immuniity's Bastion (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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Calamity Kid

Bastion is an action role-playing game released by Supergiant Games as part of the 2011 Summer of Arcade promotion on XBLA. The player takes control of 'The Kid' a young white haired Caelondian male who must traverse the world destroyed by the event known only as the Calamity. The game starts with The Kid waking up on a seemingly disconnected rock floating in the air and the memory that in times of trouble, head to the Bastion. The Kid is a silent protagonist and thus the story is told is past tense by The Stranger, another survivor at the Bastion who serves as the narrator for the game.

First, let me get straight to answering the most important question, 'Is Bastion good?'. Yes, Bastion is a good game. In fact, Bastion is the best game released on XBLA this year and is a contender for best XBLA games of all time. The gameplay is fantastic, the music is memorable, the story is intriguing and the narrator sticks in my mind long after playing.

Bastion plays like an action game with active blocking, dodging and a diverse armoury to utilize and also incorporates light RPG elements. The Kid gains access to a large variety of weapons including (but not limited to); a bow, a shield, a repeater, duelling pistols, a machete, a musket and his old friend, the Cael hammer. At any time The Kid may have access to two of these weapons (which can be swapped at the Bastion or at designated arsenals in certain levels). Each weapon also has a number of highly damaging Secret Skills which run on a resource known as black tonics which allow The Kid to release devastating moves that can quickly turn the tide of battle. In addition, each weapon has a dynamic upgrade system allowing you to customize each weapon in a minimal fashion. At each upgrade level for a weapon you have a choice between two sides (which can be altered at the Bastion) so you can truly play the game more to your taste. As mentioned the game also has dedicated blocking and dodging buttons making combat more involved with counter-blocking a tool available to those who raise their shield at just the right time as well as more powerful attacks to those who strike with their weapon at the right moment.

The RPG elements are found mostly in passive bonuses. The Kid gains experience from each kill which will level him up (to a maximum of level 10) allowing him more health but more importantly access to another slot to store spirits, powerups in the game. Spirits take the form of passive buffs to the Kid such as Cinderbrick Stout which gives a speed boost while blocking or Squirt Cider which increases health by a small amount. This deepens the customization of the Kid as you can pick and choose the passive buffs you want.

I will refrain from talking about the story only because it is better going into Bastion with no preconceptions about what to expect. Needless to say the story is interesting and riveting with likeable characters and even some tough choices to make at the end.

The music in Bastion is some of the best i've heard this generation. It is one of the few games released this generation with memorable and fitting music that really enhances the game. With any luck a soundtrack will be released.

The narration done by Logan Cunningham is absolutely amazing. His smooth and dynamic voice is really astonishingly good voice acting that enhances the game so much it would be hard to imagine Bastion without it. This dynamic nature leads to a more personal touch as the narrator may remark on what weapon you are using, the situation at hand or help develop the story far beyond what would be possible if it was left simply as a dialogue. The narrator gives the world such rich text that it really allows the Bastion to stand out.

Stylistically the game is flawless. The backdrops are colourful and varied, the ground forms up in front of you which is just plain cool, the before mentioned narrator is fantastic, the world is fleshed out with its own unique western vibe, interesting weapons and wildlife and in general Bastion is one of the most visually and audibly pleasing games I've played in a long while.

Even if the game feels too easy, difficulty can be tweaked by utilizing idols at the shrine. This allows for modifiers to enemies much in the same way skulls work in the Halo series. The game rewards you if you so choose to make it more difficult by offering more currency and more exp. Bastion also encourages repeat playthroughs with a new game plus option which opens once you've finished allowing you to retain weapons and skills and experience the story again (with minor tweaks).

The only thing truly holding the game back is somewhat lengthy loadtimes. However they are not catastrophically bad, just a minor annoyance.

Final judgement: I could not stop playing Bastion on my first playthrough. I ended up finishing it in a single (very long) sitting. I even played it again the next day on new game plus because i wanted to experience it all again. This game is a must buy and receives a perfect score - 5/5

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