Thursday, 22 January 2015

Supergiant Games

Supergiant Games has two games, and what games they are.

It's tough for me to play their games because in both cases the audio is very important and I have very limited time to play games, even less to play games with audio. As a result I've only played about half of their second game, Transistor, and have only played their first game, Bastion for about an hour. I'd really like to take a week off of my life and play through both completely, probably more than once.

Superficially the games are very similar - you play a character with a mysterious background who is one of the last ones alive in a world undergoing some kind of catastrophe. Both have a kind of narrator who hints at the story while you play, but is also a character in the game that your protagonist interacts with. Both are isometric action RPGs.

Of course that's all just a shell. There's a lot of detail that makes these games great. First of all, the narrator characters are both great and add a huge amount to the game. I think the basic gameplay of both games is good enough to play them without the narration, but I feel like I'd be missing out on a lot if I wasn't listening to it. This may not seem like a really big deal, but I would say the number of games where I really care about the sound is vanishingly small. They've done something really special with the voices in these games. The art is also something I really appreciate on both counts.

Next, the gameplay is fantastic. In both I feel like I am really responsible for the actions that my character takes. That's not always an easy thing to do in an action RPG, and a lot fail at it, leaving you feeling like the game is all about getting the right stats or mashing the potion button rather than the actual play. Based on my limited experience, I'm pretty sure you could go very far and maybe even win either game with your starting stats if you were extremely proficient because you could just refuse to get hit.

But you don't stick with your base stats, both games have great power-up systems. In Bastion you find a variety of weapons and skills that you can equip. You also find parts you can use to improve your weapons, where each improvement means choosing one of two options. You also choose passive abilities in the way of liquor. You can always go back and rearrange these choices, and the number of ways to build a character is probably in the hundreds of thousands. In Transistor you find different skills, but each skill can be equipped either as an action a skill on your skill bar, as a passive skill or as a modifier for one of the skills on your bar. With four skill slots, four passive slots and two modifier slots for each skill slot, I think the number of different ways to set up a character are on the order of a quadrillion with no exaggeration. There are also passive non-kill upgrades to choose from and limiters to unlock that make the game harder but give more experience.

I don't usually pay a lot of attention to game companies, I'm more interested in games as individual things and I don't assume that because a company has made on thing I like that I'll like anything else they do. These guys, though, I would easily buy their next game just based on the strength of these two, even though I know I might not really get to play it until my children leave for university.

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