Bastion is an action-adventure RPG available for the Xbox 360 and PC. The game was developed by Super Giant Games and released on July 20th, 2011. I finally found free time and picked this game up for 1200 Microsoft Points on XBLA and it was the best purchase I’ve made in quite some time.
Bastion’s story takes place after the Calamity, a mysterious event that has destroyed the world. You awake in a bed after the Calamity and make your way to the Bastion, the safe point where people return to in event of a crisis (think a safety shelter after a disaster). Unfortunately, you find no other survivors except Ruck, an old man who strangely knows too much about the Calamity and the Bastion. Ruck explains that the Bastion has the ability to reverse the effects of the Calamity, however it was damaged during the crisis and it broke apart. You then learn its power can be restored by collecting “cores” scattered across the world. Not the most original story, but definitely crafted in a way that makes it enjoyable and fun to listen to. The story then unfolds as you are tasked with seeking out “cores” that will restore the Bastion and reverse the apocalypse of the Calamity.
Bastion plays similarly to the older days of birds-eye view Legend of Zelda for the NES with slight graphic alternations and an isometric view. The game is narrated based on actions you do in the game. The best way I would describe this game is “unfolding”. As you progress around the world, your map is created around you. It’s a bit of a difficult concept to explain but it’s definitely very interesting to watch:
It’s almost as if you’re restoring the earth itself. At major plot points throughout the story, the screen will turn to beautiful artwork displays as the narrator explains the situation. The biggest impact this game has with art is in it’s writing. This game slowly seeds the world and the story to you, piece by piece. It makes for a memorable and quite enjoyable 8-hour long experience. (Don’t get me started on how awesome the music is!)
Bastion has 3 action buttons: 2 weapons and 1 super attack. The game is about collecting new weapons up until the very end and upgrading them to enhance their speed, power or add bonuses. You will learn to wield a hammer and bow at the beginning of the game and acquire more powerful weapons up until the very end. Each weapon is associated with a special skill that acts as a super attack, damaging a large amount of foes quickly. However, you are limited in the number of times you can perform a super attack.
Another gameplay element, spirits, adds to boosting your player himself. Certain spirits can add damage when at full health while others give you an extra life upon death. You are limited to how many spirits you can hold based on level but are able to fully customize and pick any spirit in any order. Temples provide a unique approach to creating a difficulty system in the game. Adding prayers to the gods in Bastion allows monsters to give more experience and higher money reward at the cost of having them also become strong, faster and more dangerous. It’s a well-thought way to implement a “hard-mode” without outright saying it. All of these gameplay elements make for a unique experience.
Although Bastion is a unique and very captivating game, there are a few shortcomings worth mentioning. The use of an isometric camera angle can leave players confused if there is too much on the screen at once. Because the world builds up around you, expect to accidentally fall into random holes or fall off random edges you did not notice were there. Some of the character sprites look nothing like their artwork counterpart. Though not detracting from the game, it would have been nice if characters other than the protagonist were more recognizable.
Bastion is definitely among my Top 10 lists of XBLA games and is definitely worth a purchase. The story will interest you until the very end. Super Giant Games really made something special. The art direction and the narration speak for themselves. Get this game.