“Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.”
These are the first words you hear when you press the new game button in the critically acclaimed indie title Bastion, and this month I’ll be bringing you my opinion on this game.
In Bastion you play as “the Kid,” a man who wakes up only to find himself floating on a small bit of land barely large enough for the bed he was sleeping on. As the kid wakes up and walks around, he starts to notice that the world is forming as he moves, pieces of it rising up in front of him so that he can continue walking as he goes.
The reason for the world being like this is “The Calamity,” an event that caused the world to fall apart. The goal of the Kid is to restore The Bastion, the only thing with the ability to combat the effects of The Calamity. To restore The Bastion, the Kid needs to recover the lost cores that power it. These are hidden all over the destroyed world, each core holding together its own part of the world, which slowly crumbles away once the core is taken away.
Now as far as plots go this one seems relatively generic – a post-apocalyptic world where the protagonist is the only hope for the world; however, this game stands out in story far above most games despite that fact. Bastion has constant narration from Logan Cunningham, who narrates the whole story eliminating the need for any reading throughout the game aside from menus and the like. Logan does a magnificent job filling you in on the story giving you small pieces of it at a time, which fills you in on the story of the world yet leaves you wanting more of it. However, his narration doesn’t stop there; he will also comment on how you’re playing at times, like in the first fight of the game against a Scumbag he’ll comment on if you took damage or not. Small things like this are all over the game in places and break up the story, allowing you to have a break from it yet still feel like the story is being told to you.
Controls – 8/10: The game is a simple twin-stick shooter, the controls work fine on a keyboard and mouse as well using WASD for movement, space to dodge as well as your mouse to aim and shoot, however this isn’t the only control scheme, the game also contains a Diablo-esque control scheme if that suits your preferences more. However if you prefer a more traditional twin-stick setup you can hook up a controller and play the game like you’re playing on a console.
Difficulty – 9/10: Bastion has a dynamic difficulty level that starts out relatively easily however you can alter that at any time in The Bastion once you restore the shrine. The shrine is used to worship the idols of gods, now you’re probably thinking something along the lines of, “But wouldn’t worshipping the idol of a god make a game easier?” Now in a normal case you’d be completely correct, however in Bastion the gods are a bunch of pricks, in fact there’s a quote from the Bonus Song that comes with the Official Soundtrack that relates to this perfectly. “Gods ain’t gonna help you son, you’ll be sorry for what you done, them gods gonna hurt you son…” Praying to the gods makes the game harder yet reward you for it with increased EXP and Money.
Length – 9/10: I’m really not sure where to put this rating, if you’re expecting a game with a massive story lasting a massive amount of hours then you’re going to be let down, the game only lasts about 5-6 hours in your first playthrough, I personally thought this felt short at first but then when I sat back and thought on it a bit I realized that it was a perfect length, any longer and the player may lose their attachment to the story yet any shorter and it would have left you unsatisfied.
Replay Value – 7/10: This title’s replay value comes from its two separate endings as well as the fact that it is impossible to max out everything in one run of the game, of course this isn’t the best way to go about replay value but the fact that right from the start you can choose to restore the Shrine in the bastion makes it so that if you wanted your second playthrough could be as hard as possible right from the start, this combined with the fact that you carry over weapons and upgrades from your previous playthrough allows you to play it how you want right from the start and works quite well for the title.
However, this does come with its own issue, the game feels complete without a second playthrough, it told its story, it told it well; however it may have told it too well, the urge to replay it just isn’t something you may see, I’m a completionist a lot of the time in games, my second playthrough isn’t something I went through though. I stopped part way because the feeling just wasn’t the same, I’d been told my story and no other one would be the same, it just isn’t right to me.
Combat – 10/10: The combat in Bastion is a very enjoyable thing indeed, the controls are very tight which makes it quite a nice experience. For the combat in Bastion you can have two weapons equip at any given time and with how they’re balanced there’s no real best set, it all depends on your playstyle. Feel like not using any ranged weapons? Go ahead and grab yourself Cael’s Hammer and the Brusher’s Pike. Or maybe you’d prefer not having to deal with melee, in that case you can grab yourself the Breaker’s Bow and Fang Repeater.
The really nice thing with how they did the weapons is that there’s no loot or anything of the sort, you get weapons when you get them and are in no way limited to how you use them aside from what fits your playstyle. I personally preferred a mix of the War Machete and the Scrap Musket, it gave a nice tight melee play with the speed of the machete and the close range burst of the musket but still gave me ranged options with either throwing the machete only to have it somehow return back to my hand or using the musket’s spread to hit multiple things at a range. It worked well yet due to the balance of weapons there’s times when I would switch to random other setups just to play around, every weapon combination gives a fun experience even if it’s something you wouldn’t think would work out. You can definitely tell that SuperGiantGames put quite a bit of time into making the combat system fun while also working on keeping it balanced, and the end result is really marvellous.
Art – 9/10: The artwork in Bastion is a refreshing hand-painted style that really draws you into the world, it’s a simple look yet due to the nature of the hand-painted style it feels quite detailed, bringing even the most insignificant Squirt to life in a way that you rarely see anywhere. There’s no wasted detail when it comes to this title’s art, everything you see has its own little difference leading to the game never giving the feeling of deja-vu when it comes to the level design. The levels all feel distinct especially into mid-game; Once you hit mid-game the places you visit change from things near what was once part of the City of Caelondia to things in the Wild Unknown. The Wild Unknown is practically devoid of any traces of civilization, the shift is a major difference in how the areas you visit look yet it doesn’t compromise the overall feel of the game in any way unlike how in a lot of games a sudden shift like this would at least somewhat take you out of the feel of things unless the progression was slowly shown.
Of course this art style has its downside, the Kid, the survivors, the people you see all feel a bit out of place, it’s not a major issue yet it’s there, it could put some people off the game just because of the look, this is the only part of the game that really stands out though aside from the few “cutscenes” which are little more than a static image and the narration.
Music – 10/10: Dear god, the music. The soundtrack for Bastion is amazing, most of it is instrumental however there are a few tracks with vocals in them, the tracks with vocals play at very crucial points in the story and the emotion in the voices send shivers down your spine when you hear them, they are magnificent and convey the feeling of their specific scenes perfectly drawing you even more into the world of Bastion. If you would like to hear the music you can find the whole soundtrack online on their bandcamp page, you can find it at: http://supergiantgames.bandcamp.com/
Story – 10/10: The story isn’t something that can be critiqued properly, the only way I can think of describing it while doing it justice is simply calling it an experience and leaving it at that. There is simply no way that written words could describe it.
Narration – 10/10: The narration in Bastion makes the game what it is, without it Bastion would be a simple above average game, however the narration breathes an unprecedented amount of life into the game, one comparison that I’ve seen made when it comes to this that I find hard to disagree with would be to Portal, you’re constantly being talked to by someone no matter what you do, someone who knows more about the things going on than you. I’d say this is around where the comparison ends though since where you can tell from the start that GlaDOS isn’t someone to be trusted; Rucks on the other hand, he’s different. He knows more than he should, you can tell he’s not telling you the full story but still, you feel like you should listen to him, and even if you don’t you have no choice. After all, Kid’s got nothing else to do and Rucks is his best bet at fixing what’s happened. Rucks rarely ever says more than what’s needed, it’s enough to tell you what’s going on but never enough to reveal a whole truth, the only time you find out what’s really going on is when you get to end game, and even then Rucks is still keeping secrets from the Kid, you can tell but even if you could know more, you can tell by how he speaks that he’s keeping secrets for a good reason.
Overall – 10/10: This game is probably the only game you will see me rate a 10/10, the game is a work of art and an incredibly good start for the indie developers SuperGiantGames and this writer is looking forward to whatever they might cook up next. I highly suggest that you go and buy the game, it is on steam for 15USD as well as on the Xbox Live Marketplace for 1200 Microsoft points for those of you that prefer console gaming.