’re certainly different feeling enough to be separate tracks.
Next we have a comparatively thumping Drum and Bass beat for the boss battle, helping to really show off the disparity between the atmosphere in and out of the transistor.
The final track plays as Red takes off on her stolen motorbike, seriously a badass scene if ever there was one, the whole track reeks of determination, bravery and the will to continue echoing perfectly the content in the scene, and providing an emotional duet with Cunningham’s fantastic performance.
"Look… whatever you’re thinking, do me a favour… Don’t let go." FIN
So yeah, I wrote a thing, it’s basically just a massive long squee, but there’s so much to talk about in just this 5 month old preview footage the sound design alone got me this far, and I didn’t even say all that needed saying, I just can’t wait to see what it’s like when it launches.
If you read this far you’re an idiot.
This video is taken from a playthrough at PAX east by TotalBiscuit /Totalhalibut on Youtube