My colleague Matt Miller wrote a long and enthusiastic review of Supergiant Games' downloadable action/RPG Bastion, which further sparked my interest in a game that had been on many people's best of E3 lists. While you should definitely read his review (click here), I thought I'd jot down some of my own first impressions of Bastion and why I think it's a game well worth your time.

First off, I'm not done with the game yet. Judging by the map, i'd mark my progress at a little more than halfway through. However, I can say that this game got its hooks in me from the beginning, and so far has been excellently paced.

There's a few things about Bastion that seem notable. One is the much-discussed narrator. It's a gimmick, sure, but one hell of a gimmick that gives what is in reality a fairly standard old-school action/RPG a real dramatic flair. I'm not sure who did the voiceovers, but it's an amazing performance -- one I suspect might be a sly parody of actor Sam Elliott.

Second, the story is told very enigmatically. The narrator gives constant hints of the "calamity" that shook the world of the game, killing many and devastating all but the "Bastion" which serves as a hub world you must rebuild by getting some supernatural widgets. The combat is fairly standard -- you have ranged and melee weapons that can be upgraded in various ways. You also collect a host of special attacks, which require special black potions for each use. The levels themselves are fairly short, and actually assemble themselves in pieces around you as you walk. It's a neat visual effect, but it also serves to add some suspense at points. Since you can't always see where the path is going ahead of you, you're forced to react on instinct, which is crucial in some of the sequences when you're being chased. You collect weapons, earn in-game money to buy things, complete in-game achievements for bonuses, etc.

If you haven't played Bastion, you're probably thinking this all sounds fairly standard of the action/rpg genre. Well, in many ways, you're right. If you step back, Bastion isn't so much innovative as it is an appealing and well-tuned packaging of genre conventions. While you won't understand until you play, the narration, coupled with the oddball writing and stunning hand-drawn art style help make Bastion feel fresh in a way I haven't felt in a while.

More importantly, you can tell the team behind the game really knows the genre and what would make it a good fit for XBLA. The levels are quick; it's easy to get in and out and make some progress in this game. At the same time, by equipping certain idols at the temple, you can make the game more difficult and replay areas for more loot. I really appreciate the fact that you can go back and change your weapon power-up slots at any point -- I always get frustrated when I have to live with a poor decision for the rest of the game. As a whole, it really encourages experimenting with your weapons and loadout combinations.

As far as the storytelling, I'm certainly intrigued but still on the fence. I love how the game slowly peels back layers of the onion, so to speak, but I'm also concerned that I'm already about half through the game and I feel like I'm getting more, not less confused. However, Matt Miller ensures me that the game comes to a satisfying end, so I'll trust him.

Either way, this has been exactly what I was looking for -- a game that looks back to the great games of yesteryear, but but does it in a way that feels distinctly different and modern.