Fantastic development make this one of the best RPGs of the year.
BASTION - Video Review
Bastion is exclusively a downloadable game which was first released as an Xbox Arcade title and then made the transition to the PC a short time later. Bastion’s style is second to none through its beauty and amazing sound track. Bastion can also be seen grabbing inspirations from old classics like “The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past” and other games of the middle to late 90’s era. Fantastic gameplay and a deeper (yet extremely simply) RPG experience than Zelda has ever had come together in such a harmonistic way that I can only see a bright future for this brand-new amazing Intellectual Property.
The simple score breakdown of “Bastion” is like so…
Graphics/Character Performance and Animation – 10/10
Fun Factor – 9/10
Story – 7/10
User Interfacing – 10/10
Sound – 10/10
Value – 7/10
Learning Curve – So simple that you can intuitively pick-up and play with complete ease
Total – 8.8 / 10
Before you ever take a step, before the game fades from black, before anything – you’ll hear the narration. Although Bastion is an RPG it doesn’t use traditional methods of conveying the game world’s persona through person-to-person conversations or through tomes found lying around. Nearly every tidbit of information you’ll learn – from the unique aspects of a specific animal’s behaviors to the sorrowful past of the main protagonist – is spoken to you from the disembodied voice commenting on nearly every action and reaction you’ll have on your surroundings. The somber spoken voice of the narrator is calming and will help lead you along your journey.
In this journey you take control of the silent protagonist dubbed “The Kid” by Rucks the narrator. You’ll soon learn that your loved homeland has undergone devastation through the apocalyptic event known only as “the calamity”. The world itself seems to have lost the fabric of space that holds it together and sections of the planet are drifting aimlessly away from one another. Most games involve the player trying to prevent a world-destroying event, but Bastion instead begins its’ tale after the planet is literally crumbling into fragments. As The Kid you’ll search for “cores” and harness these cores’ power to attempt putting the pieces of your shattered existence back together.
By a stroke of luck or preparation The Kid is able to find the Bastion. The Bastion is a rendezvous point and landmass seemingly immune to the calamity’s anti-matter effects. The Kid wears a piece of the Bastion strapped to his back. This story element is what connects the dots between the beautiful level-design and why the world acts the way it does in response to the Kid. Because the Bastion fragment is on Kid’s back he is able to reconstruct the world at his feet as you venture in directions that would otherwise lead to nothingness. The way the beautifully hand painted world comes together is mesmerizing and immerses you in a water colored fantasy realm. Every movement in each direction literally gets you one step closer to making the world whole once again as it forms under your feet with the power of Bastion.
The overall presentation of Bastion is simply stunning. Everything from the way each artistic element is incorporated into the next makes the game feel as though it is seamless and came from a single person’s mind. The intimate connection of the narration and the way the music was blended with the story feels organic and harmonizes with the vibrant colored tones of the world surrounding you. All of the artistic avenues of Bastion come together to make the different facets of the audio and visual experience of Bastion a delight throughout the game’s entirety and a unique one at that.
The Kid’s main on-screen meters of import are his health bar, ammo capacity (if you’re toting a weapon with rounds), and the amount of flasks you have for restoring health and executing special abilities. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your number of potions to restore your total health. To regain maximum HP you can either hit your flask button to take a swig or walk over a potion when you’re potion carrying capacity is maxed-out. If your potions are at max and you walk over one of the many potions enemies will drop when they’re killed you can recover from some battle wounds.
The enemies of the Bastion don’t only drop potions for your health. Enemies also drop flasks to give you more pulls off your special ability talent and also crystals. Crystals are like the currency of Bastion. The crystals are small core fragments that can be used to help rebuild your safe haven, the Bastion, and crystals are also used to up-grade many different aspects of The Kid’s arsenal and augmentations.
The augmentations the kid can undergo are when you visit your distillery to partake in some “spirits”. Drinking these distilled beverages has different beneficial effects like; increasing your health potion carrying capacity, increasing the rate of critical strikes by a large amount when your health is below 33%, or even saving you from the brink of death when an attack would have otherwise killed you. You’ll open an additional pocket to carry more distilled spirits with you each level. Besides a small health increase the additional space to carry more spirits is the only benefit to increasing in level.
Like I said before, the crystal fragments are used to improve the Kid’s arsenal. You’ll have a variety of eleven different weapons to accompany you when you journey out into the hostile crumbling landscapes outside the confines of Bastion. The weapons have a variety of different uses and capabilities. For example, the dual pistols are fast and can eventually ricochet bullets around, the machete is extremely fast and can cause bleeding for damage over time, or the mortar can launch over obstacles to hit a group for massive area of effect damage. Each weapon has its purpose and most of their strengths to weaknesses feel balanced. The Kid can only carry two weapons at any given time when venturing out or after visiting an arsenal out in the fragmented wastes of Bastion. My only gripe with the weapons of Bastion is that only three of the eleven are melee and the other eight are ranged weapons.
Combat in Bastion is a blast. I enjoyed testing each of the eleven different weapons and finding what suited my play style best. There are also a TON of different special abilities to accompany weapons like; the whirlwind for your hammer, projecting a specter of yourself to eviscerate enemies with the machete’s ghost blade, or even general specials that don’t require a specific weapon-type like a shield wall or hucking a grenade. No matter what different special ability, weapons, or spirits you bring along with you to customize your Kid, combat will always have the same core basics. You’ll always have your evasive roll for squandering enemy attacks and your best friend – the shield. The shield plays a very important part to Bastion’s combat because there is simply a lot happening on-screen at any given moment and thankfully your shield can protect you from most assaults. Also, if you tap the block button a second before something is about to strike you then you can reflect a projectile back at the foe or even stagger a melee attacker which will stun them for a moment leaving them vulnerable.
After you get to a fairly high level, have some weapons maxed with enhancements, and are supporting some of the best distilled spirits the game’s encounters and foes can feel like they’re getting a bit too easy. Thank goodness for “God Alters”. By paying homage to these different god tributes from within the temple you’ll be able to make the game more rewarding. The God Alters might do different beneficial effects to the enemies you encounter. Alters are essentially like adding a hard, super hard, and rip your hair out hard mode to the game depending on how many alters you have activated simultaneously and the more you activate then the more experience points and crystals you get per kill. God Alters might do things like make an enemy drop a tiny grenade after each one dies, randomly reflect your attack, take less damage, or even have fast health regeneration. If you’re up for the challenge Bastion is there to answer.
All of these different in-game items like God Alters, weapon enhancements, spirits, and special abilities can be gathered by finding items out in the hostile landmasses or by doing game challenges. Game challenges are very small platform levels where you go to test your prowess with a specific weapon. One challenge might ask of you to protect some statues with your calamity launcher for a given period of time, shoot “X” amount of floating spores as the pathway beneath your feet crumbles away, or even flamethrow hundreds of birds while they try to overwhelm you.
All of these different elements of varied enemies, weapons, special abilities, weapon enhancements, God alters, and spirits come together to create a surprisingly deep Action-RPG experience. Bastion’s combat is fantastic and filled with momentum and the RPG aspects of the game are very satisfactory. And, because all of bastion’s aspects are so entertaining with combat, visuals, music, storytelling, and a challenge, you’ll be more than happy to spend an additional six hours to play through the game again when the ‘new game plus’ unlocks after your first playthrough. New game plus allows everything you earned in your previous game to be carried over and further improve The Kid’s arsenal, unlock all of the spirit slots, and find all of the God Shrines…I know I didn’t get 100% on all of those on my first time through Bastion. Bastion was definitely intended to be played through more than once; even the narrator might mention something feels a bit like Deja’ Vu.
Although I believe Bastion is the best exclusively downloadable game I may have ever played, it still has some irksome fumbles here and there.
Frustratingly Bastion has an extremely limited game save space. I’m talking VERY limited. You can only save one game per copy. There is absolutely not more than one space for an extra person to play through or even a space for you to play through on a fresh adventure without erasing your only other saved game’s progress.
There are some hiccups with the shield blocking mechanic and auto-targeting with the shield, but it isn’t really worth getting into.
My single biggest gripe with Bastion was its anticlimactic ending (not the ending story events, those were amazing) with a slow break in the game's otherwise fast pace. Not only did the game not really support too many encounters that you could really consider “bosses”, but even the last stage was fairly weak. Instead of an intense final stage with overwhelming odds and a magnitude of enemy forces baring down on the Kid you end up getting the slowest and most unchallenging act of the entire game. The final stage is separated into several sections, but the last one is tedium at its finest. The Kid is tasked with carrying a large log-like totem-thing and it makes him walk very slowly. You can’t use the weapons you’ve been enjoying throughout the entire game and instead are forced to use the totem’s ridiculously overpowered attacks. Each attack will kill any foe instantly in one attack and if that wasn’t literally overkill enough you can left-click for an area of effect ground explosion or even hit your special ability button to unleash a firestorm from the heavens. Sounds kind of cool, but every button felt like an “I win” button and I never even came close to feeling like at any point I was in danger or at the end of a game that had previously been getting exponentially harder as I went on. It was sadly a sour bite to end an otherwise extremely delicious meal.
ALL IN ALL
All in all, Bastion is an extremely entertaining and magnificent game in every facet that a video game can entertain. Sight, sound, story, and gameplay are all topnotch and Bastion delivers on the aspects a game claiming to be an action-RPG should deliver on. Bastion puts most of its eggs in the action basket, but it’s got great character customization through augmenting the Kid with “spirits”, the weapon enhancements will make RPG gamers feel at home, and a nice variety in weapons, special abilities, and enemy-types to keep the game feeling fresh throughout its entirety. Although Bastion has these different deep gaming elements, the RPG features and combat are still so simply implemented and easy to understand that anyone could get a handle on it. Bastion feels like it wants to remind everyone of some classic games, but ultimately Bastion separates itself from the games that may have inspired some of its aspects by carving its’ own place amongst the hierarchy of games that will stand the test of time with this superb entry into the gaming industry.