backlog review bastion

Backlog Review: Bastion

A game that succeeds on every front. Writer’s Note: It’s a bit intimidating writing a review of a game made by one of the big reviewers of back in the day. I have always respected Gregg Kasavin and other former Gamespot reviewers as some of the best in what they do, so there is a bit of pressure to try and do my best. So with that said let’s go:

Bastion is one of those Xbox Live Arcade games everyone knows or has seen. It stands as an often used example with other games such as Limbo, Super Meat Boy or Braid as what the independent industry can bring to the table and what this medium is capable of. And considering Developer SuperGiant Games already went on to make Transistor, it’s pretty clear Bastion was a success. But is Bastion what it’s all cracked up to be? It’s time to find out.

 

They’ll be here… before to long.

In Bastion the player will assume the role of an unnamed silent protagonist referred to as “The Kid”. The Kid wakes up one day to notice the world in pieces and the town deserted of people. He decides to go to the Bastion where everyone agreed to meet up in case of an extreme emergency, only to find no one showed up. He does find one stranger at the Bastion that tells him that an apocalyptic event named the Calamity occurred and apparently killed most of the people they knew. The mysterious man explains that the Bastion might be able to “fix” the Calamity with the help of powerful elements called cores; even if he doesn’t exactly explain how. The entire game is told as a story with the stranger narrating it. The narrator’s voice is one of the most recognizable things in Bastion as it’s an amazing voice. It’s deep and soothing and manages to draw the player into every word he says. It also helps a lot that every line of monologue written is nothing short of amazing. Everything the narrator says is either profound and poetic or witty and charming. What’s even more interesting is that throughout the entire journey the stranger’s voice is the only voice players will hear. He explains the world, monsters, events and even covers all of the dialogue spoken by other characters. It does an amazing job of making you feel like you’re truly listening to a story narrated by an old sage.

Bastion has a lot of lore and history that is told throughout the story. What makes the world of Bastion feels so real is the stranger’s explanation for everything in detail. He explains where weapons come from, who used it and what kind of people they were. Or when drinking a spirit; the narrator explains how it was made and even goes into the details of the taste. Additionally, for every weapon set-up, the man has something to say and even goofing around in levels like falling off or breaking stuff will warrant the narrator’s input on the situation. It’s pretty impressive what the narrator will say about everything and it never get’s old or will overstay its welcome.

The story begins with a good mystery and lighthearted adventure feeling, considering the events but it doesn’t take too long for the game to take a pretty depressing turn sometimes with racial conflict undertones being one of the more explored themes. In order to flesh out the few characters you meet on your journey; there are the Who-Knows-Where sections that task you with fighting waves of monsters. After every wave, the player is rewarded with this games currency and the narrator explaining a piece of  history of a certain character leading up to the events where the game begins. Bastion has a great story and even greater way of telling it. Everything is explained and fleshed out by the narrator’s look on things and it makes a world where most have passed feel alive. Even if the world comes over as colorful and relatively cheerfully considering the circumstances, the narrative reminds the players of its relatively depressing plotlines that hide under its nice visuals.

bastion Screenshot 2015-09-19 19-29-09Other than the great narration, story sometimes gets represented by wonderful artwork.

 

We become fast friends. Calamity has that effect on people.

Bastion is an isometric action RPG that at first glance it might look something like Diablo or Torchlight however the game takes the action aspect to a more extreme level. While you have two buttons designated to two weapons of choice there is also a block and roll button. Blocking at the right moment will act as a parry and will not only heavily damage but also stun enemies. The roll button is one that will be used a lot of times since enemies come in from many different angles and in huge numbers requiring you to dodge a lot. The player can pick up blue and black potions to either restore life or execute a secret skill which either does a lot of damage to an enemy or damages every enemy on the screen. The combat feels fast almost to the point that it feels like the perfect blend of an action RPG and a character action game. It can be pretty hectic trying to keep the hordes of enemies off you but it never feels like it’s too much to handle.

While most RPG’s usually offer a lot of gear, rings, items or weapons with different stats Bastion doesn’t offer that specific kind of customizability. Players can choose two weapons which can be all ranged, all melee or a mix of both. The choice is yours. You can upgrade your weapons by collecting materials scattered throughout levels or buying them from the Lost-And-Found, and paying a certain amount of fragments which act as this game’s currency. On top of that, you can also give the Kid buffs trough Spirits. Spirits are drinks with attributes like drawing in shards and other items like a magnet or reduced falling damage. You can only select the amount of spirits depending on your level and each time you level up you unlock an extra slot. Bastion allows for the player to experiment with weapons and spirits throughout the whole game or players will stick with what they like as soon as they unlocked it. Every weapon feels very different allowing for a very personalized player experience. In order for players to customize their “Kid” they need to go to the appropriate buildings, which appear in levels very rarely and since you can’t return to previous levels it could be considered hard to do any of these things. This is where the Bastion comes in. As you continue trough the game and collect more cores the bastion will be filled with any building of your choosing. At first it limits the player a bit but soon enough you will have every building to upgrade weapons and select your equipment. On top of all the previously mentioned buildings, there is also a Memorial which acts as challenge wall which asks the player to do certain things in exchange for rewards but the most interesting thing is the Pantheon. In the Kid’s travels, he will find Idols that can be used to invoke gods associated with the Idol.

These Idols basically act as mutators similar to something like Halo’s skulls. They make the game harder, like giving enemies regenerating health or extra armor in exchange for more Shards or experience. While the rewards are absolutely not worth it the Idols are mostly there for players who want to make the game harder and soon it becomes a challenge to beat the Who-Knows-Where levels with all mutators on. The Pantheon is a great feature which more games should have. There is also a new game+ mode for players who wants to max out Kid or players can choose the Score Attack mode which opens up more stuff from the start and you can replay levels with a score meter. Score Attack mode allows players to return and try to beat their or their friends’ scores trough an online Leaderboard mode and in turn gives for a nice amount of replayability. Bastion plays great as an Action-heavy RPG. ARPG players will certainly enjoy the game and character action fans will find enjoyment with the roll and attack style of play.

bastion Screenshot 2015-09-20 20-10-05Combat is fun and fast-paced with enough weapons to suit your playstyle.

 

This… is for you, says the man.

Bastion is primarily done in a hand-painted art style with characters and enemy models being three-dimensional with heavy shading filters applied to make it fit with the aesthetics visuals of the world. What makes Bastion pop out is that every step the Kid sets the world before him gets build. Every time Kid advances, tiles and start shifting in place and object start landing on them. the world is literally made as you play it and it looks nice seeing all pieces come together. It’s also a good way to guide the players since the construction of the road shows them where to go. And while the art is beautiful it does come with some slight hitches. Some paths will have holes that the player can walk over while relatively the same size of hole lead to Kid falling or an object will obstruct the player’s view sometimes. Depth perception is also a small hiccup leading to a few stumbles into the abyss. But these don’t occur that much and on top of it, you don’t take a lot of fall damage so these problems are minimal. The bright colors and sharp visuals do a good job of simultaneously capturing a beautiful world with a dark history and plot. Enemies have lot’s of colors but still look dangerous. The main artistic theme of the game is western inspired. This goes for the weapons and gear the Kid has to the Narrator and specifically the music. The music is amazing and deserves the praise it get’s. It uses a mainly Country or western inspired theme with a lot of acoustic guitar’s, Brusher Patrol is one of the few times that makes the banjo work so well with a more aggressive electric song. But by far the most important part of the soundtrack certainly are the vocal ones: Build That Wall, Mother, I’m Here and Setting sail, Coming Home. Specifically, Build that Wall stands out as it nails a soft folk song with incredibly threatening lyrics. There have been quite a few articles written about the song and it has earned several awards all of them deservedly so. Bastion nails not only its stunning visuals but also it’s amazing soundtrack as one of the best ones out there.

bastion Screenshot 2015-09-19 21-07-07Bastion’s use of colors makes the game look absolutely gorgeous.

beautiful, fun, amazing.

 

Closing note:

Bastion is an amazing game. It pretty much nails everything it set out to do. The art is gorgeous and the music deserving of its praise. The plot while starts of relatively simple however later on, some interesting themes of race and religion start to show and make this otherwise beautiful world a dark place. The stranger’s narration is great and the monologue is extremely well written. The gameplay is still RPG oriented but it’s focus certainly lies with the Action part and is a lot of fun. Bastion is as close to a complete package as it can get and Supergiant Games made sure every aspect of the game is nothing short of amazing.

 

 

9.5/10

This game was reviewed on Xbox 360. If you are interested in this game you can get it from the following places:

Xbox 360:

http://marketplace.xbox.com/en-GB/Product/Bastion/66acd000-77fe-1000-9115-d80258410b66

Steam:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/107100/

GOG:

http://www.gog.com/game/bastion

IOS:

https://itunes.apple.com/be/app/bastion/id537773100?mt=8

Playstation 4:

https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/games/bastion/cid=UP2125-CUSA02052_00-BASTIONGAME00000

Playstation Vita:

https://store.playstation.com/#!/en-us/games/bastion/cid=UP2125-PCSE00790_00-BASTIONGAME00000

 

 

I'm a fun loving guy who like piña coladas, getting caught in the rain and long walks on the beach. I work hard, I play hard. Must like cats. Ugos need not apply. If you want to ask me anything you can contact me at yordi.verhoene@gmail.com