Awesome Video Game Music: Setting Sail, Coming Home

I absolutely love Bastion’s soundtrack. Each song is fresh and imaginative, and they all fit their respective levels in the game perfectly. The songs that sick with me the most, however, are the lyrical ones, especially Setting Sail, Coming Home. It’s more or less a simple fusion of the other two lyrical songs, Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme) and Mother, I’m Here (Zulf’s Theme), so I’ll focus on those two first. Be warned, spoilers lie ahead.

Both of these songs have a fair amount in common, not the least of which is their instrumentation. They use only a guitar to supplement the vocals, and this simplicity works in their favor. The world in Bastion has a fairly wild-west, frontier-like vibe to it, and the bare-bones instrumentation of these songs gives me the image of people gathering around a campfire in the wilderness, sharing songs and stories. They have a folklore feel to them, which can also be seen in their simple lyrics. The first, Build That Wall, is about nothing more than, well, building a wall. It’s a catchy, lighthearted tune that sounds like something passed down through generations, something hummed within a community as they go about their daily chores. Indeed, when you first encounter the song it’s being sung by Zia, who’s just sitting around minding her own business. It gives a nice insight into the culture of her and her people, and also fits the rugged world of Bastion amazingly well.

Mother, I’m Here is equally simple in its instrumentation, and for the most part its lyrics as well. To me it’s about going “back to my home, sweet home”, though I’m sure someone more artsy than me could dive deeper into the lyrics. But like Build That Wall, my big takeaway is the folklore nature of it and how it helps to flesh out the culture of Zulf and the Ura. The main difference between these two songs, to me, is the tone of them. Where Build That Wall is more upbeat and catchy, Mother, I’m Here is more somber, and almost a little brooding. I view this as an insight into the two characters’ differing ideals; Zia is more forward thinking, Zulf more stuck in the past. The lyrics point to this time dynamic as well. Zia is singing about something coming in the future, while Zulf is singing about going back home, returning to better times. This dynamic is the very focus of Bastion’s major plot point, and Setting Sail, Coming Home combines it all into one representative song.

Bastion’s climactic moment sees you completing the titular Bastion and deciding if you want to use it; do you want to turn back the clock to before the Calamity happened, or move forward and do the best you can in a post-Calamity world? The way the game unfolds makes this a very interesting question, but more importantly for our purposes, it’s the same dynamic that’s contrasted in Zia’s and Zulf’s themes. Setting Sail, Coming Home is literally a combination of the two songs. They play simultaneously, overlapping each other to great effect, which is an awesome way to summarize the game’s major theme. The instrumentation is also much more complete, featuring a lot of the musical qualities that permeate the rest of the soundtrack. As such, Setting Sail, Coming Home is just a fantastic summary piece that captures the spirit of Bastion beautifully. I’m always amazed when a single song can so accurately represent a game, and Setting Sail, Coming Home does it as well as any.

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