Transient: Extended Edition review – Cyberpunk Lovecraft

Robby Bisschop
by Robby Bisschop
Robby lives and breathes videogames. When he's not playing them, he's talking about them on social media or convincing other people to pick up a controller themselves. He's online so often, he could practically... Read more
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  • Transient is a narrative adventure that blends a cyberpunk world with Lovecraftian horror
  • You play as a hacker-for-hire on the run of a malevolent AI
  • The Extended Edition includes additional gameplay, a brand-new ending and an assortment of quality of life improvements

Now here’s a genre I can always appreciate: narrative walking sims with a good story that also rewards exploration and have a few interesting puzzles. Transient: Extended Edition offers just that and it bathes it all in a cyberpunk Lovecraftian sauce.

I played the previous game in the series not so long ago, but Conarium didn’t quite have the same appeal. While the Lovecraftian theme was super interesting and had me asking a lot of questions, they never really seemed to answer them in a satisfying way and the game got progressively less entertaining towards the end. I also recall a horrible chase sequence and for me, games like these don’t need an enemy that can kill you.

Luckily, Transient has learned from this mistake and there are no monsters roaming the halls to slow down the pace of exploration and it instead focuses on telling a thought-provoking story in an interesting neon- and rain-drenched post-apocalyptic city.

Lovecraftian Horror

I could tell a Cthulhu joke, but it’s an Old One

I’ve mentioned Lovecraftian a few times but for those in the back who are wondering what this means: H.P. Lovecraft was a famous writer who penned stories about giant slumbering creatures, lying in wait in the depths of the ocean, like Cthulhu himself.

A lot of his stories aren’t just about body horror or mutilation, but also about losing your sanity as even knowing about the Old Ones and seeing their true shape would be enough to drive you crazy. It’s in this realm of “there is something greater than all of us” that the games from Stormling Studios take place.

In Transient, we find ourselves in the far future, after catastrophic events made most of the planet Earth inhabitable and the remaining humans had to retreat in a huge city to shield them from mother nature. Technology has progressed quite a bit and the majority of survivors spend most of their time in a sort of VR world, leaving the digital universe only for the bare minimum of bodily necessities.

Gorgeous world

If future media has taught me anything: better invest in Neon now!

I can’t blame them because the world of Transient can be truly beautiful at times. There are a ton of locations that made me pause to take in the fantastic lighting or world design and because of the Inception-like diving into different digital or metaphysical realities, I often lost track of which level of reality I currently found myself in.

While the game is drop-dead gorgeous when you’re standing still, there is an annoying HDR issue that makes lit surfaces and reflections way too bright when you’re moving around. So you might want to consider turning HDR off altogether. (the recording below was done in SDR for that very reason)

The Story

We play as Randolph Carter, a notorious hacker-for-hire, and the AI that rules this city is out to kill you and the other members of your group. Spending time in cyberspace is risky, but you’ll need to delve deeper if you want to uncover the terrifying truth about the world you live in.

You dive in and out of different digital worlds and recordings of your own memory, just to find clues that will help you remember what has happened and how you can prevent your own demise. Luckily you have augmentations that help you investigate your surroundings and an advanced Perception Heightening Implant, or PHI for short will highlight objects to interact with.

PHI: “she’s dead”

That’s the surface story at least, but you soon discover there are more cosmic powers involved and humanity is faced with a choice between annihilation and evolution, but the end result may not be entirely desirable. There is a constant tug of war between the two parallel narratives fighting for your attention and it often raises more questions than it answers.

Without going into spoiler territory, I was a bit bummed about Transient’s ending leaving too many of those questions unanswered, and even having seen both outcomes, I’m unsure of what happens next and it seems like too many story threads never come to a satisfying conclusion.

Cyber sleuthing, hacking and playing games

Next to exploring, reading found documents, and talking to people, there are also a few interactive gameplay elements that spice up the experience. Even though Transient is already a rather short experience, it was still very welcome when I had to dive into a hacking minigame, pilot a drone down a vent, or play games within the game.

That’s right, one of your fellow hackers has hidden clues in videogames he has made and you get to play them! The first one looked like a Playstation one Era Resident Evil tribute (much like Alisa, which I reviewed not so long ago).

Tank controls and all!

And a few moments later you’re picking up a digital crowbar and wacking robots in the next game that evokes a mix of System shock and Half-life. They’re fun distractions and there are even a few achievements for things like not dying or only using your melee weapons.

it’s Half-life, Jim, but not as we know it!

What’s new about the Extended Edition?

It’s hard to tell just why they named this the Extended Edition. I haven’t played the first version but found myself using a walkthrough of the original game to avoid missing too many achievements and noticed that 95% is easily the same as it has ever been.

Time to point out the things that have been added!

*points*

There has been some quality of life improvements, like being able to load any of the separate chapters making it easier to go for the speedrun achievement or go back for missing collectibles, though beware: at least one of them has changed location so older guides may need to be updated.

There is a new puzzle that has been added at the end of the game that resembles the old Pipe Mania games; you need to remove blocks, place them and rotate them to unlock a few doors. This happens while a countdown has started and failing it will trigger an alternative ending that strangely has more information than when you succeed and see the “happy” ending if you can call it that.

How long to beat and complete?

Transient is not a long game and the Extended Edition doesn’t add a lot of content. My first playthrough clocked in at 3 hours and 10 minutes, and while I was using a guide for a large part of it, I also frequently stopped to look at the pretty environments. A first-time player that isn’t using any outside assistance can count on beating this in 3-4 hours.

Mapping out the missing achievements

There’s a fun list with 27 achievements, however, which prolongs the experience somewhat. You can reload chapters to find missing collectibles or try to attempt the minigames with more success if you failed at them or took too long the first time.

There is also a final speed-run achievement that tasks you with beating the game in 90 minutes, something that strikes me as odd for a narrative game but I guess it doesn’t reward knowing the game inside and out. Getting the full 1000G will probably take you around 5 hours.

Gotta catch them all!

Final thoughts on Transient: Extended Edition

Pros
Fantastic looking world
Blends Cyberpunk and Lovecraft in an interesting way
Lots of gameplay variation
Cons
Rather short and leaves many questions unansweredHDR issues when moving through the game world

Final Score: 3.5/5

Transient: Extended Edition is a narrative adventure that combines a cyberpunk setting with Lovecraftian lore and succeeds at creating an interesting blend that will keep you guessing for its entire runtime. It’s just a bit disappointing that it leaves so many questions unanswered and that the Extended Edition doesn’t truly bring a Next-Gen experience, with HDR ruining the experience, rather than augmenting it.

It does improve in many ways on its predecessors and gives me hope for new games by the developer if they keep building on the formula and making a better game each time.

Transient: Extended Edition costs around $19.99 and is available in Windows PC, Xbox consoles, Playstation consoles, and Nintendo Switch.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on Xbox Series X. Review copy provided by the publisher.

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