thewan's Bastion (Xbox 360 Games Store) review

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A Fairy Tale Setting With Intense Combat

Bastion defines what is remarkable about Xbox Live Arcade. Bastion's seven to ten hour experience feels like a steal at fifteen dollars. The story, art style, and fast paced action stand out as some the best this year, regardless of size or platform. It has redefined narration in video games.

In the world of Bastion a terrible event known as the Calamity has destroyed the world of Caelondia. You'll play as a silent little guy known only as "The Kid". As The Kid journeys through this extravagant world he meets with the compelling narrator Rucks. He assures The Kid that he can fix the Calamity by restoring and activating the Bastion. You'll go through the world collecting pink shards to restore the Bastion to life. When you do this you'll add stores in your hub world such as a forge for upgrades, shrine for idols, and a lost and found for buying additional items.

The gameplay is hack and slash combat with some interesting shooting mechanics. The customization really sets it apart from other hack and slash games. You collect blue shards, which is the currency and can level up one of the eleven different weapons. The melee weapons and guns all feel different in their own way. The hammer is powerful, but the war machete is faster. The musket is best for close range crowd control, and the rocket launcher destroys everything including you if one is not paying attention. Any combination of weapons is completely viable. A player can use nothing but guns, all melee, or even just a shield that does decent damage by reflecting and repelling attacks.

There is a typical level progression system in Bastion, however its in-game bonuses give it a dungeon crawler loot feel. They are all fairly balanced with very witty names for each. Bastion also has its own challenge room system by activating one or all of the idols of Caeldonia's deities. The player will get more bonuses for defeating enemies, but the risks will greatly increase as each idol is activated. The idols difficulty is quite an increase in difficulty, so try it after you beat the game. When you finish the game there is a new game plus option, which allows all of the player's weapons, experience, and upgrades to continue when he or she decides to start over.

The art style and dynamic narration are what really sets Bastion apart from other video game titles. The world of Caeldonia feels like an outlandish fairy tale. The path before you rises to your feet (demonstrated by Magneto in the X-MEN 2 movie). No level looks the same and each one evokes the appropriate mood of where The Kid is in the story. Even the hub world feels like The Kid is about to walk into a magical Disney adventure before every level.

The dynamic narration makes the player want to do everything and explore everywhere just to hear the narrator comment on what you're doing. A lot of games have narrators that just speak in cutscenes or during a loading screen, but Bastion's integration of action with real-time commentary is superb. There was never an experience more surreal in Bastion for me than when I was swinging my hammer and destroying things for no reason and the narrator says, "The Kid just rages for a while." This kind of attention to detail is what truly defines the uniqueness of Bastion and the joy of playing it.

Bastion shatters expectations of what downloadable game is assumed to be. The story, art style, and music alone can sell the game. Bastion's minimalist approach for story is wonderful, but a little more backstory would have been nice. The peculiar enemies and the witty humorous writing give the game more personality than it needs. The simple, yet deep combat is easy to learn but challenging to master. It is 15 dollars of fun that rivals other higher priced games.

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