in Review


Let me tell you about a kid. Actually, no, let the narrator tell you about him. You see, what we’ve got here is a game that turned narration into a gameplay mechanic. It’s crazy and risky and it totally helps Bastion stand out as not only a great story, but one of last year’s best games.

There’s not much I can say about the story without ruining the fun of discovering it, so I’ll simply give you the simple premise: The kid wakes up after the Calamity, a terrible event that destroyed the world. Where you go from there is a sorrowful journey that is best made without knowing the destination, but needless to say, the kid isn’t the only one who survived. In fact, it seems like someone is watching him the entire time.

The game gives you a hub to play from, the titular Bastion, from which you can go out on missions. Beyond story levels, there are also arenas for you to try your mastery of weapons out and a few wave-based challenge areas where you can try to set a high score. Instead of having vague difficulty options, Bastion gives you a neat idols mechanic. Basically, you can enable certain idols, each correlating to one of the game’s gods, and they will increase certain aspects of the difficulty, while also increasing your rewards. Yeah, this game is really well thought out. Once you’re in it, it never lets you out.

The narration is most oppressive at the start of the game. It seems that this mysterious voice has something to say about everything you do – whether you take some time to unnecessarily destroy boxes or if you accidentally roll off a ledge. It’s a gimmick you probably wouldn’t see in a big budget game, the risk of it being annoying or off-putting would be too high. But it really pays off, because the narration connected me to the story and the character. In so many games, you end up watching the story play out as you run down the path the developers left for you. Here, you’re doing the same, but it feels like you’re the one calling the shots. It’s a novel and amazing experience.

Of course, all that wouldn’t matter if it wasn’t fun being the kid. Fortunately, it’s a blast. Bastion is, on its surface, easy to play. You’ve got two weapon slots, a shield and a special attack. In no time at all, however, you’ll have built up a massive armory of unique weapons that require completely different strategies to use. A bow, for example, requires you to spend a moment drawing it, but its arrow can pass through multiple targets. On the other hand, a repeater can fire a quick barrage of shots, but for less damage and only hitting one target at a time. The combat is very deep and rewards you for mastering it. It’s flawless execution and the most fun I’ve ever had with this style of combat.

And the art. Bastion is a gorgeous game, substituting a distinct and wonderful art style in for technical prowess. It looks like nothing else on the market. And the animation is stupendous as well, characters move fluidly and responsively and the way that the floor rises up below the kid’s feet is impressive. A lot of people really love the soundtrack as well, though having the taint of knowing what GarageBand loops sound like made some songs distracting to me. Not that there aren’t great, wholly original songs in there, there’s just also some songs with some loops I know pretty well.

Bastion is a phenomenal game. I didn’t realize it until I started this review, but I can’t really fault any part of it. It’s fun, enthralling, pretty – basically it does everything every aspect as well as I could ever expect. Maybe even a little better than that. And, it’s a cheap downloadable game, that doesn’t hurt. I’ve already said this game was one of my favorites from last year, now I’m starting to wonder if it’s one of my favorites for years to come.