Hands-On With Bastion

by Matt Miller on Sep 22, 2010 at 11:15 AM

Few games have caught our attention in recent months like Bastion, the incredible new DLG from fledgling developer SuperGiantGames. We got a chance to sit down and play a big chunk of the new action/RPG, and were instantly charmed by its tight controls, intriguing story concept, arresting visuals, and completely original approach to audio.

Players would be forgiven if they spent several minutes hanging out on the title screen of Bastion, which includes an awesome musical theme that melds acoustic guitar with electronic beats – a preview of the aural experience that lies ahead.

Start the game, and you'll immediately hear a narrator kick in to describe the beginning of the story with a gravelly, tired voice. As the screen fades up from black, players find a young man, called simply "The Kid," as he wakes up on a strange island floating in the sky. As you press the analog stick to have him stand up, the narrator continues his description, revealing one of the standout features of the entire game. The narrator will follow you through the experience, describing the setting, the Kid's memories of a place, and even the excitement of battle. The grumbling baritone becomes a character in its own right before you ever meet him in person. More on that later.

As you move the Kid to the edge of the island on which he awoke, the world begins to form up around him; tiny plots of land fling themselves into place in front of him as he runs forward to uncover what has happened to his home after a tremendous Calamity tore the world to shreds.

The Kid starts to run into item pick-ups pretty quickly, revealing the first elements of role-playing conventions that lie ahead. Players can equip different weapons and skills to the face and shoulder buttons, and these abilities can be upgraded over time at special shops found throughout the world. These upgrades fit into a number of categories. Drinkable items set particular ability bonuses and penalties to fit your playstyle. Individual weapons can be upgraded with forgeable items found in the world. Special attacks can be swapped in to face particular challenges.

The first weapon players uncover is the Kid's hammer, lying unused in the road ahead. The narrator makes clear that the massive implement is an old friend to the Kid. He promptly uses the heavy weapon on the strange spectral-like gas creatures that float in to assault him, even as the old narrator describes the fight. Soon after, players will encounter the repeater rifle that fires rapid shots to take down enemies at a distance.

Moving through the world, it becomes clear that the Kid has a great affection for this vanished world. He finds trinkets from people he once knew, and encounters the remnants of the life he once had. At one point he picks up a memento from a girl he once fancied. Later, he sees the ash silhouette of an old tavern keeper who died in the Calamity.

As players continue to explore, the art of the game reveals itself as bright and inviting, but with a strange ramshackle quality that communicates its nature as misplaced and disorganized. Grand backdrops below the floating islands communicate a sense of scale and place, and the slowly forming world around you is fascinating to reveal as you move. 

After some more exploration, players will find the Breaker's Bow, an awesome ranged weapon that must be drawn back for a long moment before firing a devastating shot. You can use this weapon against the increasing number of enemies that begin to swarm the screen as the game continues. Oftentimes, managing the crowds of bad guys becomes a major component of gameplay.

Eventually, the Kid reaches his destination, a place called the Bastion, a mysterious locale with special powers of its own. Expecting to find all of the survivors of the Calamity, there is instead only one man waiting there – the old stranger that's been narrating his journey. It becomes clear that the Bastion will allow the Kid to begin rebuilding his world. As our demo ends, the rest of the shattered world beckons to be explored.

Make sure and check out the trailer for the game from our original post about the game's announcement. A representative from SuperGiantGames told Game Informer that the company is planning on a release for PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade for the game, but they've yet to nail down a publisher. The dev team hopes to have Bastion complete by summer of next year.

Too long a wait, if you ask us. This is one to keep an eye on.