There are two types of sci-fi in this world. The first is quite simple; one of spaceships, aliens and a lot of space battles, all powered by explosions. The second though is a bit more complex; one where the creator has defined economic and political manifestations on different plants and alien races. They know in detail how each religious system works, how they breathe, and what the transport system will be like in 2090. Transient: Extended Edition falls into the latter camp, where we have a cyberpunk world mixed with strange mythology and extra dimension stories. Buckle up, we’re going down the rabbit hole.
The story in Transient: Extended Edition is a very deep – yet at times confusing – one. Ultimately though, it is very smart. Mixing the world of cyberpunk hacking with virtual reality systems and the fiction of Lovecraft-styled inter-dimensional realities, it tries to achieve a lot in its three to four hour running time.
You play a hacker called Randolph Carter who lives in a post-apocalyptic future in the city of Providence. This city is the last stronghold of mankind, as they hold back horrors outside it. Carter’s hacker group – ODIN – came across a terrifying truth in their last job, one that opened up the possibilities of other dimensions and realities. Like a detective, you are trying to work out what’s happened to your team and the world in general.
It’s a story that takes you across many different worlds and runs a multitude of twists and turns. It’s also a dense story, but that means that it can be interpreted in many different ways; you may well feel that you need to examine it closer in multiple playthroughs. But I completely admire what the writer and world-building creators have tried to do here, because it is completely creative and ambitious – something which should always be applauded.
The gameplay puts you in charge of the character, working in the first person primarily. The game developers have introduced a whole range of new elements to play with through Transient, as you walk and run around, explore items to pick up and examine. There is a wide range of puzzle solving to be had too, from pipe based puzzles to those in which clues have to be discovered through the examination of documents or computer terminals.
There is some detective work to be had as well, all as you go about scanning murder scenes to try and understand what has happened to the victim; again, that may lead to other clues. There’s a little orb drone you can deploy too, and it’s this which will get you through tight vents, opening doorways through computers that you can’t otherwise reach. There are many different gameplay events in place in Transient, and you’ll unlikely bore of them.
There is no combat to be had though, apart from a moment when there is a bit of a game within a game. Spread across two segments, you’ll find yourself entering a virtual world within video games, picking up clues about a puzzle that will let you move forward in the narrative. You get the option – after dying – to skip the game and just get the solution should you so wish, but honestly, where would the fun be in that. The first game here plays very much like an old-school Alone in the Dark clone, dropping you into a mansion full of zombies, solving puzzles with fixed camera visuals. The second plays much more like DOOM or Half-Life, as you run in the first person, hacking computers and collecting different coloured keycards. It’s a great little breaker to Transient and is a decent feature to add, introducing a very interesting new dynamic later on in the game.
In terms of Transient as a whole and the visuals are delivered through some great level design and use of upgraded graphics. The city locations look great, with some serious use of lighting and reflections. The character designs are also good, but the facial details don’t work nearly as well as that of the exteriors. Again though, it’s in homage to video games of the past where the real inspiration comes, and the design of the other realms is extremely well thought out. The sound design accompanies these visuals well; sharply composed with some excellent use of foreboding synths and atmospheric tracks. The voice-over work is of a good standard creating a slightly off-putting distortion in the more Lovecraftian worlds.
Transient: Extended Edition is a very ambitious game; one that isn’t afraid of giving the player some high-end sci-fi mixed with Lovecraftian themes. The gameplay introduces a range of different playstyles over the fairly swift running time and that might be too much for some. Yet the visuals are a delight with some great use of lighting and level design. This is a game that never lets you breathe for a moment and keeps you on your toes throughout, and for that, it should be applauded.
Transient: Extended Edition is available from the Xbox Store