by Sean Martin
previewed on PC
A strange combo you might say? It’s certainly one I’ve never heard of before, but that’s one of the reasons Stormling’s new ambient puzzler Transient is such an interesting proposition. Both Cyberpunk and Lovecraft certainly have some genre parallels — the loss of personal identity in the face of a far greater power seems to be a relevant one, plus much of the organic space imagery of Dead Space and Alien fits with the organic horror architecture that Cthulhu so often inspires.
In the demo our character found himself waking up in what seemed to be an ancient alien ruin. It was pretty beautiful — the ambient lighting especially was very impressive. As I wandered, in the style of Dark Souls I began to spot many architectural clues as to the nature of this ruin, and of its inhabitants. I’m a big fan of this non-exposition heavy style of storytelling, so when I entered the next room and was confronted by an ancient alien who proceeded to answer all of my questions I was somewhat disappointed. Not only did this encounter seem a little too heavy on exposition, but the Lovecraftian language was also a bit much and felt out of place with the sci-fi context.
I think that one of the greatest issues with writing incomprehensible Lovecraftian dialogue, is how you’re supposed to convey any information. Bloodborne’s style of minimal dialogue but with many visual clues explaining the situation is far better. But playing Transient and speaking to that ancient alien I noticed this problem. From the first line I could tell this was incomprehensible dialogue supposed to be in-keeping with Lovecraft, but after about two lines I was bored, as I obviously wasn’t meant to understand any of it. So hopefully Transient will avoid heavy exposition dialogue and not let fusty old Lovecraftian tone compromise its cool sci-fi elements.
As I moved on, I witnessed a hallucination of a girl known to our character, who beckoned us to follow her into a portal, and then we were suddenly in a Cyberpunk city. The lighting here was wonderful and the Cyberpunk aesthetic was pretty on point.
The two puzzles I did get to play in the demo seemed relatively decent — one in the Cyberpunk area felt quite detective-like and involved solving a riddle then moving symbols to represent various elements from it. The other one in the ruins involved getting snakes to swallow their own heads Ouroboros style in order to unlock a door. I liked the symbolic nature of this one, considering some of the dialogue hints that this game is about cycles and rebirth.
The thing that Transient has going for it the most is its walking simulator nature as well as the beautiful scenery and surroundings, but currently the exposition heavy dialogue and fusty Lovecraftian tone are the negatives. If information could be relayed through scenery instead it would be far more successful. Lovecraftian Cyberpunk sounds like a novelty combination in some ways, but actually there are many parallels between the genres, and considering Transient's promising start, I'm excited to see what more they do with. The game is due for release sometime next year.