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Bastion Review

by William Schwartz
Bastion Xbox One

In Bastion, players take control of a character known as the Kid, who is thrust into a world that has literally crumbled around him in a great Calamity. He must now construct a safe haven and build a new world from the remnants of the past. The game features lush and imaginative artwork as well as an innovative reactive narration system that responds to the player’s actions in real time all throughout the adventure. Bastion includes more than 30 areas to explore set in several wildly different environments, a variety of weapons and upgrades to discover, and a deep storyline to unravel. – SuperGiant Games

Chalk another one up for games as art – You don’t need to look very far to see what catches everyone’s eye at first glance of this game.  The colorful art design is exceptionally pleasing and well done.  From the beautiful and meticulous crafting of the levels all the way down to the smallest details on The Kid, Bastion is something that you can sit and stare at just due to it’s watercolor nature.  This art plays a strong contrast to the story being told, The Bastion is a world that has been ripped apart by a great Calamity, but from what you can tell it was a glorious place before this catastrophic event.  With a bit of graphical trickery it appears that the world is recreating itself at your every step.  The fragmented landscape is a patchwork of hand drawn art that is too pretty to be ignored, and it could be one of the best looking games that have ever graced the Xbox Live Arcade.  Equally impressive as the art in Bastion is the music that will accompany you on your journey.  There isn’t a time in the game where you’ll sit and think to yourself that any of it feels out of place, or does a bad job at setting the mood or tempo of the experience.  The melodic and varied selection do well to enhance the overall experience of the game.  The way that Bastion blends these superficial elements is a perfect balance that many games strive to, but very rarely ever accomplish.

Minimalist Story Telling –  What you won’t find in Bastion are extended cutscenes or fancy renders that act as filler in the game. Bastion is a story that is driven by the narrator, Rucks.  Rucks is your confidante, a seemingly all knowing party to aid you on your journey to rebuild the Bastion.  He’ll never travel with you in the game, but he’ll always be with you constantly moving the story along depending on your on-screen actions.  Now what’s extremely interesting about the narration techniques in Bastion, is that you’ll constantly be getting what feels very much like an interactive play by play.  What separates Bastion from games that have tried this in the past, is that there is an immense amount of dialog that must have been recorded for this game.  You’ll be hard pressed to hear the same commentary twice, and it can change by any number of actions that are being performed on-screen.  Whether in any of the game’s action rpg style “dungeons” or in the mini-game style proving grounds, Rucks will be there to press you along.  More interesting, he also serves as your guide to all things Bastion in the down time as well.  In fact, he’s the only spoken voice in the game, and while it may sound like a strange proposition, it’s honestly what sets Bastion apart from other games.  Rucks is constantly informing you of the status of the Bastion, making remarks about your progress, explaining things, and piecing together the story, line by line and action by action.  Just like the patch work landscape of Bastion, Rucks fills in the blank spaces throughout the game’s story.

Action RPG – It’s not all bright colors, graphical trickery, and sound presentation with Bastion.  None of that stuff works without a great core mechanic to the gameplay.  Bastion is an action-RPG at its heart, and a good one at that.  SuperGiant Games doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel with Bastion’s core gameplay mechanics.   If familiar with these types of games, you’ll be very comfortable with the gameplay in Bastion.  Your primary focus of the game will be clearing levels and picking up loot, with there being a main object of concern in each area.  As you progress through the many levels of the game you’ll collect a wide variety of weapons that serve many different purposes, which can greatly affect how you choose to play the game.  You’ll find that the enemies of each level will have unique methods of trying to zap strength from The Kid, and while in the early goings Bastion might feel like little more than a button masher, you’ll quickly find that the difficulty curve ramps up considerably.  As it does, you’ll be looking at the items and weapons that have been found on your journey to give you a leg up on the enemies of the game. Alongside the weapon pick ups, you’ll also find items which can be used to power up your weapons.  You’ll be able to choose one of two powerups for each of three tiers of a given weapon, if you have completed the necessary requirements to unlock each level.

If up for a challenge Bastion has plenty to offer to the completionist as well.  Building the Bastion and collecting all that there is to collect in the game is not something that will be done on first pass.  The game offers a new game plus feature which will allow you to go back and pick up what you may have missed the first time around.  There’s also a mechanic that is awfully familar to the skulls of the Halo franchise in Bastion.  They aren’t called skulls in Bastion, but Idols.  These idols will have an impact on different enemy attributes and make the game exponentially harder if you are up for a challenge.

Loading Screens, At Least They’re Informative – Bastion has a good bit of loading involved.  Surprisingly for a downloadable title, you’ll spend a good amount of time waiting through them in this game.  Fortunately, they hold some valuable information that can help you on your journey.  The extended loading is most noticeable at the onset of the game, when levels are much shorter.  Depending on how impatient you are, you could be looking down the barrel of a loading screen more often than you like.

Mixed Issues with combat – Action is of emphasis in Bastion’s action-RPG genre definition.  The majority of the game is spent battling off the unique creatures of this strange world, but getting accustomed to the weapons of the game can be a bit of a frustrating challenge.  This frustration mostly derives from spotty targeting that can pop up at times.  This will cause your character to waste valuable time locking on to multiple targets in some cases never to hit the right one.  When it works like it should, it’s great, but it pops up often enough to mention.  Bastion is a game full of literal pitfalls and an ever changing landscape, because of this, you should also prepare yourself for 100’s of possible miscues when you manage to roll of the map or get overzealous in chasing down a group of Windbags.

The Verdict

Bastion is a multi-faceted experience that on first glance looks simple enough.  It’ll definitely catch your eye with it’s visuals, serenade you with it’s melodic soundtrack, and usher you forward with an untested and unrivaled new way of story telling.  Though the truly special thing about Bastion is how these things all form together with the action-rpg elements of the game to give you something familiar but unique.  There’s a level of polish in Bastion and a focus on the small things that puts many big budget titles to shame, delivering more gameplay at a higher quality for a fraction of the price.  If all games were like this, we’d all be happy gamers with very little to complain about.

"loved"
loved

Bastion

  • Available On: Xbox 360, PS3, PC, Mobile
  • Published By: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
  • Developed By: Supergiant Games
  • Genre: ARPG
  • US Release Date: July 20, 2011
  • Reviewed On: Xbox 360
  • Quote: "Bastion is a multi-faceted experience that on first glance looks simple enough.  It'll definitely catch your eye with it's visuals, serenade you with it's melodic soundtrack, and usher you forward with an untested and unrivaled new way of story telling."
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