Review – Transient

It’s been a fairy rough time for the survival horror genre. With the exception of a couple standouts, such as the latest entry in the Amnesia series, as well as Resident Evil 3‘s remake, this year surely hasn’t delivered the goods. Transient is a long-awaited horror title that takes heavy inspiration from Lovecraft’s work, set in a future cyberpunish future where humanity doesn’t really go outside anymore, resorting to interacting in virtual worlds instead. Did that Ready Player One-esque premise deliver or is this just another forgettable walking simulator? Let’s find out.

A mysterious god like figure that keeps appearing to Carter.

You play as Randall Carter (yeah, they really don’t mess around with the references), a hacker who does questionable jobs for mysterious clients. The game starts right after a job gone wrong, with Carter not able to remember what had happened, so must retrace his steps, all while uncovering the truth behind the ancient entities that have been in contact with him. What should have been an interesting story is quickly shut down thanks to a main character that is incredibly dull, and a presentation that makes it really hard to follow what is happening. The mystery isn’t compelling and the dialogue just failed to pull me into this world. 

Giving credit where credit is due, this game looks magnificent, and clearly a lot of love has went into crafting this neon cyberpunk world fused with elements of cosmic horror. Like I said in my Ghostrunner review, I am a sucker for this kind of neon-cladded future, and I have to say, they have absolutely nailed it in here. The game features plenty of environmental detail and lighting effects to look at. However, character models and a lack of variety really bring the visual experience down a touch. 

Even though the game looks stunningly, that is unfortunately where its highlights end. The core gameplay of Transient is mind-numbing at best, often sending you down straightforward corridors with not much of interest to look at. Just walk down until you reach the next scene, in true Layers of Fear fashion. It is very much a walking simulator which isn’t exactly a problem if you do it right, but Transient doesn’t do anything interesting nor is its story engaging enough for it to actually matter.  

Every now and then you will get to a puzzle section, and whilst they have some interesting ideas in here, they are often a bit too half-baked and simplistic. For instance, one of the earlier puzzles has you crafting a medicine to enhance your focus. All you need to do is read a journal entry and press items in the right order. This is a perfect example of how “complex” these puzzles can be. They don’t require much thought and you might actually end up simply stumbling into the solution by accident. Then there’s the awful hacking minigame, that is, as expected, poorly explained, and once you get into it, it just becomes a tedious chore as all you need to is avoid some traps. Bioshock hacking minigame, this is not.

Transient rarely does anything interesting with its gameplay, and when it tries to, it doesn’t quite work. The game’s third chapter tried to do something to mix things up, but ultimately slowing the game down to a crawl. Resident Evil and System Shock-inspired minigames that take up a good chunk of this chapter and I’ve been questioning their existence. They don’t add anything meaningful to the experience, instead detracting from it with overly long diversions from the stuff that matters. It feels like an attempt to force some variety into a short game that lasts only three hours.

You weren’t kidding with how short the game is

Transient had the potential to be something great, fusing a gorgeous cyberpunk setting with a Lovecraftian-inspired story. However everything else besides the world and its visuals just falls flat. The gameplay is uninspired and tedious, managing to make a relatively short game drag on for longer than it needed to. The story and the disappointing sound department also felt undercooked at the end of the day. Add in another disappointing entry to the ever growing pile of underwhelming horror games released in 2020, I guess…

Graphics: 7.5

Giving credit where credit is due, this game’s cyberpunk world looks phenomenal. Though the character models could have used some extra work.

Gameplay: 3.0

Transient is a walking simulator that tries too hard to mix things up but fails in every single way. It’s mind-numbing and repetitive.

Sound: 2.0

It’s hard to immerse into a story when you can’t get over with how bad the voice acting is. 

Fun Factor: 4.0

Transient is a missed opportunity for a great cyber-horror game. It is uninspired and tedious. Not to mention the pointless minigames…

Final Verdict: 4.5

Transient is available now on PC.

Reviewed on PC.

A copy of Transient was provided by the publisher.