Bastion Review

As posted on ButtonMasher.

“The Kid read down the page in anticipation. He ain’t one to wait around. Like most folks, he needed to know just how good this Bastion game really was.”

One of the first things you’ll discover in Bastion is the narrator; an omnipresent smooth rumbling of words which could only belong to an old cowboy past his prime. This isn’t just several cut-scenes either. The narrator will be with you throughout your journey from start to finish. He will give you back-story on the places you visit, sage combat advice, and of course narrate your in-game actions.

When people speak of Bastion, the narration is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. It’s what makes this game unique. Without the narrator Bastion would still be a very good game, just lacking that one nuance to make it truly memorable.

If I had to pick a genre, Bastion would be an Action RPG. You even play on a fixed isometric perspective just like in Diablo. But the great thing about Bastion is it’s simplified. You don’t go around looting enemies and stocking up an inventory full of junk. Neither do you have to worry about socketing gems, or measuring the stats of different armour and weapons. It’s easy enough for anyone to get into. There’s still things like “+10% chance of critical attack” when equipping upgrades and spirits, which is great for folks to fine-tune their load-out. But really, anything you equip will have some benefit, so hopefully it shouldn’t scare away the RPG-phobes.

The world of Caelondia has changed much since the Calamity — a seismic event that shaped the world into pretty bad shape. As you (the Kid) take a step forward the world builds up around you, the path forming under your feet. It’s a clever way of going without a mini-map. This way it’s nigh impossible to get lost. The self-contained levels are mostly linear, although there are a few detours you can take.

And detour you shall. The world is gorgeous and every inch is worth exploring. Using watercolour backdrops and colourful anime creatures and characters, Bastion has a real distinct look about it. Some may draw visual comparisons to another indie smash hit, Braid. And judging by the sales so far, Bastion looks set to join the ranks of the highly praised.

So apart from sounding awesome and looking pretty, how does the game actually play? Why, pretty darn well. You can smash and tear apart most of a level’s furnishings. However only some objects will give you fragments (Bastion’s currency), and even then it’s a rather minuscule amount. So I do it mostly for clearing a path, or simply because it’s there and I love to smash things. Smashing enemies on the other hand reaps greater rewards. Enemies in Caelondia are all over the show; from little squirts to turrets, to jumping jacks to ghosts, to horned-beasts-hiding-under-ground-until-that-last-fateful-second.

To take on these enemies you can equip a secret skill and two weapons of your choosing. You’ll find a bunch of them as you progress. Each weapon is rather distinct, and each has its advantages. You can create different combinations, and change up as you play. I played with the War Machete and Fang Repeater for a while, but ended up with the Scrap Musket and Duelling Pistols. Two guns, no guns, the choice is up to you.

Each weapon is upgradable, which you can do at the Forge back at your home base, the Bastion. In the beginning of the game as you collect the shards, you can choose which structures get built first and decide on their placement. The Distillery lets you pick a potion for each Level you gain. And the Memorial gives you some Achievement-like goals for extra challenges. Why there’s even a Shrine that lets you fine-tune the difficulty of the game, giving the enemies different enhancements in exchange for more XP.

Each weapon has its own training course (or Proving Grounds), with three prizes up for grabs. Of course they don’t make the first prize too easy. I must’ve tried some of those training courses dozens of times, before packing it in. Shaving a few seconds off the clock is usually the object here, and I know the first prize looks mighty tempting, but you can finish the game without it. Don’t let  it ruin your fun!

And if you want to put your weapons to the test, the option is there for you too, with small arena levels. Waves of enemies take you on, as the narrator describes a back-story between waves. While I managed to get through these, it was often just barely. Swearing like a sailor twenty times a minute, every wave felt as if it would be my last. With Shrine modifiers enabled you really get a challenge, and it helps improve your score on the Leaderboards.

Closing Comments

Bastion really is a gem, and well-deserved for heading up Xbox’s Summer (Winter) of Arcade. This is what indie games are about; redefining game-types, and introducing cool, crazy elements. There is no reason you shouldn’t give Bastion a try. It’s full of colour, killing stuff is fun, and heck, you even get your own narrator.

Released on 20/7/2011 for 1200 MS Points.

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