I will start with a clear message. Go and buy Transistor.
From the same folks that brought you Bastion, comes Transistor. You can watch a ton of YouTube about the art and flow of the game, which really is only a portion of the fun. The real meat and potatoes is the strategic combat.
Background first. You start in media-res, with little explanation as to why you have a talking sword (the game’s namesake). He points you around and explains things briefly but the core story is like reading a book, gently exposing more and more story as you move along. The game is set in a virtual world, where the Program determines people’s outcomes. Your sword can absorb people’s essences or you can acquire them through choices in the level up process.
These essences are the skills used in combat. Each has 3 functions, either as a primary attack, as a boost to another primary attack (2 per), or as a passive boost (4 max) to your character. Each has a set “value” and you can only equip a certain total amount of values at any given time. As you level up, you get the choice of adding more to that cap, or unlocking more boost and passive slots. You also get to unlock Limiters, which drastically increase the difficulty of the game but also increase your experience rewards. You could enable enemies to deal double damage and respawn quickly for example. It adds a serious level of challenge.
The core skills are varied enough. Some are direct short attacks, others long range of over time. Combining the skills provide additional lore and can make a heck of a difference in combat. I use a long range DoT attack, that also has a front end damage spike and an AE effect upon contact. Combined with a Stealth-get-out-of-dodge move, I play a more defensive/stealthy game. I’ve also tried a brute force attack, which was a combination of a “vacuum” pull attack combined with a big AE and knockback. I think I’m at about 15 skills now, so the options are pretty wide.
Combat also runs in two distinct modes. First is the regular active combat in real time. You also can pause time and use “Turn()” to plan out attacks. Each attack takes up a portion of the meter but you move so fast that sometimes it’s better to use it defensively. After you send the attack, it takes a while to generate more Turn and your skills are locked, so you’re pretty defenseless. You need to really think things through! If you do end up losing your hit points, you lose access to one of your active skills. Lose them all and it’s game over. You can restore skills at save points.
You do get a “home base” of sorts, with challenge rooms. Some are pretty darn hard but once you complete them, it really changes the way you look at the game. The game proper is only about 6 hours but there’s a New Game+ option. The dynamic combat, quick pickup and play and system flexibility certainly give it a lot of replay value too.
I will end with a clear message. Go and buy Transistor.