Review: Bastion

It's not like the world is coming to an e--Oh.

Aw, c'mon Kid! Cheer up!

Guten tag, LusipurrCom! Between having a full-time summer job, finishing off summer classes, and preparing for fall, scheduling has not permitted some writers of this site to play many of the games they would like to review. And for a writer of a gaming site, that is a horrid situation. Luckily, there are different ways to get a gaming fix. Steam and Xbox Live Arcade have both been excellent sources of downloadable demos and arcade games that many people have been playing for the past few months in their spare time, and one in particular has been most captivating: Bastion, an action-RPG released back in July by Supergiant Games.

Bastion tells the story of the The Kid, a young man who finds himself in the floating ruins of his world after sleeping through an event known as the Calamity. After finding his way to the titular Bastion–a place of safety his people were told to go in case of an extreme emergency–he meets up with Rucks (The Kid’s mentor and narrator of the game) and finds that the Bastion is unfinished and broken. In order to restore the Bastion and use it to “fix” the world, the Kid sets out on a quest to find the necessary crystalline components, as well as additional survivors. Bastion’s story is simple, yet presented in a unique and complex way: instead of being revealed through text crawls, the backstory of the city of Caelondia and its people are revealed by the game’s “dynamic narration” and the environment. Rucks comments on on nearly every action The Kid takes, but never repeats the same lines. Initially, one would think that the narration would become annoying to listen to, Rucks’ voice itself became an integral part of the story. Without his off-hand comments on the Kid’s weapon choices, or his reminiscing over his days in the Caelondian Army, much of Bastion‘s atmosphere and feel would be lost.

Bastion Gameplay

The Kid must survive in the remnants of his old home to forge a new one.

Gameplay in Bastion is fast-paced and fun. Drawing cues from games such as Diablo and Gaunlet, Bastion‘s gameplay takes place entirely in isometrically-aligned stages populated with monsters. What sets Bastion apart from these other games, however, is the way it handles map exploration: as The Kid progress across levels in Bastion, the terrain literally flies up under his feet, leaving players to guess how a map will form. This often leads to interesting puzzles or limitations that test combat skills, or even exciting escapes when the terrain begins to plummet back down again. The combat lends itself well to the pace of the game. Combat itself has no inherent flaws, and as the Kid finds more and more weapons and secret combat skills players will begin to find combinations of weapons they enjoy. Each weapon can be upgraded in certain directions, further specializing their utility, damage potential, or both. These upgrades should be chosen wisely, for while the enemies in Bastion are not necessarily difficult to defeat, they often attack in large numbers and with tactics and placement that may prove overwhelming.

But perhaps the most distinctive feature of Bastion is its presentation. To put it bluntly, Bastion is one of the most artistically fascinating experiences of the year, if not of all time. All of the character models, in-game cutscenes, and stages look as though they have been hand-painted in crisp and clear detail. At times, players may feel that they are taking part in a storybook adventure rather than playing a game.

But do not be fooled by their moniker; some of them are tough opponents.

Windbags are your main enemy in the quest to reforge the Bastion.

Rucks’ narration helps immensely with aiding this experience; his role is well-voice acted (as is expected, given the omnipresent nature of the game’s dynamic narration) and his voice is enjoyable to listen to. Often he sounds like some grizzled old cowboy as he relates the Kid’s tale to the player. The game’s music is an important part of the experience as well; besides being absolutely stellar on its own, the the music presented in Bastion is almost always spot-on and helps relate the mood and desperation of the story to the player. The music is happy when the characters are happy, it is sad and deep when tragedy has struck, and it is intense and fast-paced when the Kid is fighting for his life or trying to escape disaster. But know that what is written is only crude approximation: Bastion truly is a game that must be heard to be believed.

All-in-all, is Bastion worth a purchase? Yes, a thousand times yes! Bastion is beautiful, flows incredibly well, and is one of the most captivating games you will play this year on XBLA or Steam. And, on top of that, it is only fifteen American dollars. Bastion i a rare gem of a game, and it would be foolish to pass up a chance to play it.

“The Kid gets a bad review.

Nah, I’m just foolin’.”

18 comments on “Review: Bastion”

  1. My wife summed up this game: it’s a moving painting with an out of work actor inanely narrating every inessential thing you do.

  2. Once again Lane has swooped in to show us that he knows what is best for gamers!

  3. Well, it certainly isn’t our annual installment of Assassin’s Creed …

  4. @Lane: Yes, but it’s a good moving painting with an out of work actor inanely narrating every inessential thing you do. But I suppose Rucks might become annoying to some, different tastes and all. Not so with me. I thought his presence throughout the story was an interesting way to handle exposition and plot fluff.

  5. Rucks’ narration makes the game. Without it, the writers would have had to either drop large portions of the backstory/lore, or thrown in little memos The Kid could find, which would have been very short at times. Many times Rucks could describe an area with simple words like “It never was this empty” or “This place has had better days.” For his longer narrations, much of the information had much more of an impact as it was drawn out, said in the right areas, or spoken while The Kid fought a huge swarm. Additionally, by using only Rucks to summarize events and dialogue, the writers were able to sum up what could have been lengthy scenes with a few simple words from Rucks, leaving the players room to interpret how the other characters’ personalities and what the things let unsaid might mean.

    The music is in a similar boat, and I strongly suggest anyone interested in this game to avoid listening to any of the BGM until you play.

    As for the enemies in Bastion not being difficult, about 4 or 5 levels into the game, players get the option to pray to different gods, which can dramatically increase the difficulty if multiple gods are worshiped.

  6. It’s pretty. And it runs smoothly. But I didn’t feel… excited when playing it. It’s a solid effort with nice art, a nifty gimmick, and well worth its price tag.

    But not really my cup of tea.

  7. Perhaps if Bastion only had one dungeon, over and over again, with lots of grizzled western-looking characters?

    Oh wait, someone made that game already. Nevermind!

  8. Well this has been a warm reunion. I see differences of opinion are still welcome among readers. I’m ever so glad I was this open to discussion in my columns.

    Let me try this: ZOMG this game, Bastion, right? It’s super underground. You’ve probably never heard of it. Anyway, it’s super-indie and therefore objectively better then that mass produced crap from sellouts! *puts on thick black glasses, cracks a Pabst*

  9. As some of my staff members have been keen to point out: Obvious Troll is obvious.

    Please don’t sully the name of our readers by including yourself amongst them. Off with ye now, m’lad!

  10. @LaneTroll: Bastion? An indie game? Oh lawdy.

    I’d hardly call a game published by Warner Brothers Interactive “indie”.

  11. Supergiant Games is still technically an indie developer, aren’t they?

  12. @Enrei: Indeed they may, but that certainly doesn’t make us hipsters for liking it.

  13. Why was I not told this was a 2D game?! I would have actually been more interested in it, during the skype calls.

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