This week I got some hands-on time with Super Giant Games’ debut downloadable title Bastion, an action RPG that charms players with its vibrant art style and quirky narrative. My only complaint? I couldn’t play more of it.
When I first saw Bastion on the E3 show floor, I didn’t know what to think. The water color-esque visuals reminded me of an isometric Muramasa: The Demon Blade, which had instant appeal for me, but the gameplay didn’t seem like anything special. Once I picked up the controller, however, it didn’t take Bastion long to change my opinion.
Bastion tells the story of a young boy who wakes up on a strange floating rock in the sky. As the boy walks to the edge of the rock, others rise up from beneath him, exposing new areas for the player to explore.
Despite his strange predicament, the boy sets out on his tribe’s emergency plan to meet at the bastion. But when he arrives, his people are nowhere to be found. A mysterious old man tells him that re-building the bastion may provide answers, but first the boy will need to collect its broken pieces.
More interesting than the story’s premise is how it’s presented to the player. The old man narrates the entire story in real-time as you play, dynamically incorporating your actions into the narrative. He’ll describe enemies as they appear, explain items you pick up, and narrate how you die. The system works well, presenting you with a customized story without any interruptions to the gameplay. Super Giant Games says there are around 3,000 lines of dialogue in the game.
Once I picked up my first weapons, a hammer and crossbow, I was also impressed by how smooth the controls are. Your melee weapons pack a satisfying punch, while your projectile weapons and dodge ability keep things moving at a fast pace. Much of the environmental objects can be destroyed, adding a bit of strategy into the mix. The developer says it wants Bastion’s action to be based on player skill rather than stats, and as such leveling up doesn’t just make you more powerful, but gives you more gameplay options, including upgrading and pairing weapons. You’ll also have access to potions that will provide you with passive bonuses, and Secret Skills, which I’m guessing act like magic.
The animation is also remarkably smooth, exhibiting the same level of detail as the lush environments. Super Giant Games says that almost all of the assets in the game were hand painted by their art director, Jen Zee. As great as these screens look, game is even prettier in action (not to mention in HD).
My time with Bastion proved that the buzz it received at E3 was well deserved, and luckily we won’t have to wait long to play more of it. The game will be available in late July/early August on XBLA as part of Microsoft’s Summer of Arcade promotion.