The lights are on
Have you ever woken up from a dream that was so real, it made you question whether or not you had woken up or actually fallen asleep? One of those dreams where the events, people, and things seem so real you can tangibly taste them... feel them... and feel for them? That magical and scary feeling is exactly the beginning of Bastion.As The Kid, you are thrust into the aftermath of the calamity, a devastating event which leaves your world of Caelondia destroyed. The earth literally forms beneath your feat as you acquire your first weapons and search out the Bastion, the last safe haven for your people. Upon finding the Bastion, you learn that it still needs some work, so you're tasked to find cores and shards to finish the Bastion.The greatest asset to Bastion is the narration. Logan Cunningham, the voice of the narrator (Rucks), tells your tale in real time, as you do it. Acquiring new weapons, defeating enemies, discovering trinkets, giving backstory to areas, people, weapons, events, and actions prompts Rucks to give you a piece of the story, to fill in the history: past, present, and future of Caelondia.Presented in an isometric format, Bastion is a gorgeously rendered game which has a hand-painted look. Everything moves at a startling degree of smoothness. In short, the game and its art style are downright gorgeous.Supplementing the visuals is the best music ever to grace an XBLA game. While not revolutionary, the gameplay is a very satisfying hack-and-slash blend that utilizes a primary weapon, an auxiliary weapon, a shield, an evade button, and a special attack button. This simplicity means that the game's combat will never be complicated, but, on the flip side, it will never have great depth. As you advance through the wreckage of Caelondia, you'll acquire upgrade items which (supplemented with the game's currency) allow you to upgrade your weapons. Upgrades allow you to pick from two different bonuses to a weapon, once a level is purchased, these bonuses can be switched back-and-forth for free.As you rebuild the Bastion, you'll construct and upgrade six different buildings: The Distillery, The Arsenal, The Forge, The Memorial, Lost and Found, and The Shrine. The Distillery allows you to select spirits which will aid your abilities. The higher your level, the more spirits you can carry. The Arsenal allows you to switch out weapon and special ability loadouts. The Forge is where you upgrade weapons. Lost-and-Found is the store where you can buy upgrade items, new special abilities, and spirits. The Shrine allows you to invoke the gods which buffs enemies in various ways, but also provides a currency and XP bonus. Finally the Memorial is where different challenge tasks (known as Vigils) are assigned. Completing each Vigil rewards you with currency.The last, primary feature to the Bastion are the trips to "Who-Knows-Where", which is basically a training room that allows you to test your skills against increasingly tough enemies. By the end of the game, three different items can send you to three different trial rooms. These rooms are fantastic for finding your favorite weapon set, completing Vigils, and testing out abilities.The game has great replay value with the addition of a New Game+ mode, allowing you to carry over all of your experience, cash, and weapon upgrades into a new game.On the achievement front, completionists should have no fear of diving in, as all of the pops are easily accomplished within two playthroughs.The game does have a few, small drawbacks. First and foremost is the method of storytelling. While I praise the narration and the style of presentation, the actual story of the game is laid out in a fashion where you REALLY need to focus on it while also focusing on the gameplay. It's told through nuance and allusion, things I enjoy personally, but may leave many gamers confused. The only other knock I can give is that Bastion ends up feeling short at the end of the day, but wanting more of a game this good is rarely a bad thing.As the XBLA format becomes more and more popular with big developers and publishers dipping their toes into the water, games like Bastion shine as an excellent example of what a smaller game can do if given love and time. It is an absolute must-play.
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