Bastion Review
9.4our score
Often a game will excel in one particular aspect. Perhaps it has superb music, but nothing memorable to tie it back to. Or maybe its core gameplay is solid, but the bug list renders it meaningless. Conversely it is rare for a game to have everything working together in harmony. Bastion is just such a rarity, and is definitely the sleeper hit of the year. Blending the aesthetics of Braid with the gameplay of Diablo has produced an absolutely stunning game. Supergiant Games, the independent developers of Bastion, were not content to let any one aspect of the game stand out. They have put a huge amount of effort into crafting a unique experience, one with a compelling narrative and even more compelling mechanics. It constantly grabs you and challenges you, a constant series of intriguing scenarios.

Bastion Review

The hub that is the Bastion from where you choose how to take on your enemies.

A Unique Flower

You wake up on a floating patch of land as the Kid. The first thing that will catch your attention is the use of a narrator. As you play, a gruff yet soothing male voice will not only expound the story and background of your journey, but will also comment on your actions. For example, early on I received a new weapon and tested it out. Rucks, our narrator, exclaimed, “The Kid just wailed away for a bit” as I practised with the new toy. There are many of these snide, seemingly off the cuff remarks, and it adds a fantastic attachment to your actions. The quality of the writing is, without a doubt, the best I’ve seen all year, maybe in a good couple of years. “The Calamity took everything from almost everyone. It took almost everything from everyone else,” Rucks mentions melancholically at one point. Poignant, and, let’s be honest, better than anything Bioware could come up with. Bastion tells it’s narrative in a completely refreshing way, and merges interaction and exposition in a ballet of words and WASD.

The second aspect that will astound you is the quality of the art design and other auxiliary features. Bastion is a beautiful water colour painting in constant motion. The world is made up of platforms that rise or fall to meet your feet. The various levels and areas are all unique, whether it’s the fires of Cinderbrick Fort or the jungles of Ura. Textures and scenes aren’t repeated incessantly. There are only two factions and a few characters to get to know, and yet a rich world history has been built. The creature design is inspired, as are their descriptive names. This simplification means that Bastion becomes a more refined experience—sometimes more is less.

And then there is the music.

The melodies in Bastion always suit the mood, even add to the story. There are some outstanding moments where you just stop and listen. If you buy the game, you would be crazy not to also buy the soundtrack. One thing I noticed was that when you pause the game, the music becomes slightly muted. It’s these tiny, almost unnoticeable touches that makes Bastion stand out.

When you realise the sublime nature of the design it blows your mind. Remember how the world forms as you approach a new area? This is an example of the developers showing you the way, rather than telling you with a map or arrow. It feels organic. Another example is the health potions you can pick up. If you are at full health and are already carrying your full quota, the vessels give you experience instead. Finally, a game without wastage. The attention to detail should be made an example to all developers.

Bastion 8

Visual cues tell you when and how an enemy is going to attack.

But I Just Want to Wail Away!

Thankfully, the gameplay is pure class as well. You may, like me, initially think it another cute action RPG, some platformer that will take up some time. But you’re wrong. There are no stats, and you don’t loot per se, but the action here is mesmerizing. And Bastion doles it out at the perfect pace.

The Bastion of the title is the name of the hub The Kid and Rucks operate from. They’ve survived the Calamity (a catastrophic event you don’t fully understand until the gut-wrenching end) and are looking to rebuild the world. From the Bastion the player chooses how to take on the world. For example, the Shrine allows you to choose the difficulty—but this isn’t as simple as easy, medium or hard. This is deciding how much arse the bad guys are going to kick, and in what ways. Will they randomly block your attack? Maybe they’ll drop a bomb on defeat? Perhaps you’ll just check every box like a real man. And of course you’re rewarded for how hard you make it for yourself. This is just one way where the choice is in the hand of the player. The vast array of unique (and I stress that word) weapons can be upgraded how you choose. What beneficial potions are needed is completely up to you. The story may be in the hand of the developers, but how you get through it is entirely the choice of the player.

Now, there are some quibbles, such as the annoying lock-on and targeting reticule, but these are very minor. The challenge modes for the each weapon are also a little too difficult, though the rewards are worthwhile. And yes, it’s very linear with no exploration, and the ‘moral choices’ at the end are largely insignificant (as if you need such a trivial excuse as an alternative ending to play this game again). In the end Bastion hits the spot. It has leader boards if you want to show off, and a sort of wave mode that provides further exposition and a way to test yourself. The combination of an array of enemies with exclusive attacks, and weapons that can be moulded how you want means that Bastion is consistently dynamic.

It’s fresh and original, and above all it’s unpretentious and subtle. You must put down all other games and play it immediately. Did I mention this is Supergiant Games first title? Here’s to their future.

  • http://www.shadow1980.co.uk Evil Tactician

    This look like it would be worth playing – you’ve done a pretty good job in convincing me either way :)