“Never Explain Anything.” – H. P. Lovecraft
Transient hits that nail on the head, honouring Lovecraft’s words and throwing you right in the middle of the story from the first cutscene. And follows the meandering, unfathomable paths of Shoggoth’s tentacles as it searches for explorable cavities to the end, explaining nothing and just piling on facts and information in a haphazard manner.
A walking simulator and a weird mash up of Cyberpunk and Lovecraft, it tries hard to be mysterious, cosmic and deep while also trying to steadily increase the tension and the story set up for an explosive ending. It manages to be ambiguous, incoherent and shallow with a baffling and disappointing ending. The Cyberpunk part of the game is eerily reminiscent of Observer, but a poor man’s one.
The story follows Randolph Carter, a recurring fictional character in Lovecraft’s works that’s part of a group of cyberhackers. It uses elements and themes from Lovecraft’s works, such as his famous cosmic existentialism, loss of identity, the feeling of insignificance, despair and dream-walking, as the main character possesses the ability to travel through the memories and subconsciouses of his teammates and to enter dream worlds when he overdoses on ancient shamanic medicine.
And no, it’s not firewater. The problem is that it uses, bombards you with and throws at you so many Lovecraft references without any sense of cohesion that you’ll get swamped and buried in them. Sure, Cyberpunk neon signs of bars and locations using Lovecraft’s names is cooooool, but it feels like they just took a giant basket stuffed with references, shook it, lazily asked for Nyarlathotep’s blessing while he was brooding over his lunch and not paying attention and just threw everything into the game without any thought of where and how it landed.
There are a few collectibles in-game that expand on the story, but in the already mentioned chaos, they don’t add much but more words that might as well be R’lyehian.
Visuals and presentation are probably the game’s only saving grace. They’re very well done, look incredible and there are some serious moments of ambient brilliance, sound-work included. There’s not much music, but it sits well, deepening the atmosphere. Voice acting is a bit dull, cringe inducing, boring read from the paper variety.
In stark contrast to the visuals, human character models and animations are as amorphous, bendable and scary as the best Shoggoth fan art you can find on the interwebs. Seriously, they’re terrible and look very poorly animated, even by indie standards.
Weird creature statues and some models fare a bit better and are sufficiently endowed with cosmic horror. The UI could also use a bit more time in the oven as it looks like a preset from Unreal Engine, especially the main menu. In spite of the visuals, the game somehow slightly fails to channel the dread you’d expect from Lovecraft.
Gameplay is mostly a walking simulator with some simple, almost linear, exploration and some puzzles thrown in. The puzzles are not hard and will not stop and stump you for long. All the solutions are pretty apparent or are close by in the environment. At one point in the game, you’ll get to play games within games. They’re both homages, one to Alone in the Dark and Resident Evil and the other definitely paying tribute to System Shock.
I found those to be nice touches, if not exactly necessary for gameplay. The main character also has something called a PHI, perception heightening implant, that allows you to scan the environment (again, eerily Observer), but you’ll get little use of it. Everything is kind of underwhelming and underused, just rushing you through different styles, never allowing for something to grow on you. Unless you count the tentacles. It seems to just be driving the narrative which ends up in a direct collision with a brick wall.
“Creative minds are uneven, and the best of fabrics have their dull spots.” – H. P. Lovecraft
The entire game feels rushed, unpolished, cobbled together from many gameplay elements, but shining in none, with a story that jumps all over the place, poor pacing (Chapter 4, looking at you) and a disappointing ending. And it is very short, unless you go look for all the collectibles and achievements, but you will not be adding many hours there. The price is definitely too much for what it offers.
If you’re interested, wait for a sale. Transient in English means short-lasting, which is about as long as this game is going to be remembered in its current state. Perhaps future patches will bring some hope to Mr. Carter.
Technical specs for review purposes: i7, RTX2070, 32GB of RAM and an SSD.
- Do you like scary games? Check out our Top 5 scariest Halloween games, you won’t be disappointed!