Bastion is the first game by independent developers Supergiant Games which was published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. The hand painted art and lovably simplistic story is quite endearing and made this game stand out at the time of release.
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Supergiant Games
Platform: PC, PS4, XBOX 360, iOS, Playstation Vita
Release Date: July 20th, 2011
MSRP: $14.99 ($24.99 for the Soundtrack Edition)
The story starts off very simply. The world has come to an end in an event called the Calamity. In case of any major catastrophe, citizens of Caelondia are to evacuate to the Bastion. The Kid, one such citizen, wakes up and begins his journey to the Bastion. Meanwhile, windbags, turrets and other baddies will try to stop him. The player character lacks a name and is simply known as The Kid for the duration of the game. He’s a silent protagonist. Instead, the story is told by another character, the Stranger, who will narrate just about everything the Kid does. This causes the gameplay to flow easily with the story.The game has few characters and thus no character feels irrelevant. The player is given the chance to learn about how they all reached the point before finding themselves in the Bastion. The players have the ability to expand the story even more via Who Knows Where. Each of these missions tell the player about how each character arrived to their point of discovery in the game including the Kid.
The gameplay is very simple, but fun. It’s an isometric 2.5D beat ’em up. Every missions gives the player two weapons, a special skill, a shield and a couple of potions. Missions tend to be very simple. Go pick up this, kill this monster, etc. The player can choose which weapons to take with them as they are unlocked. Each weapon feels differently. The hammer prioritizes sanding in place and hitting in wide arcs while the machete does many low damage attacks and can be thrown. The combat is fast paced, but not every objective needs to be completed for the story to continue. However, it will change what the narrator says. Enemies all stand out from each other and require different tactics to be defeated. Some must be blocked constantly while others evaded. Some are best taken from a distance while others are better off being stunlocked.
The Kid can be customized with different passives, known as Spirits as in the alcohol, not ghosts. By inciting the power of the gods, the difficulty of the game can be ramped up exponentially by causing enemies to randomly block projectiles, explode upon death and more. The game also contains optional puzzle like segments in which the Kid is forced to use one weapon to its full potential.
The art of the game uses an hand-painted style. Each area is vibrant and full of color. Many areas lack life which is sensical due to the premise of the game. No two areas feel the exact same. Enemies are easy to see and understand as are objectives unless they are specifically designed to be hidden as is the issue with very grassy areas. Everything feels as though it can fall apart at any moment and even the monsters you fight don’t necessarily feel evil. They’re struggling to survive after the calamity as well. Enemies are distinctive enough to easily tell apart. Even creatures of the same species will look different depending on their fighting style and, in the case of Windbags, the creator’s intentions.
The music of this game stands well against other indie titles but even triple a titles. Darren Korb creates a soundtrack that encompasses the atmosphere. It’s never distracting but is wonderful to listen to even when not playing. His two lyrical ballads, Mother, I’m Here and Build That Wall are emotionally melancholic. Both songs also enhance the narrative and draw parallels if not outright telling the player what happened that they never saw. Making the entire soundtrack readily available on Bandcamp and purchase on multiple sites shows the creators love their fans.
Logan Cunningham’s vocals as the Stranger are nearly perfect. It’s comedic and puts one in the mind of a classic western in all the best ways. His delivery and tone expresses both regret and hope. If you’re wondering where you’ve heard this voice, he played the Transistor in the game of the same name.
Overall, this is a wonderful indie title. It’s short, but packs enough content to warrant to not only extend gameplay but a second playthrough as well. If you don’t play this, well, “gods ain’t gonna help you son; you’ll be sorry for what you’ve done.”