Developer(s): Supergiant Games

Publisher(s): Warner Bros. Interactive

Platform(s): XBLA, Steam

Player(s): 1

Before you read any further you should know this, if you’re a fan of action RPGs, buy Bastion.  Stop reading this and go buy it.  If you’re not so easily convinced and don’t generally take strangers at their word about how to spend your money, then by all means read on.  Perhaps I can convince you about what kind of masterpiece Supergiant Games has developed.

“Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning.  Ain’t so simple with this one.”  With that opening line you’re thrust into the post-Calamity world of Bastion, and what a world it is.  The story of “The Kid” is narrated by Rucks (voiced by Logan Cunningham) a wise old man that you soon meet face-to-face at what serves as the game’s central hub between areas, aptly named The Bastion.  Logan Cunningham’s narration voice work is remarkably impressive.  His voice brings a strong liking to that of an old gunslinger spinning stories of the Wild West.  Through your whole adventure, Rucks tells you some of the history of the world you’re in before the Calamity destroyed it all.  He’ll also comment on your choice of weapons, if you die, or if you accidentally fall off the edge of the play field.  Every bit of it is incredibly well done and you’ll find yourself being genuinely interested in what Rucks has to say.

Viewed from a fixed isometric vantage point, the sprite based visuals are striking.  Each area you’ll visit is varied and unique, all offering their own distinct flavors.  The very ground at your feet forms as you near it or drops away, leaving you always having to watch your step.  This floating playfield is often beautiful, prompting times that you’ll want to just pause and admire the view.  Characters are well animated, attacking with smooth motion and enemy types are not often repeated.  From start to finish, Bastion is a gorgeous game.

The music, by composer Darren Korb, is outstanding.  All of the tracks have a very distinctly western feel with tiny bits of middle-eastern strings and techno beats thrown in for good measure.  Every track sounds fantastic and fits the story, characters, and environments perfectly.  Aside from the amazing narration by Rucks, there is little other voice work done but what is there is done to the same high standard.  I cannot stress enough about how much I enjoyed the soundtrack for this game.  So much so that I purchased it from the Supergiant website, marking the first time I’ve ever bought a game’s soundtrack.

This wouldn’t be a RPG without some sort of level structure.  Like everything else in Bastion, this isn’t handled in the standard fair either.  The Kid gains levels as he slays enemies but instead of increasing a base set of stats, he instead gains access to certain beverages accessed through The Distillery.  Each level you gain, up to level 10, lets you add another drink offering different passive bonuses like increased damage or damage resistance.  These can be combined for added effects, or even canceling out the negative effects they may have.  For example one drink may offer an added chance to get a critical strike but reduces your overall health pool while another may give you that health pool back.

It’s not just The Kid that can be leveled up either.  Each weapon you find throughout the world can be upgraded at the Forge by using unique materials corresponding to the right weapon and spending the appropriate amount of Minerals, the game’s currency.  The Kid’s trademark hammer, for instance, has to be upgraded with “Something Heavy”.  Each deadly tool at your disposal handles differently and offers their own set of advantages or disadvantages, magnified by the upgrades you pick.

The buildings that you’ll restore to The Bastion as the game progresses unlock more than just the Distillery and Forge.  As you make your way through the story you’ll also gain access to an Armory where you can swap out your weapons and special abilities, a Lost and Found where you can purchase everything from new special abilities to additional drinks for the Distillery, a Monument where you gain bonus Minerals for completing certain goals, and a Shrine where you can activate certain “gods” making the enemies in the game more powerful.

Without using the Shrine to increase how powerful the enemies are, Bastion is never an overly difficult game.  You’re able to heal yourself via tonics, up to five times and restore your ability to do special attacks by the same means.  Refills drop from destroying objects, eliminating foes, or they’re placed at certain locations around the world.  The Kid is also able to defend himself with his Bullhead Shield which can stop almost every frontal attack or roll, very nimbly, away.  The biggest hazard you’ll face is falling from the playfield.  Sometimes you’ll misstep, other times you’ll be knocked off.  If you do fall, you’ll be dropped right back in the area causing a bit of damage to you and any baddie that happens to be standing under you.  You can even eliminate the damage done to you by falling through a Distillery upgrade while also increasing the damage done by you falling on an enemy.

The biggest problem I had with Bastion is that there isn’t enough of it.  Yes you’re offered a New Game Plus mode after you’re finished, allowing you to play through the game again from the beginning but maintaining all of your upgrades and levels.  Since there is more than one ending offered, you’ll appreciate that option.  No, what I’m speaking of is that Bastion will make you want to know more about the world you’re offered only a small glimpse of.  Throughout the game you’ll hear Rucks speak of a great war between your people and the Ura, of the beauty your kingdom possessed prior to The Calamity that destroyed it.  There is a great story presented here that could easily offer a full retail game with hours upon hours of addictive gameplay, unique characters, stunning visuals, and memorable music.  You’ve given us a small taste of this rich world, Supergiant Games, please give us more.