A Confusing Walk
HIGH A cyberpunk setting mixed with HP Lovecraft.
LOW Simple, boring puzzles.
WTF I’m still not entirely sure what the story was about.
Transient sold me on its concept right away. This first-person adventure mixes a cyberpunk setting with Lovecraft sensibilities. At the forefront, it showcases an incredibly unique take and the promise of a wild and mysterious story. Unfortunately, Transient takes ‘mystery’ a little too far.
The protagonist of the game is Carter Rudolph. He’s a member of a vaguely-defined elite hacker group called ODIN. The only way to find any background information on it is by reading messages on futuristic-looking tablets, and even then I couldn’t get a full sense of what ODIN does or why I should care.
Transient begins its story in what seems like the middle. Carter wakes up from a weird dream where he was on an alien planet talking to a floating light orb. Once roused, he gets a message from a friend named Alice — someone he seems to know well. At this point Carter hacks into a memory Alice has sent him, and after exploring it, he realizes that someone or something is out to kill the ODIN members. I was incredibly confused by this sequence of events, and that confusion never went away.
Transient draws much inspiration from the works of H.P. Lovecraft, so when not in the ‘real’ cyberpunk world, Carter explores bizarre alien-like worlds in his sleep. Going between these realms only adds to the confusion, and the fact that Carter himself seems to have zero clue about what’s going on doesn’t help.
Gameplay in Transient is straightforward. It’s essentially a first-person adventure title that uses the arrow keys to walk around. It also offers a couple of utterly terrible hacking mini-games, and some simple, bland puzzles.
The hacking involves moving a small pin-like object around a circuit board, dodging firewalls, and picking up information. Sadly, the pin moves slowly and if it gets caught within the radius of a firewall pulse, a weird word puzzle shows up that doesn’t serve much purpose other than to slow the player down.
Transient‘s puzzles are the sort of things that have been seen a million times before — sliding colored stones into the right spot, or pressing buttons in the correct order. Slightly more complicated tasks require Carter to constantly consult his journal for the answers to make sure he has selected the correct ingredients or specific star names on a map. It’s all tedious.
The only saving grace in Transient is the atmosphere. The cyberpunk city is dark and gritty, but also offers some great color in the right places. The alien environments are gross, but also incredibly interesting thanks to moody statues and weird carvings. When these two worlds collide in certain parts of the adventure, it’s a great contrast. Unfortunately, there aren’t any compelling reasons to genuinely explore these spaces — they’re visually appealing, but all they offer are looks.
Transient had an opportunity to create a unique and exciting experience with its unusual mixture of cyberpunk and H.P. Lovecraft. Sadly, the lack of a coherent story and boring gameplay cause it to fall short of what ultimately might have been. I give it credit for coming to a sort of conclusion after the credits have rolled, but by that point, it was too little, too late.
— Cody Bolster
Disclosures: This game was developed by Stormling Studios, and is published by Iceberg Interactive. It is currently available for PC. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher. Approximately 3.5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player, and the game was completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated T and contains Blood, Violence, Mild Language, and Use of Drugs.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: The game does include subtitles. There are no audio cues within the subtitles, which can hinder the player in certain parts of the game when enemies give audio cues. The subtitles cannot be resized.
Remappable Controls: This game offers fully remappable controls on the keyboard and mouse, or with a controller.