Bastion: ex post facto (well, after fixing it, at least)

Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

When people keep talking about having to see something for yourself, having to play a game/see a movie/hear a performance, when people don't try too hard to explain what they saw but just tell you to see it for yourself, you know there's a good chance there's something special beyond that curtain.

I don't know what it is exactly, but I think it's the subtlety of Bastion, its generosity, AND its confident willingness to hold back, that hits me. I think I see what people are talking about, although I'm not really done with the game just yet. All the way through, though, I've enjoyed both its mystery and its charming use of the narrator.

The gameplay is clean enough, and the options fun and versatile, that it never feels monotonous, like many games that use a similar gameplay style. I feel like this game won't go as long as other games in this genre, but the fact that it still feels generous in spite of that means they're blending things correctly. I've seen games with much more "content", a word I'm not too fond of for reasons I'll go into some other day, that felt stretched out, pre-programmed, and half-hearted. Bastion has just the right amount of spice for me.

This game is damned beautiful, in many, many ways, and I think the strongest impression it made on me was its pacing. Even though I controlled the pacing, as we do in most games, it still set it up so well that arriving in a new place still struck a beat. That's so rare in games.

I'm going to savor this one, I think.

#1 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

When people keep talking about having to see something for yourself, having to play a game/see a movie/hear a performance, when people don't try too hard to explain what they saw but just tell you to see it for yourself, you know there's a good chance there's something special beyond that curtain.

I don't know what it is exactly, but I think it's the subtlety of Bastion, its generosity, AND its confident willingness to hold back, that hits me. I think I see what people are talking about, although I'm not really done with the game just yet. All the way through, though, I've enjoyed both its mystery and its charming use of the narrator.

The gameplay is clean enough, and the options fun and versatile, that it never feels monotonous, like many games that use a similar gameplay style. I feel like this game won't go as long as other games in this genre, but the fact that it still feels generous in spite of that means they're blending things correctly. I've seen games with much more "content", a word I'm not too fond of for reasons I'll go into some other day, that felt stretched out, pre-programmed, and half-hearted. Bastion has just the right amount of spice for me.

This game is damned beautiful, in many, many ways, and I think the strongest impression it made on me was its pacing. Even though I controlled the pacing, as we do in most games, it still set it up so well that arriving in a new place still struck a beat. That's so rare in games.

I'm going to savor this one, I think.

#2 Posted by theManUnknown (171 posts) -

The thing that really impresses me about Bastion is how much it accomplishes with so little. With little more than a narrator—comprising the game's only voice actor—and a handful of characters its able to give an impression of a immense, rich, and detailed world. The scope of the game's plot & story is astronomical when you consider the actual size of Supergiant games and the amount of resources they had to throw at it and, indeed, the number of elements they actually utilized.

I feel like you could have easily taken the same basic premise for the narrative and made a AAA action RPG on the scale of Mass Effect and The Elder Scrolls. The fact that they were able to execute that selfsame concept as an independent title is nothing short of amazing.

#3 Edited by Mento (2540 posts) -

I kind of shot myself in the foot with a blunderbuss trying to play this game with a keyboard, but there's definitely a lot to be said about its novel presentation and its application of the unreliable narrator construct.

I tend to assume Indie games have limited options when it comes to their actual gameplay (Bastion sort of reminded me of a more attractive, more linear and more action-based Equinox) because it's hard to program something entirely new without a lot of money going into various physics engines and what have you, which is why so many go out of their way to make the elements around it (story, graphical style, etc.) so innovative to make up for it. It's why I feel there's a lot of Indie studios, Supergiant Games included, that deserve a bigger budget with which to come up with something really special.

Moderator
#4 Posted by wordfalling (193 posts) -

Glad you're enjoying it. When I saw your thread this morning I was hoping there was an easy solution. Nothing should keep someone from playing that great game.

#5 Posted by MajorMitch (518 posts) -

I like your points about pacing. Bastion never feels like it's shoving anything in your face (holding back), yet always feels like it's offering something new to see (generosity). That's a very difficult balance, and one I think a lot of games overlook for flashier, but perhaps less substantial designs. There's something to be said for nailing the basics.

#6 Posted by RagingLion (1365 posts) -

Interested to hear your final thoughts on the game now that it appears you have finished it. I had many thoughts about the game myself upon finishing it and very almost wrote a long blog post about but then never got around to it and many of those thoughts have slipped into the ether now I suspect (as normally happens when I don't write them down). It's a game worth reflecting on I feel since it tries at least a few interesting things.

#7 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@theManUnknown: There are a few other voice actors but he's the big one, yeah. And the way they crafted their world with the narrator and leaving things unsaid is really a feat. It deserves the praise it's getting, and probably deserves more. I'd say that big companies should learn from them, but I don't think bigger companies would necessarily be capable of something like this. Small and big companies are two different animals.

I get the feeling that a company with more money to throw at it would have gone overboard. As a fan of the original Star Wars, I wonder if part of that desperation and small amount of wiggle room was what made the original shine so brightly. I strongly suspect some of the same is at work here.

@Mento: I used the gamepad all the way through, and I think that was probably the right choice since it seems optimized for that style of play. Glad I had one on hand.

I'm not sure if a bigger budget would have made it better... I think the more money that goes into something, the more people often want to play it safe, and if budget translates into more people being on board, it makes the risk bigger if more time is taken. If that money would have meant maybe extra time spent on perfecting things, though, it's possible even more could have been squeezed out of it (or into it). It's hard to say, though. The game's already so very generous, especially with the playfulness of the semi-dynamic narration, and the writing, music and visuals, but I guess only Supergiant knows for sure what a larger budget could have meant.

@wordfalling: Thanks again.

@MajorMitch: Exactly. And the game seems to have had about the right length, too, which feeds back into my initial impressions.

@RagingLion: Wrote a blog post above that goes into my impressions. Wouldn't mind hearing yours at some point. Thanks for encouraging me to try out the other ending permutation(s), by the way.

#8 Posted by Brodehouse (9949 posts) -

I've said in the past that Bastion is the best paced game ever made.

#9 Edited by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@Brodehouse: I'm having trouble remembering one that did it better. Which is weird when you think that the player is pretty much the pace-setter. There were times that you could tell they were hanging the narrator's words to tease you, but most of the time it just worked so well I barely noticed the seams.

#10 Posted by dulmonkey (78 posts) -

Its a package that's woven together so well. I love how the arena/challenge stuff (Who Knows Where) and the difficulty mechanics (Invoking angry gods) is all crafted into the story, It deepens the world while offering new gameplay.

#11 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@dulmonkey: It wasn't a huge amount of lore that did that, either. I think that's what a lot of writers and designers don't pick up on. You don't need a ream of text and full explanations to make features like that fit. Just a little hint at what the gods were like, making them unique, and making those penalties make sense was enough.

#12 Posted by CosmicBatman (317 posts) -

I think the best part of the game, for me anyway, is how it looks. I remember watching the trailer for the first time and seeing the world being created as the character moves through it and thought that it definitely looked too good for an indie game.

#13 Posted by SolidSnake13 (2 posts) -

I got a question which game is do u think will be better resident evil: operation racoon city or resident evil 6?

#14 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4240 posts) -

@CosmicBatman: The visuals are great. I guess I'm one of those people who, despite loving pixel styles, also think the hand-painted look is very welcome in games. There's so much of a focus now on 3D models getting the proper textures that people lose sight of the other visual possibilities. Not everything needs to be the same, and I think Bastion shows what you can accomplish if you go in a different direction. I liked the expressive characters, I think. They had a bit of that cartoon look but I don't think it diminished the pathos at all... hell, it might have made it more easily accessible.

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