Please Rate this Review: Bastion
HIGH: The narration
LOW: When there's not enough things to shoot
WTF: Face planting at the start of every level
Bastion is a game about rebuilding a world thatís been lost, torn asunder by a great apocalyptic event called the Calamity. Caelondia was a world with history, with both societal strain and homely charm, but all of thatís in pieces now, literally. Mistakes were made, but you can fix them, you can rebuild the world through the power of the Bastion, a structure that once completed will solve this mess. As the Kid, a citizen of the old world whoís got plenty of fight left in him, youíll brave the remnants of Caelondia and the hostile creatures that have inhabited it. Itís a thoughtful tale that has a moral to teach, and you will relive it through the Kidís shoes as a narrator follows your every step Ė his voice as your companion.
The Bastion is where you'll build structures, customize load outs, and upgrade gear before heading back into the wilds.
One of the few survivors youíll meet after the Calamity is Rucks, and heís the man behind the voice in Bastion, a voice with a deeply rich and rustic harmony to it. Heís an old guy so heíll hang back, marking locations where the Kid might find cores, the source of power for the Bastion. Speaking in the past tense, the player has to wonder where Rucksís story wraps up. What happens to the Kid? What happens when the Bastion is completed? Who exactly is this story being told to? Rucks is a talented story teller -- heíll make you remember, heíll make you smile, and heíll make you think real hard about what itís all about.
Before too much credit is given to Bastionís narrator, there should be some clarification as to what to expect. The voice that follows you is scripted in an obvious fashion, not nearly as magical as a dynamic being that reacts to everything you do. But for its impressive attention to detail, itís an admirable achievement nonetheless. Rucks explains the history of the locales youíll pass through, heíll comment on your weapon load out when you change things up, recite your performance in battle, even crack a joke if you contradict his story (i.e. falling to your death). Each of his comments is short and to the point but dramatically delivered with ripe imagery. His dialogue really is the selling point, and it can be utterly poetic at times with how it flows with your game.
As you fly out to other areas, suspended pieces of terrain in the sky, youíll come to learn a lot about Caelondian culture. Itís a beautiful world depicted with a lush color palette, and each level appropriately covers an aspect of the society youíre out to rebuild. After getting your hands dirty youíll be back in no time with new weapons, artifacts, and hopefully another core for the Bastion, which will give way to some of the gameís progression elements. With each core added, structures can be built that allow you to change load outs, pursue a plethora of available upgrades to the gameís dozen or so weapons, unlock specialty wines that will give you passive boosts in battle, or select gods to worship that will make the gameís enemies more deadly in return for increased experience and cash. Itís simple, though wonderfully presented with its artsy interface, and the nature of it all is rather addicting and easy to get into. In fact, Bastionís overall presentation, its splendid art direction and quality soundtrack, is what really carries it past the somewhat unfulfilling nature of its core experience.
It's about as simple as it looks
From the moment you give your hammer its first swing, itís easy to tell the combat in Bastion is going to feel a bit cheap. Even later when you have an arsenal of blades, firearms, and cannons, the enemies never really offer an encounter worthy of all the heat your packing. Itís simple hack-n-slash to the point Ė a roll dodge and an incessant need to mash the attack buttons. Youíll dance around swift melee attacks, block or counter projectiles back at ranged opponents, destroy a countless number of turrets, and meet some interesting forms of wildlife in your travels of ruined Caelondia. Itís pleasing in a most basic sense, but routine, through and through. The ground will form up beneath your feet as you move along, and enemies will pop up with it Ė a stroll in the park, really. Itís not that the enemies canít be formidable, but rather, they appear only a few at a time. With this kind of pace to the game youíll rarely feel overwhelmed, and thereís a jarring disconnect between how much power youíre given and the measly projectile spitting enemies that line your path every level. Bastionís best moments are when waves of enemies are coming at you, giving you reason to unleash a barrage of buckshot or rain fire from the sky, any opportunity to enjoy some of the potential of your weapon load outs. If youíve played any other hack-n-slash, youíve played Bastion Ė and thatís what it will feel like, that is, if Rucks wasnít there to make it so worthwhile.
A nice remedy to the repetitive encounters of the gameís levels is the opportunity to go out and master the weapons you find along the way. Each weapon will have its own obstacle course to visit, and while most arenít hugely demanding, itís nice to be able to get your mind off the dramatic story line and enjoy some basic mechanical challenges. Smashing a junkyard with your hammer in a set amount of time, or taking down targets with the least amount of arrows possible are among the kinds of games available, and Rucks will contribute some interesting history to the groups of people associated with each weapon. The game also features a New Game + mode, basically going through it all again with the goodies you gathered from your previous game Ė a fun opportunity to play around with all the power Bastion gives the player.
Smash all this junk in 27 seconds or less. It's not as mindless as it sounds.
Though its ending is handled a bit awkwardly, and the combat is lacking in interesting set ups, there are few other games that put you in the shoes of a character and setting as well as Bastion does. The power of words is an amazing thing, and in the hands of an expert story teller with a voice so rich and real, the tale of Bastion is incredibly memorable. Itís not a game with a story; itís a game that is a story. So gather round, and lend an ear Ė this one is worth hearing.
Disclosure: This game was obtained via retail store and reviewed on a PC platform. Approximately 10 hours of play was devoted to the single-player mode (completed twice).
Parents: Rated Everyone 10+ for "Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco."
Deaf and Hard of Hearing: Accessible. Dialogue can be subtitled.
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