Let me start off by saying “Bastion” is unique. It’s a game that will suck you into its world as you play and keep you there until the job is done, and sometime after that, too. With “Bastion,” developer SuperGiant Games has miraculously and meticulously crafted an experience that takes you in with its fantastic art style, tight combat and fresh take on storytelling.
“Bastion’s” story starts out simple enough. Similar to many other RPGs, the player (known to us only as “The Kid”) wakes up in his small, comfy home ready for adventure. The problem is that it seems the world went to pieces while the kid was sleeping, almost completely destroyed by something called the “Calamity.” Now the kid’s only hope is to find the Bastion, a safe haven where all survivors were supposed to meet in case such a catastrophe occurred.
What follows is the story of a boy who’s trying to piece together a world that’s broken, shattered into pieces by the Great Calamity. The only way to do that is to restore the Bastion by finding cores. The story that unfolds touches on themes of love, friendship, betrayal, and even loss. It’s an interesting spin on the old “Boy saves the land” story that’s been done many times. Still, the writing isn’t always strong. There are times in “Bastion’s” tale where intense or sad moments can seem flat, or the plot weakens. Thankfully, “Bastion’s” story is a much richer experience thanks to its narrator, Rucks: a fancy, mustached man who narrates every action, every plot twist, every new site and every feeling. I know it might sound annoying, but Supergiant Games meant for him to be an integral and meaningful part of “Bastion’s” tale, and for the most part they succeeded. The narrator’s voice only brought on minor twitches of annoyance in a few, brief circumstances where he narrated meaningless actions repeatedly.
The presentation here is also quite impressive. The art style is striking to say the least, a blend of beautiful watercolor painted backgrounds and a hand-drawn world that forms under your feet as you walk by. It’s gorgeous work, and for such a small development team it really is quite the achievement.
The game is also accompanied by an original soundtrack composed by Darren Korb. The music is an impressive score of mostly acoustic tracks that really grew on me as I played “Bastion.” Not all of the songs are winners, but the best pieces I found were the compositions that had some connection to the story. Those select few were truly memorable, fantastic pieces of music. There was even a moment where I stopped what I was doing just to listen to a whole song. Seriously, it was that good.
Of course, good looks and an interesting story won’t keep me glued to the controller if the gameplay isn’t there to back it up. Thankfully, Supergiant delivers on this front as well. The combat is tight and fun, with the ability to dodge, block and counter with a variety of cool weapons to choose from. (My personal favorite being a rather large, destructive hammer.) You are allowed two weapons per mission, along with your trusted shield, and a special ability of your choice. While two weapons may seem limiting, the missions are kept short, lasting around 10-15 minutes tops, and you’ll often find new weapons and abilities along the way. Meaning that combat manages to stay fresh and fun.
You could easily double your playtime mastering weapons at proving grounds, chasing after weapon upgrades, or even learning bits of lore as you fend off foes in several wave attack mini-games. Then there’s New Game +, where you go back and do it all again, only this time with all your weapons, abilities and experience that you gained from your first run. Whatever you decide, “Bastion” has tons of content to offer and some good replay value to boot.
However, as great a game as “Bastion” may be, it’s not without its flaws. The game has an irregular difficulty curve. Most of the challenge, if any, will occur during the beginning segments. The game only gets easier from there as you upgrade your weapons and gain experience. There were only a few odd times later on in the game when the difficulty would spike. In fact, I played through the entire game and only had to restart a mission once due to a complete death. It’s a good thing you can choose to up the difficulty yourself using what is called a shrine. This will invoke the gods’ wrath upon yee! In exchange for better rewards of course. Still, It would have been nice for “Bastion” to have a gradual rise in difficulty instead of the opposite.
The only other minor qualm I have with “Bastion” is with its enemy variety, specifically in the beginning. Expect to spend a good chunk of your time fighting a lot of Windbags and turrets. Thankfully, “Bastion’s” bag of monsters graciously expands after the first hour or two, which saves this tale from becoming a repetitious or tedious endeavor.
At $15, “Bastion’s” purchase should be an easy decision for any action-RPG fan. The game’s world is a splendid one to explore and any fans of video game storytelling should give this one a go. “Bastion” is available for both PC and Xbox 360, and even ran fine on my ancient laptop. So do yourself a favor and pick this gem up. The Bastion ain’t gonna build itself after all…well, not entirely.
Final Score: A