We explore the detailed leveling and upgrade system of Supergiant Games' upcoming Summer of Arcade release.
In case our early previews here and here haven't made it abundantly clear, we're more than a little excited for Supergiant Games' upcoming debut. Bastion has a remarkable visual style, fun action/RPG gameplay, mesmerizing music, and an intriguing continuous in-game narration system that is incredibly engaging.
As we zero in on the game's final release as part of this year's Summer of Arcade, we thought it might be a good time to highlight some of the lesser known role-playing elements of the game. Specifically, how will players level up and upgrade their character and equipment as they play through the story?
Bastion has a number of concepts that support a sense of progression and growth as you play. Each of these different components affects the play experience and interact with one another, and you've got complete control over where you prioritize your capabilities.
Bastion's upgrade system is mostly governed from the hub location of the Bastion itself, a floating island that grows and changes throughout the game in response to your explorations beyond its borders. After most levels, players are able to upgrade some aspect of the Bastion, initially by adding new buildings. Each building has its own role, and you can choose which ones you build first.
One of the most important of these structures is the Distillery. Here, you'll build up a collection of tonics and drinks that are continually active on your character. However, you can only have a number of these potions active at one time equal to your experience level. Like most role-playing games, experience is primarily acquired through the killing of monsters out in the field. As each level passes, you'll have more slots to fill, and you'll get the expected bonus in maximum health. The drinks themselves vary widely in their application. Some offer additional maximum health, others reduce damage from falling, and others still might increase your critical strike chance.
Next up: Building a better weapon
Where the Distillery offers static upgrades that stay in place until you change them, the Arsenal lets you select two of an ever-growing list of weapons that can be equipped and carried out on your adventures. These weapons map to the X and B button, and can be combined in any way you see fit. You could bring two ranged weapons, two melee, or most commonly a mix of the two. Additionally, the Arsenal lets you equip a single secret skill or weapon skill to the Right Trigger. These effects tend to offer discreet special attacks, powered by collectible black tonics you find in the field. As a general rule, you'll have access to three of these Black Tonics before you run out. As far as the weapons themselves, part of the joy of Bastion is uncovering what they are, so we'll hold off on ruining the surprise for now. Suffice to say, the Kid has a number of unique options available to him.
A third building can be constructed on the Bastion called the Forge. With your equipment set in place at the Arsenal, the Forge lets you upgrade individual weapons using special materials you find during your adventures. These rare materials each match to a particular weapon, and let you upgrade that weapon's capabilities. In addition to the requisite special material, you'll also need to spend a certain number of fragments (money) to get the upgrade. Upgraded weapons might hit harder, have a higher ammo capacity, reload faster, or penetrate multiple targets at once. Upgrades roll out for each weapon on a simple branching tree. At each level of upgrade, you can choose which element to improve. For instance, your starting weapon of the Cael Hammer can first be upgraded with either a +10% critical chance, or +50% damage.
Those three core buildings serve as the primary ways to improve your character as the lengthy game moves forward, but several other buildings further flesh out the experience. One of these is the Shrine. Using this unique structure, you can choose to invoke the power of the old gods of this strange world to modify the play experience. Each member of this ancient pantheon of deities will change your play experience, often making things more challenging in exchange for increased fragments (money) and XP. As an example, one of the early gods makes foes faster in exchange for an additional 10% XP and cash payout. When things get too heavy, you can head back to the Shrine and renounce any given god to make things manageable again. The system is a little bit like Halo skulls, for those familiar with the concept.
Taken together, Bastion's various upgrade opportunities inject a significant dose of RPG goodness into an otherwise action-oriented gameplay experience. Out in the field, you'll spend most of your time slashing and shooting up the various bad guys that have populated this post-Calamity world. However, as you go, there's always new ways to even the odds by kicking up your hero's power just one more notch.