When I first saw screenshots of Bastion, I knew nothing about this game. All I saw was another “Indie” arcade game with hand drawn graphics and a boy protagonist. I thought to myself, “Just what we need, another art game for the critics to fawn over; another 2-hour masterpiece of self-indulgent-games-are-art-before-fun to be spoon-fed into liking.” Then I learned that the game was an action RPG, and when it came down to either playing my Mt. Everest-sized backlog or buying something new, I figured what the hell. I needed something new to hate on, something where I could be the dissenting opinion and rile up the rank and file. Of course sometimes I am happily very wrong with my own preconceived notions.
Creative studio Supergiant Games is very aware of the conventions of the video game medium as well as being very aware of recent deconstructions of said conventions. What Bastion does quite well is to be revisionist in its own deconstruction. The same way Unforgiven revised the conventions of the Western film genre, Bastion does for games in its own small way. The game does not rely on cut scenes to move the story along. There are some, but none that last longer than a minute or two and they are few and far between. Instead, the game relies on a narrator. Without breaking from the action, the narrator will not only tell you what you are doing, but seamlessly gives you the back story while you play. His gravely Tom Waits voice is almost soothing while you slay beast upon beast. He will tell you what enemies you are facing and their motivation for attacking you, he will narrate your fall off a cliff, and he will tell you about the weapon you just found. Aside from the unique flow of the story, that was the biggest surprise for me – the weapons.
There are 11 weapons to pick up throughout the game. Each one can be upgraded up to 5 times, and you can only carry two weapons at a time. These mechanics add a significant amount of variety to what is basically a hack and slash RPG. The combat all centers on a hub world, the Bastion, where you perform the weapon upgrades and collect other items that unlock as you level up or complete a section. Because of the Bastion, the game is not open world but rather comprised of sections that you visit. The art style is unique, and each section of world is literally formed under your feet as you move. One of the few complaints I have is that once you finish a section, you cannot revisit it during your play through. So if you forgot an item, you do not get that item. The game does also have arena sections that act as a proving ground for each weapon. You can revisit the arena for more experience points and to gain “shards” – the in game currency. The proving grounds give you a real feel for each weapon, and will unlock up to three valuable pieces of loot depending upon your skill. These two sections add a significant amount of challenge and are a welcome distraction from the main game.
There has been some debate in the gaming media lately about value and game length. As a consumer, I feel I should be able to have my cake and eat it too. I want to play a game that not only does something new and fun, but also makes me feel like it was worth my hard-earned dollar. I completed my first play through of Bastion in 10 hours, and I'm looking forward to upgrading my weapons further in the New Game + mode. Bastion is as much an enigma as the characters in it. Underneath its veneer of hand-drawn, hipster, review fodder is a fun and unique action hack & slash RPG that any fan of the genre should check out immediately. OutstandingOutstanding | Very Good | Fair | Poor | AwfulRecommended Buy Price: $15.00Current MSRP: $15.00Bastion was purchased with my own money. Warner Bros. also provided CAG with a review copy. I completed the campaign in ten hours accumulating 8 of 12 Achievements for 110 GamerScore. Bastion is currently exclusive to Xbox Live Arcade and will be releasing on PC later this year.