System: Xbox 360
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Supergiant Games
Release Date: July 20, 2011
First it was Braid, then it was Limbo, now it is Bastion.
It seems every year or so a new artsy indie title arrives on the Xbox Live marketplace that gets a huge amount of critical acclaim. This year’s title, the action RPG Bastion, is the first entry in Microsoft’s annual Summer of Arcade promotion, and it is one hell of a way to start the event.
There are two things you will notice right away upon starting Bastion. One, the game is stylish as fuck. This is a beautiful game with gorgeous, vibrant designs that cover all areas of the color spectrum. The game’s isometric camera helps to show off the stunning visuals used in the many in-game environments. Seriously, just take a look at these screenshots. This is a great-looking title, and the visuals certainly add to the overall experience.
The second thing that is immediately noticeable is the game’s narrator. Everything you do in the game is narrated by a gravelly-voiced man known as Rucks. He will comment about your actions on screen and provide bits of back-story as you progress throughout the adventure. It appears the old man has a sense of humor, too, as some of his remarks are actually quite funny. Early on in the campaign, I picked up a weapon for the first time and started bashing everything in sight. Rucks simply stated “Kid just rages for a while” then waited until I was done with my destruction before continuing his narration. This feature really is brilliant because you will never feel alone despite the lack of a party system.
In Bastion, you play as a silent protagonist named The Kid. You awaken in a mostly destroyed world, one that is feeling the aftereffects of a catastrophic event known only as the Calamity. Your goal is to build up the Bastion, a safe haven that can potentially be used to bring back the world The Kid once knew. As you progress through the game’s world, pieces of the environment will fall into place. Frequently, the ground will form right under your feet and lead the way to the next area. This makes it feel as if you are really making some progress in getting things back to normal, and it is a great sense of accomplishment.
Bastion’s core gameplay is comprised of traditional hack ‘n slash methods. You are given a button for different weapons, and you run around on the screen killing enemies and gaining XP. New weapons are unlocked throughout the game, and all of them can be built up by acquiring new materials. Progressing through the game also builds up the Bastion, the homebase that provides the means to level up weapons and items. This is all standard action RPG fare, but it is very well executed overall and is simply a lot of fun to play.
Bastion’s campaign will take roughly 5-8 hours to complete which may seem short for a $15 game, but there is a surprising amount of replay value here. The main campaign has a number of “Proving Grounds” side quests that are essentially combat mini-games, and they offer a good amount of challenge. Also, after completing the game a “New Game+” option is unlocked in which you can play through again with all of your current abilities already available. I rarely play through single player games more than once these days, but I am already going through Bastion for a second time. Yeah, it’s that good.
There really isn’t much to speak of in the way of game flaws. My biggest problem, which is little more than a minor nuisance, is that it can be too easy to roll off the game’s playing field, but it will pick you right back up with only a dent in health damage. There are occasional quibbles with the direction of shooting arrows and such, but these rarely hinder gameplay.
Quite frankly, Bastion is one of the best games to be released this year and is one of the better titles available in the Xbox Live Arcade library. This is an amazing debut from Supergiant Games, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings with this company. If you have any doubts about giving Bastion a shot, definitely download the trial. Chances are you will be sold as soon as the game starts. I know I was.