Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
One of the things I love most about doing these reviews is it gives me a valid excuse to go back through my Steam library and give a proper chance to those games that just beg to be played but are overshadowed by newer, flashier titles. So I’ll ask your forgiveness if I delve back a little while and review a game or two I haven’t gotten a proper chance at yet. You never know, maybe you’re in the same boat as me. Today’s leisurely cruise takes us through the (Formerly) lovely city of Caelondia and beyond, to the floating land in the sky known as the Bastion.
Bastion is an action-RPG with a fantasy theme that has a certain steampunk feel to it thrown in for flavor. Originally released in August of 2011, Bastion was developed by Supergiant Games. To date, Bastion has been there one and only game. During a showing at the 2012 Game Developers Conference, Warner Bros. agreed to publish and distribute the game. Considering the game had been in development for two years by this point and had been funded entirely by Supergiant Games, I would still consider this an indie title despite having a large publisher to help distribute.
A look at your home base, the Bastion.
You play as The Kid, a young man whose world is quite literally falling to pieces. The land of Caelondia has been struck by the mysterious Calamity, which has turned many of its residents to stone and causes the land to fall out from beneath your feet. Your job is to fight through the mindless beasts that roam through the land to strange and powerful cores, which you use to help stabilize and rebuild your home base of Bastion. Along the way you meet a few straggling survivors, including your smooth-voiced narrator Rucks, who I will hereby refer to as Captain Foreshadow.
The gameplay of Bastion is fairly simple hack and slash. Though there is a bit of variety to keep the action from being too dull. You can customize your equipment loadout (Primary and secondary weapons which can be upgraded), a special ability, spirits which give you bonuses (Maximum health, increased damage, etc.), and for an increased challenge you can even invoke certain gods to give your enemies a bit more of an edge with bonus XP and money gain as an incentive. If you’re at all familiar with action-RPGs you should really have no problem dashing through the crowds of enemies using whichever weapon configuration you wish. Invoking the gods does give the combat a bit more teeth to it, but it’s still fairly simple and easy to maneuver. Honestly, I’ve died more times simply dodge-rolling off the edge than being felled by an actual enemy.
One of the menu screens accessed from the Bastion. Here you can upgrade your weapons.
While the gameplay itself isn’t anything special, Bastion’s other facets more than make up for them. The story is intriguing and unique. Voiced by the smooth drawl of the truly talented narrator (Captain Foreshadow). The presentation is well made, giving you little hints and peaks as you play, never bashing you over the head with exposition. It draws you further and further into the game with little tastes of exactly what has occurred, and what the future holds. It’s not a happy tale. I mean, most everyone around is dead and the world’s falling apart. Surprise, there’s not a pot of gold at the end of this monotone rainbow. But it’s told well, and there’s always a little glimmer of hope.
Bastion’s artistic choices are quite lovely. Your character moves across a painted world with an isometric view where you can interact with many of the objects (Mostly by destroying or getting stabbed by them). The cutscenes mainly consist of singular drawn and painted scenes that rely on the narration to explain it away.
Survivors, happy just to be alive.
Out of everything, I would say the music is what surprised me the most. Immediately your ears are soothed by the delightful western twang of an acoustic guitar and later accompanied by some light electronic. Throughout the game the music is wonderfully tone-setting and more often than not I would find myself stopping to listen to a particularly good track. If you don’t give Bastion a chance, I would heartily insist at the very least listening to the soundtrack. Particularly to the hauntingly beautiful Build That Wall.
The entirety of Bastion could probably be breezed through in a few hours. While this would be a massive shortcoming in other games, in Bastion is allows the story to be told well without forcing itself to become too unnecessarily intricate. The developers seemed to be mindful of its brevity and installed a few mechanics to help extend the experience. New Game + which allows the player to play through the story again, giving you a chance to pick up potentially missed collectibles and unlock all the various features. There are also the Proving Grounds which offer challenges for each of the weapons and doles out suitable rewards. Perhaps not enough for some, but these will keep the majority of completionists satisfied through another playthrough at the very least.
Wielding my duel pistols against some ornery flora.
Bastion is one of the games that pushes for the idea that video games are indeed a form of artistic expression. Sadly, this often requires that the game sacrifice in other places (Such as the gameplay) but I think in the end that the sacrifice, in this case, was well-made. There are plenty of other games with a wider variety of interesting gameplay, but not too many that can capture your attention and hold it quite so well.
Bastion for the PC: 5/6
Title image courtesy of Nocturnal Rambler.
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