I first heard of Bastion and its creators at Supergiant Games a bit before PAX East and therefore made it a point to see it whilst on that amazing three day experience. I thoroughly enjoyed what I saw and played then and those feelings have only grown since. So, what is Bastion? That is more difficult question to answer than I first thought.
You wake up and the amazing narration of Logan Cunningham immediately hits you. You slowly start finding out about ‘the Kid’ (the game’s protagonist, who you control). Progress and you find out more about various things in his past, more about the environment, enemies you face and what is to come, as if this were a story told to you, the player.
You’ll find out that the vast majority of the world is gone, caused by ‘the Calamity’ and your job is to rebuild one last glimmer of hope, the Bastion. To do this you’ll be guided by some friends and meet new people, who will help you with your quests. There are some twists and some turns, decisions will need to be made as to whether or not you want to pursue a certain path or not.
Using broad strokes, Bastion is a role playing game (RPG), but let’s not think of Torchlight, Diablo or even Baldur’s Gate . While it does share some features with these, such as the isometric view point and how you will repeatedly hit buttons to vanquish your enemies, the battle system is different as it eliminates “classes”. By this, I mean there is no strict brute strength melee person or back row spell-caster to choose from. Instead, there are a myriad of weapons to choose from, but you are only allowed to carry two. You can pick two melee, two ranged or mix and match before going to each locale. This, accompanied by one special ability (which may or may not relate to your selected weapons), allows for a significantly wide variety of play styles, something of which I thoroughly enjoyed.
There is no blacksmith to purchase weapons from, so finding them in the levels, while not difficult, is how you acquire them. The upgrade system for each weapon is simple, requiring “something” and cash in order to achieve the necessary recipe. There are even choices about which upgrades to pursue but they are not concrete. You can go back and alter your decisions that you previously made.
The game does have a fairly linear storyline and while there is a “town” to go back to after each mission, there is no tradesmen or fair maiden to give you side-quests. In fact, side-questing to a degree is non-existent. You can choose to pursue certain tasks but they are done along the main story arch and you will never need to go retrieve something for someone not related to the story. For instance, using a certain weapon in a certain way will unlock a reward which will thereby give you more cash, items or ability. If you’re like me, you may accidentally achieve one of these feats, or you can do them purposefully, although they can be a tad tricky.
Even the difficulty of the game involves choice. There is no “easy, medium or hard” setting but rather reminiscent to Halo Reach’s ‘skull system’ there are unlockables that allow you to increase the difficulty of your foes in a variety of ways. As not to spoil the game I won’t say exactly what the system is or how it comes to play, but the more of these you unlock and turn on, the more difficult the game will be. In turn, with higher difficulty comes higher experience to which you can use. The higher level your character, the more options they have in the game.
Amongst all of this, Darren Korb’s music and Jen Zee’s art are so amazing and stand out so well and truly add to the gameplay experience. The music seemingly takes on a variety of genres, appropriately, depending on where you are in the game and the art has the same hand drawn style (as I believe it is entirely hand drawn by Ms. Zee) that you may have encountered in Braid, but obviously its own take.
There is a facet of the game where you can play over and over to acquire credits and make your way through various stages. While this acts as a training and leveling up area and does have leaderboards to compare your abilities to your friends, it was one of the few things I didn’t prefer. I am not trying to nitpick but I happen to fancy the side quest and being able to explore the world (in regards to canon) versus the training area. This is by no means a blunder on the part of Supergiant, but one of preference and if you happen to align with me, you’ll understand.
The only other issue I really had was the length of the game. Ultimately, the game is amazing and I wish there was more of it, as I beat it in two relatively longer play sessions over the course of a day and a half. Admittedly, I did not spend all of my time searching through every single level, breaking every crate and that option does exist for those players. It does need to be mentioned that replayability is there. Once you complete the game, you can start over with all of your items and current character, upgraded and kicking butt to start.
So, what is Bastion? It is a game that I cannot give enough praise. The story, while I simplified it, is great, builds upon itself very well and it is clear that a lot of thought and care has gone into it. The music, art, items and overall gameplay is original, innovative and take seemingly parts from previous games and puts their own twist on it, in a very good way.
Choices, while not affecting the main story line, are prevalent and allow the player to take on what they wish, how they wish. It’s my belief that these choices are what make Bastion so great. The main story is what accompanies you through a plethora of your own whims and desires, something that few games do and/or do well. While Mr. Cunningham may be the voice presenting the story, Supergiant Games acts as a great guide through a very solid story that I wish was just a bit longer.