The lights are on
Bastion, as review material, is a hard nut to crack. As a downloadable game, it is subject to more lax requirements pertaining to length and size of the game. But in those requirements, Bastion is one of the rare games that goes beyond these bounds to deliver an experience worthy to stand toe-to-toe with triple-A titles, and in many ways surpasses its sixty dollar peers. So, the enigma comes from whether I judge it with the queue of average download titles or against the best the industry has to offer? Lets just take a look at it being what is is, and delve into what makes this game one of the unforgettable experiences of 2011 for me and many amongst my friends and acquaintences.
The aesthetic, as the most immediate thing you see, is a great place to begin. Bastion takes place in a colorful world reminiscent of a quality painting. It creates an interesting counterpoint with the dark story behind the game, and serves to remain visually appealing for the eye throughout the full experience. From deep jungle to railroad tracks, the aesthetic journey take you to a great many vibrant locales. The character designs remain unique, due to the brilliant designs of Jen Zee. The Kid, Rucks, Zia, Zulf, and the myriad creatures and enemies all have creative looks that separates the visuals this title has to offer from any other on the market and gives you a refreshing break from the games that promote more and more realistic looking graphics.
The sound...where do I begin? The soundtrack, composed by Darren Korb, creates a unique aural experience that ranks among my favorite soundtracks of all time, one which is good enough to warrant a purchase for the CD from Supergiant Games. From quiter, more haunting pieces like The Bottom Feeders to more energetic, powerful music like Mine, Windbag, Mine, there's not one song in the instrumental portions that fails to be anything less than amazing. There are also three songs that include voice, Build That Wall, Mother I'm Here, and Setting Sail, Coming Home (a juxtaposition of the first two voiced tracks). They are used sparingly throughout the game and add a monolithic weight of emotion to the scenes in which they play. Other than these, voice acting is used sparingly, with one notable exception. Rucks. The voice of Logan Cunningham, narrating your actions, is absolute sheer brilliance. If you fall off an edge, or just randomly smash objects, or kill a couple of Gasfellas, he's right there commenting on what you're doing and adding a whole new layer to the storytelling. His voice is perfect for the job, and never gets tiring even if you marathon through the game all in one go. The sound design is brilliant in this game, and well worth the price of admission all on its own.
The story tells of a Kid. He wakes up in a crumbling world and has to make his way to the Bastion, a stronghold for the survivors of humanity. And it comes in to play as the events right before the start of the game led to a Calamity that wiped out most of the human race. As the story progresses, you meet new characters and figure out exactly what happened to the world, as well as the two primary factions in the world, Caelondians and Ura. The narrative is brilliantly told both through questioning characters using items you've picked up as well as the narration. The denizens of Caelondia are well written in a minimalistic way and you end up feeling a bond with the characters in a way not many games can accomplish. One moment near the end of the game, and I dare not ruin this for people who haven't played, damn near had me moved to tears. The finale of the game involves a choice that forces you to choose between two devestating results. It's the kind of fresh take on a story you see oh-so-rarely nowadays in games, and it's one of my all-time favorite narratives in my 19 years of handling a controller.
Going on to the controls, they are simply mapped out in a way that allows you to get absorbed in the game without thinking about what you're doing on the pad. You can hold two weapons at any one time, assigned to the B and X buttons. Y provides you with a chance to heal, and R trigger allows you to use your special attack. And that is pretty much it on the fighting side! It's an intuitive simplicity that still allows for tactics in fighting without overthinking your control scheme. You move around, you click A on menu choices, you press start when you want to pause, pretty much just the everyday controls. Minimalism at its finest.
And, whoa boy, the design. I have to get one thing out of the way first. The enjoyable weapon variety in this game, along with the fact that you can hold two at any one time, allows for countless hours of replayability as you tool with the different variations of loadouts you can prepare. From the War Machete, which adds a ranged element to a primarily melee weapon, to the Scrap Musket, which sends out a wide swath of bullets, you'll never find yourself getting bored of the offerings. As for even more customization, there's the distillery, which allows you to give your character certain spirits to provide passive bonuses, and along the way of the game you can also find buildings where you can apply upgrades to your weapons and summon gods which work like the skulls on Halo for extra experience. The level design is set up spectacularly. As you walk through the levels, the ground comes up in front of your character and unveils where you are going to. You fight your way through enemies, make it to the core of the world, and hightail it out of there. There are also training grounds where you can perfect your skill in each individual weapon.
All in all, Bastion is one of my most cherished gaming experiences in my life, one that wrung emotion out of me even as I was having an amazing amount of fun. Going on a scale of downloadable games, after playing through this twice, I would give it a 10/10. There's very little to be able to find and complain about, if you can even find anything at all. Even the length is a good amount, clocking in at six to eight hours even without the replay value or working on all the different training grounds. And on the scale of regular games, I'd honestly still go for a ten out of ten. It provides an unforgettable experience for a very reasonable price. And, at the end of the day, Bastion has become one of those independent games that has ended up being able to go up against the big dogs and surpass them in many ways. If you want a game with great art, a soundtrack that's unreasonably awesome, a story that will leave a lasting impression, and gameplay that offers deep customization and replayability, set up Bastion on your Steam or XBLA queues and get ready for the ride of your life. You won't regret it.
I love this game to death. I agree with what you say about it being a 10/10. Its fantastic
This is one of my favorite downloadable titles of all time. I'm glad you enjoyed it Stranger. Also, great review!
I got it during the Steam summer sale, and I'm kicking myself for not getting the soundtrack. Nice review. I actually was not moved at the end (I was being stone hearted and angry) but I agree with almost everything here.
I've wanted to play this game; now I really want to play this game. Great review.