[dcs_small_block color="#FFFFFF" border="true" align="center" bcolor="#DDDDDD" bgcolor="#737373" fheight="14" fsize="11"]Platforms: X360, PC (reviewed)| Released: August 16, 2011 (PC)
Developer: Supergiant Games | Publisher: Warner Bros.[/dcs_small_block]
Last year Supergiant Games launched Bastion during XBLA’s Summer of Arcade promotion. A Steam port followed soon after, and now it’s available as a Google Chrome Web app. It’s kind of a big deal. As is often the case with most hyped indie releases, unrealistically high hopes for the RPG abounded. It’s ok though, because it lives up to those hopes and is an absolute must play for everyone.
The Kid is a survivor of the Calamity. As far as he knows, he’s the only one. That is until Rucks, the stranger and omniscient narrator, leads him to the Bastion, the last vestige of peace in a world overun by monsters. His request is a simple one: collect the cores that have been scattered around the world in order to restore the Bastion and set the world right. Each core you collect allows you to build one more shop in the Bastion. The Armory, Distillery, and Forge are indispensible as you continue your journey; upgrading and swapping your your gear is a basic need. What I found most curious however, was the Shrine that allows you to invoke the world’s pantheon. Each god alters the game’s difficulty in a variety of fashions. Each on their own isn’t usually too much to handle, but when you begin stacking these effects (such as faster, stronger, and more relentless foes) the challenge becomes increasingly more noticeable. It’s a small thing, but that amount of control over the game’s difficulty is admirable.
The Memorial offers a bit more in the way of challenges through Vigils, extra tasks that can be completed for experience. Here you’ll find things like “Kill X enemies with X weapon,” standard sidequest stuff. It’s interesting though, because once you’ve completed an area you can’t go back to it. If you’re a completionist, this may put a bit of a doom clock on your Vigil hunt, but hey, that’s what New Game Plus is for.
The Lost and Found fills the role of your basic shop, though the way it’s tied into the world is pretty neat. You’re not just buying new skills and items, but rather, you’re restoring things that have been lost in the calamity. You get the impression that everything you buy brings your world that much closer to restoration. Again, it’s a small thing to notice, but I loved it. After he finally gets back with all of the cores, The Kid will be asked to go searching shards which will further repair the Bastion. Each shard you find allows you to upgrade one of your previously established shops.
Since I decided to play Bastion on a PC, I thought maybe I would play it with a keyboard. I’ll tell you right now that that’s a pretty bad idea. The world’s isometric view coupled with the way The Kid moves is a mess on WASD. That’s easliy remedied with a gamepad though, and from that point it’s beatiful. The combat feels great as you quickly jump between blocks, dodges, and your two weapons. Ideally you’re mixing melee with ranged attacks and you feel like a total badass. Your collection of weapons has a humble beginning: A bow and a hammer. You’ll eventually get your hands on various blades and firearms. The variety of weapons makes it difficult for you to not find a play style that suits you. Each gun aims and fires differently. Swords and spears have varying reach and power. Weapon-specific skills will also play a large role in your loadout as you’ll find that, while you don’t necessarily like the Carbine rifle, you love its skill Breaching Bullet, which plants an explosive round in an enemy that detonates, damaging all surrounding foes. You’ll find your balance after some experimentation. For me it was the Cael Hammer and the aforementioned Army Carbine. Good stuff.
No on can really prepare you for a game and how it will hit you emotionally. I honestly didn’t expect much from Bastion other than a tight, enjoyable RPG. I’d heard about the awesome weapons, of which there plenty, and the beautiful stages. What I wasn’t prepared for however, was the powerful story that ties it all together. There’s a very clear shift in narrative where the importance of your quest will hit you square in the chest, and you won’t be ready for it. Despite being, for all intents and purposes, a post-apocalyptic world, the vast majority of the game is light hearted and hopefully. There are melancholy undertones, after all, The Kid is orphaned after a world-destroying Calamity. Hope and beauty take precedence over that sadness though. At this aforementioned shift, I became fully aware of the condition of this world. All of a sudden, there was a real, tangible enemy. Everything becomes more… real.
Much like many indie games of late, the music is extraordinary, just go here and give it a listen. Each piece is perfectly timed and plays its role. Quite often you’ll hardly notice the music over the sound of your fighting and the narrator’s constant description. There are moments though, when the music leaps to the fore and in these moments I was blown away. Knowing when music needs to take a backseat and when it should take center stage is half the battle in scoring anything, and they nailed it with Bastion. By the finale, I was as close to tears as a game has gotten me in quite some time. The choices placed in front of you, amplified by the superb soundtrack, ensure that everything you’ve done prior sinks in nice and deep.
Not only does Bastion deliver on the promises of a fun action RPG that I’d expected, but it also injects a good deal of heart and soul into the genre. They deliver a simple, yet perfectly crafted narrative in a short, 5 hour package on top of a set of mechanics that honestly couldn’t feel better if they tried. (Also, that music!) Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be starting another new game now.