The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Supergiant Games’ debut effort isn’t just good – it’s a must-play.
Bastion’s surface concept is familiar – explore a fantastical world,
kill monsters, level up, and collect rewards. Those elements are
implemented extremely well, but they aren’t the main draw. Instead, it’s
the realization and implementation of the world and its characters that
entrances players. By wrapping every gameplay element around story
conceits, Bastion becomes something new and exciting. As the
well-written narration, excellent music, and bright visuals draw you in,
the game feels like a storybook in which you control the outcome.
sensation of discovery is at the heart of Bastion, so sharing story
details is prohibitive. Here are the basics: you play as the Kid, who
wakes up on an island floating in the sky to find his world destroyed
around him. A horrible calamity has befallen his people, and he must
rectify the situation. As he wakes, a distinctive voice begins to speak,
telling the Kid’s story as it unfolds. Walk one path, and the narrator
tells you why the Kid chose that way. Walk the other path, and the voice
might foreshadow what lies at its end. Choose a combination of weapons
to take out on your journey, and he comments about that particular
load-out. Retry a challenge, and he remarks about the Kid’s indomitable
resolve. The excellently written and smartly acted narration lend a new
layer to the sense of progression. You don’t just want to complete that
challenging mission or get that elusive piece of gear for its own sake;
you also want to hear what the narrator has to say about it when you do.
game is split up into discrete levels of the broken land through which
the Kid must travel. Individual stages feel different from one another
thanks to a broad selection of environmental art and clever design
twists. Where one level falls apart as you run for safety through the
city, another is a dangerous jungle where your enemies are obscured amid
the overgrowth. Many areas move the story forward, introduce new
weapons, and send the Kid deeper into the wilderness. Other short
challenge stages offer a chance to test your weapon skills to win
prizes, helping to break up the story with side events. A few
particularly intriguing optional levels put a twist on the familiar
enemy wave arena-style fights; each wave unlocks a new revelation about
one of the main characters’ backstories.
As the story continues,
several rewarding upgrade options become available. Killing monsters
earns you XP for increased health, but it also unlocks slots to apply
additional tonics that boost your fighting ability. The Kid can carry
two weapons and equip one special ability at a time, and you can find
large numbers of both along your journeys. Weapons are creative and
varied, running the gamut between explosive ranged devices and
devastating melee, and each can be upgraded along a limited branching
progression. Players can also ratchet up the overall difficulty in
exchange for increased money and XP by calling on ancient, but
capricious, gods that alter enemy capabilities.
Battles are a lot
of fun, even if they don’t always have the depth, speed, or complexity
of a true action game. Exploring the world and uncovering its secrets is
equally engaging, but like the battles, it’s limited in scope. With the
exception of a few short side routes, most levels have a relatively
linear progression. While the idea of a floating world that comes into
being as you walk toward it is cool, you’ll get frustrated more than
once as you fall off the edge. But don’t worry too much – you’ll only
take a small health hit for your misstep.
The more subtle design
elements are what make this game magical – the moments of discovery that
peel away the layers of story, the thrill of coming across an abandoned
weapon left behind by the old world, and the startling choice that
closes the game. The sounds and images stick in your mind after you
complete the game just like when you closed the final page on a favorite
childhood picture book. Bastion makes a good case for the idea that
simple gameplay, straightforward design, and a clear guiding vision for
art, music, and story can go a long way to making a good game great.
Email the author Matt Miller, or follow on Game Informer.