With Giant Bomb not reviewing Bastion, I thought it would be useful to everyone to have a detailed thread on the forums dedicated to Bastion reviews. Here it is:
Bastion instantly endears itself to those who grew up with such titles as Secret of Mana, taking the form of a traditional action role-playing game with plenty of hack n' slash combat and cool weapons to discover.
At its heart, Bastion is a collection of wonderful ideas with heaps of promise. Sadly, it also has some glaring problems and often fails to live up to the lofty goals it has set itself. For all its style and attempts at depth, Bastion plays no better than an average browser-based free-to-play MMORPG. Even the art style, as pretty as it is, makes one think of the types of casual RPGs you see advertised on Web site banner ads, a feeling enhanced by the rudimentary animation. Close-quarter combat consists of bare-bones button mashing, and the auto-targeting system barely works. Ranged attacks are just as likely to miss as to hit, while melee is often a total crapshoot.
It's worth noting that the narrator, despite all the hype surrounding his ability to dynamically commentate your progress, is mostly a case of smoke-and-mirrors. He's not really that dynamic, only making a few token comments on fairly standard activities. Sometimes he'll say things that don't really gel with your actions (for instance, saying The Kid "doesn't stop" even if you've not moved the character) and it's made far, far too obvious just how blatantly scripted it is. I'd go as far as to say that Bastion's narrator does nothing that hasn't been seen already in inXile's A Bard's Tale, which earns more credit due to the fact that it was more entertaining.
The measures taken to preserve the quality of the art have a real benefit in combat (or perhaps it's the other way around?). The framerate is high and the top-down scrolling rate is subdued, meaning no smearing across an LCD screen and, more importantly, responsive controls. The Kid is a nimble little guy, capable of a quick roll and counter-attack against the cute fauna- and flora-turned-foes. The melee combat is simple, occasionally insipid and amicable to mashing, but it can reward you with a few on-the-spot reflex tests. Blocking at the right moment can reverse the course of incoming projectiles (or even heal you, depending on your augmentations), and releasing a drawn arrow just in time will increase its damage.
[...] the hammer, bow and shield -- the first in a steady stream of new weapons that include pistols, a spear, a shotgun, a machete and the quaintest flamethrower you've ever seen. The variety is impressive, even if it doesn't necessarily shake your tactics out of a rut. It can feel like there are too many options at times, and it's hard to prevent habits from forming when you can only change your two weapons at the bastion's armory (or one of the rare ones that appear in a level). Since you can't really improvise with weapons in the middle of a fight, there's a player-inflicted attrition in the total roster by the end of the game. Of course, all that unused weaponry makes the "New Game Plus" option much more compelling.
Bastion is the beautiful action role playing game from SuperGiant Games. Equipped with an assortment of weapon choices, a variety of upgrades, and difficult challenges, this indie game is sure to become a cult classic.
From the moment your character wakes up, the elderly Rucks narrate your every move. Rucks is so talkative that whether you go left or right, pick one weapon over another, or fall off the world, he'll have something clever to say about it. It's an interesting way to tell the story, but I found the constant narrative distracting and it was hard to concentrate on what he was saying while I was navigating through the gorgeous levels.
The levels in Bastion vary from whimsical springtime levels to dark, depressing areas with quite a variety of enemies in between. What's so neat about Bastion is that as you walk through areas, the floor and your surroundings materialize under your feet as you go. It's a very cool effect and I would have loved to been able to explore the areas even more, but as it turned out all of the levels were unfortunately very linear. As you complete one area more open up, and you can't go back to the ones you've completed.
The rest of the game is just as well-crafted. Developer Supergiant Games is a small team based out of a living room in a house in San Jose, California, and you can feel the intimacy; the entire game drips with passionate artistry from the gorgeous watercolor aesthetics to the stirring soundtrack.
Sometimes Bastion feels like a Western; other times it feels like a ghost story. Cunningham’s narrator ties the whole thing together, and you’ll want to keep playing and playing just to listen to his vivid, powerful descriptions.
Bastion’s story is an interesting one. By the end of the game you’ll understand what the Calamity is and how it happened, but you’ll still feel like there are some gaps in your knowledge of Bastion’s world. It saddened me that I had to learn things, really interesting tidbits about Caelondia’s history, from loading screens rather than through the gameplay. Still there were some surprises I didn’t see coming, and I stepped away from Bastion satisfied. It took me around eight hours to complete the story, and there is optional content and a New Game+ mode to keep you coming back for more.
While there are some missteps when it comes to pacing and how weapons are doled out, they’re minor enough to not damper the overall experience. The reactive narrator and art style really help set this game head and shoulders above its competitors.
Where Bastion lets itself down slightly, though, is in the combat that makes up so much of the game. Your arsenal is as tough, diverse and engaging as the places you visit, and the modifiers and special abilities offer a great range of strategic options. But the enemies you encounter don't rise to the challenge, frequently just spamming you with increasing numbers, extra spawn points, area-of-effect attacks and storms of projectiles rather than fighting you in ways that invite experimentation and get you excited about going into combat.
Bastion may have you tugging at its threads to decipher your role and meaning, even as you return for a second go-round - but you're unlikely to question the choice you made to buy it.
The game's story and narration are the drawing points, but the fighting, healing, and upgrading systems are all satisfying and well designed. By choosing to equip different spirits—the booze kind, not ghosts—you can buff your character with different powers. By worshiping different gods at the temple, you'll be able to bump up the game's difficulty while increasing your rewards for survival. Each weapon can be upgraded in multiple ways, and your character himself can level up to become more powerful.
This is the kind of game that thrives on the Xbox Live Arcade. It's novel, the graphical style is striking, and it can be finished in an afternoon or two if you don't feel the need to finish every challenge and collect every upgrade. There are great moments of beauty here, including some musical cues that make me long for an official soundtrack release. This isn't a perfect game, especially when the pace begins to move so quickly later on the in the game, but it's a very good one.
The dynamic and well-paced nature of how the game's narrative is delivered to the player impresses throughout the game, and each bit of dialog exudes a poetic coolness that does wonders to set the game's mood and the personality of its characters. The game's backstory and ongoing narrative are also peppered with mystery and intrigue, often raising more questions about the world than they answer. While the specifics of the story are best experienced firsthand, I will say that they did a great job of compelling me to play just one more level, and then another.
The overall experience Bastion provides is incredibly polished in both its presentation and the fluid, fast-paced combat. After playing through the game once, I'm already well on my way through a New Game+, and still enjoying every minute. If you're looking for a very fun, fantastically-presented action-RPG with a great story, a trip to the Bastion is well worth taking.
Stories are like rivers. They need plenty of depth and just enough twists to keep a traveller nice and wary. Every time someone looks into those watery blues, they should see something different. Most'll see a game with a better tale than most. Others might catch a sight of wider themes; war, expansion, frontiers, property. Home.
That narrator pal o' yours will even change his tune, depending on how you conduct yourself out there. It won't be big stuff. Maybe just a line or two. Something extra you didn't catch before. But it makes a different. Makes you feel like this is your story. Your world.
Something I wasn't expectin' though, was choice. There's two of 'em towards the close. Heartwrenchers, both. I don't envy you making them. I don't envy myself, having chosen what I did. Each one'll lead you to a different end. Each way you'll be satisfied, but each way sure is tough.
The sound design needs some words dedicated to it before we go any further, as it's fantastic from start to finish. While the instrumental themes have an almost Wild Western twang to them – similar to the score of Firefly, I found – later on in the game this is swapped out for actualsongs, with lyrics contributing to the story as a whole. As with Braid, the soundtrack goes a long way in defining the tone and atmosphere of the game.
Comparisons to Jonathan Blow's indie sensation don't end there. As with Tim's time-travelling jaunts and all that nonsense about the atomic bomb, there's a deeper meaning to everything in Bastion. Once the credits roll, you'll flock to the internet, desperate to discover what others made of it. It's not quite as open to interpretation as Braid, but you'll enjoy the conversations it inspires nonetheless.
Unfortunately, despite a claim of an 8-10 hour initial play length, I got through Bastion much faster than that. I didn’t time it exactly, but it can’t have been more than 5-6 hours. I did miss a couple of optional missions, but certainly not enough to explain the difference. There is plenty of incentive to play through again, though, with a New Game+ mode opening up and a second ending to see.
Bastion is an absolutely fantastic game. The narration, the visuals, and the audio are all done to a standard one might expect from a studio ten times the size. Whilst the combat is simplistic, it matches the fast paced nature of the game perfectly. Ironically the things that make the game stand out might be what puts off a lot of people (some YouTube comments on the narration have been less than polite), but all I can say is try out the demo and decide for yourself. As for me…well, I’m heading back to the Bastion. Can’t expect the kid to do it all by himself…
Bastion is a charming-looking game, but I found the art style to be rather at odds with the rest of the game. The characters are adorable, small and super-deformed. It's odd when you juxtapose them against the immensely sad world. It gives the game an oddly fairy-tale style, but it can draw you out of the immersion when it uses full-screen still art of the characters. Aside from that, I like the visual style of the game, and there are a lot of interesting backgrounds and environment designs. There is a lot of palette-swapping going on, and the Kid's sprites and movements are simple and basic. In some ways, it reminds me of a handheld title — or it would, if not for the masterful use of audio.
Bastion is a solid action-RPG that is put over the edge by its unique and entrancing concept. It's a fun game, but it would've had trouble standing apart from the crowd, even with its unique features. When you add in the awesome use of narration, the game becomes much more than the sum of its parts. Bastion manages to be engrossing from beginning to end. It's well paced, well executed and fun to play, and it's hard not to get more curious about what comes next. The lack of replay value, even with a NewGame+ and multiple endings, may hurt it a little, but if you're a fan of atmospheric and unique action-RPGs, then Bastion is well worth the 1,200 Microsoft points ($15)
Bastion is one of the best downloadable games this year, but I didn't believe it right away. From the first time I saw it, I knew that the game was witty -- as evident from the narrator who literally narrates just about everything you do as you do it -- but Bastion was still just an action role-playing game. I moved through an area with my two weapons, shield, and special attack. No big deal. However, then Bastion started revealing itself to me, and I couldn't stop playing.
In Bastion, something called the "Great Calamity" has rolled in and taken out your entire civilization. You awaken as "the Kid," and set off to restore the Bastion -- a spot where everyone was supposed to meet if bad stuff went down. To do this, you'll need to dive into levels, best foes, and collect shards. Like I said, not that different from your average RPG, and it never hooked me. By the time it reached the branching ending, I didn't have strong enough feelings to really care one way or another about the outcome. Still -- and this is the rare occasion I say this about a story -- it didn't matter. Bastion is just too damn good. The graphics are amazing; I can only describe the scenes as a watercolor painting with stained glass influences. The sound immersed me in the game. The narrator is entertaining as he announced what I was doing and why it mattered, but his sultry tones also kept me company. Bastion's a single-player game, but the narrator was my companion through thick and thin. Toss in some fantastic music and sound effects, and Bastion is a blast to experience.
"Bastion" does not have difficulty settings. What it does have are gods. Almost like skulls in "Halo," gods make the game harder in a variety of ways. One might increase the speed of enemies while another might cause enemies to randomly parry attacks. If you find the game too easy, just equip more gods. There are 10 to find and every one you equip increases the amount of experience and money you earn, so there's a reason to really challenge yourself. This sort of hand-tuned, variable difficulty is something I'd love to see done in more games.
If there's a drawback, it's that I didn't really feel like the combat ever evolves much throughout the game. Although certain weapons add variety in the way you target and aim, I couldn't help but feel like I was doing the same thing (bashing enemies or killing them at range) over and over again. The mechanics are sound, but relatively unchanging, so you see most of what the game has to offer early on.
The action RPG genre has received very little attention on XBLA, so the arrival of "Bastion" is great news indeed. Visually and aurally, it's one of the strongest games on the platform, with an intriguing story and world I wouldn't mind moving to. It's not to be missed.
All of this preparation pays off when you venture down to the world below. Each stage wastes little time getting you into the action, and they all play a little differently. One might have you racing through a collapsing resort while scores of flying enemies are nipping at your heels. Another puts you on a decrepit ferry boat that's under siege from all sides. No matter the setting, they are all quick, tightly focused outings that leave you excited to see what the game will throw at you next.
The world of Bastion is brought to life with some truly exceptional hand-painted environments. Every stylish bit of scenery is filled with tiny touches that add to the game's fairytale vibe. While the world may be filled with color, its muted tones help underscore a somber tale that grows darker and darker as you progress. It's a wonderfully crafted adventure that presents a fun and focused challenge you can customize in all sorts of ways. Once you finish, a new game-plus feature opens up that lets you carry over all your weapons and experience from the previous game. Even though it may be the end of the world in Bastion, it's still an amazingly good time.
Both ends of the game's forked tongue are as potent and downright paralyzing as a viper's venom (I sat down with it and couldn't move for anything). The organic flow of levels, never staying too long on one idea or purpose, throwing wrenches every which way. The balanced, responsive feel of the weapons, and the variety, not to mention a whole nest-full of give-and-take augments and abilities. The Bastion even customizes difficulty piece by piece, and gives incentive to push the limit with challenges.
The game hiccups every so often, coughing up some stale, forced bits right alongside the fluid ones. The tale takes a wry turn once or twice, leaning back on old stand-by paths to get on. It doesn't last so long, and causes less suspicion than the hackin' repetition action role-playing game's rely on.
Pretty positive reviews on the whole. I've tried to provide a good amount of variety in the quotes, talking about different aspects of the game, but you'll probably want to click through to some of them to get a better feel for their opinion on the game.
Let me know if anywhere else has reviewed it, I'll add them to this post.