Transient Review – Lovecraft Meets Cyberpunk
Here we are, once again, talking about another narrative-driven horror game. These can feel like a dime a dozen, and while I agree, I would usually never write one off as a boring walking simulator. Very rarely do I use that term, as it implies that a game’s story can’t be the most important part of the package. However, when that is known, there better be at least a good story in it for me. Anyway, let’s talk about Transient.
Transient is a narrative driven horror game developed by Stormling Studios and published by Iceberg Interactive. In this follow-up to their previous game Conarium, Stormling wanted to combine two popular subjects: cyberpunk and Lovecraftian horror.
So in a post-apocalyptic future where the outside world is harsh and dangerous, people decided to live together in what is known as Domed City Providence. Due to the rather low quality of life, more people prefer to live in virtual reality than actual reality. One of these people, a hacker named Randolph Carter, finds himself thrust into the discovery of a truth that changes reality as he knows it.
So I’m just going to start off by saying, for the first half or so, this game was building up a rather decent story. Nothing groundbreaking, but enough to keep my interest. However, it was around the halfway mark that it all began to just… break, I guess. Things became messy, the direction was all over the place, and the ending literally came out of nowhere. Nothing felt solved, and nothing felt fulfilled. I was just left sitting there, staring at my computer screen, wondering what the hell I just played. There’s being Lovecraftian, but then there’s just being incoherent.
This isn’t even mentioning how bad most of the voice acting is. Besides the main character, who did a decent enough job, and the glowing orb that you meet early in the game, everyone else is really phoning it in. One guy sounds like someone attempting an old man’s voice, and one sounds like a white guy attempting to sound like a race they are definitely not.
Adding onto this, while most of Transient looks good, there are definite parts that do not. The human character models, especially their faces, are atrocious, something you would see out of a 2006 indie game made in Russia. Every time they showed one, it just took me out of the game, especially with the store-bought animations that did not belong in the year 2020. They were so bad, I would genuinely laugh at them. Though seeing these kind of things brought me joy (albeit the wrong kind), it was things like that that would bring me out of the amazing environments they built for this game.
Transient’s biggest strength is its environment design. The game can be pretty. The subjects they decided to use, cyberpunk and Lovecraftian, are two of my favorites, and they didn’t disappoint. Every location at least looks pretty enough that I couldn’t stop taking pictures to find the perfect shot to exemplify this, from the musty halls of some alien architecture, to the neon-soaked streets of the city. So, I decided on a shot of one of the first environments you’re dropped in.
Beyond the Wall of Narrative
Most of the gameplay will just be walking around and soaking in the environments, reading notes you find, but there are points where you do things. The most common will be investigation, where you use your augmented eye overlay known as PHI to scan the environment and further analyse anything strange you find. These will include objects and bodies, the latter of which you can get a closer look at to search for things that may relate to their death.
To further this idea of investigating, there will be points where you will talk to people, ask them questions, and interrogate them. I didn’t like these, primarily because it broke up the already slow pace, but also because it meant I had to hear more voice acting, which was a problem.
Another problem I had with Transient was the puzzles. From time to time, you’ll come across puzzles that you need to complete. These puzzles range from tedious and easy to annoying, mostly because sometimes I actually had to look up a solution since the game didn’t give it to me.
There was a point where Transient required me to find a password, and it turns out that the only way to get that password was to find it in a hacking minigame during a previous section. It was timed, so I was under pressure. I didn’t check every single file during the hacking minigame, and even if I DID find it, it wouldn’t have been saved to my journal. So if you’re bad with numbers, you’ll get stuck. Keep in mind that was just one annoying puzzle, and the rest aren’t that great either. So most of the game is walking, puzzles, investigation.
However, to break up the monotony of walking and subpar puzzles, Transient does go to a lot of different places, and the rest of the activities you do will reflect that. Sometimes you’ll play an okay hacking minigame, as I mentioned previously, and two times you’ll play two different games that are parodies of other well known games, either to solve a puzzle or get through an area. Otherwise, there are no sections where you’re being hunted, which I didn’t mind.
Once The Shadow Passes
As for problems during Transient, I would say there weren’t many bugs or glitches. One time I was able to look through a door and see what’s on the other side. The weirdest thing I encountered was, whenever I pressed Tab, my character would just stop and not move until I paused and un-paused. Looking up the button in controls, it is not linked to anything, so that was pretty weird.
So, overall, I would say this game was a disappointment. What seemed to be an interesting experience with (mostly) amazing visuals and an intriguing story turned out to be a miserable time made less miserable by how funny the bad animations were. Sound design and music weren’t really anything special enough to make a whole paragraph for, but they weren’t bad either. They did their job and brought the atmosphere. But good sound design, music, and environments were not enough to make this game worth any amount of money. It all falls flat on its rear end only after you played just enough to void Steam’s refund policy.
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Reviewed by Freelance7 on PC. Game provided by Iceberg Interactive.