The kid looked at his screen. The glow from the monitor taunted him as he began to type, filling up the white void with text about a game. A game with a narrator, commenting on his every move. He stopped, and thought back, back to the time he started playing the game…
Bastion is a smart, fast paced action game with superb and beautifully drawn visuals with a few intriguing features, most notably the omnipresent narrator. As a character known only as The Kid you have to fight your way through a series of levels within a unique stylised world, searching for cores and shards that ultimately help to rebuild your safe heaven/level hub known as The Bastion. Doing so allows you access to buildings which can be used to change weapons, upgrade abilities or even making the game a little bit tougher for yourself in order to earn more XP and currency in order to further upgrade your abilities.
Combat is a straightforward affair, at any one time you have access to two weapons, a shield and a special ability, but it’s up to you which two weapons and ability you have. Whether that’s the melee based hammer, the bow that can tweaked to shoot poison arrows or the gun that does massive damage if you give it time to warm up. Each weapon encourages a different playstyle, and it’s up to you which two gives you the best opportunity against the game’s many enemies. Each of these weapons can then be upgraded to tweak the way they work further still, which gives the outwardly simple system a great layer of depth. Of course, you can stick to two weapons you like and stick with them, but challenges provided from the other Bastion buildings like the Memorial and the Shrine encourage you to switch around slightly from time to time to maximise profit.
The levels themselves are largely linear, but the visuals are stunning. A largely hand-drawn style gives Bastion a unique look, and really fits in with the storybook atmosphere of the game. Said stages are divided up into three themes throughout the progression of the story, and the way the levels form themselves around you as you traverse them is definitely an aspect that makes the game immediately stand out from it’s peers. Also thrown into the mix are a number of ‘training ground’ levels, where you’re encouraged to show off your skills with the various weapons in order to unlock prizes. As for the looks, Bastion might possibly be one of the best looking arcade games of the year, with absolutely stunning looking sprites, levels and backgrounds which absolutely suit the tone of the game to a tee.
The aesthetics music, and the narration really help give Bastion a ‘storybook’ feel – which is pretty much it’s biggest pull. It’s not a perfect story by any means, but it’s enough to encourage you to carry on through the game. The way it’s presented to you however is charming and really gives the game it’s own personality and neat little touches. For example, whenever you add one of the game’s tonics (which provide passive buffs to your character) the Narrator will make a comment or remark on the tonic you’ve chosen – ditto for the weapons and upgrades. It’s not the most game-changing of additions, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere. Rather more pertinent to gameplay, keeping an ear out for this narration can clue you into the background narrative and provides some gentle exposition as you hack and slash your way through the game’s many creatures. It’s rare to see a game weave it’s story and gameplay together so well, but Bastion manages to do this with aplomb.
The downside to Bastion is quite simply, it’s easy. This can be both a blessing and a curse – it won’t take you long to blast through the story. There are side missions and the chance to replay the entire game a second time after completion but the it’s certainly a game that you can feasibly breeze through over at most, a couple of afternoons. The shrine offers buffs for the enemies, making the game a little bit more tricky, but many of your foes can be taken out with markedly similar tactics throughout the game. It’s not a massive issue, especially as the game is enjoyable for it’s short duration. But in the same note, it’s as accessible as anything you like, and behind the game’s pick up and play mechanics are hidden depths that do make it an interesting and enjoyable experience throughout your short time with Bastion.
Verdict: On Target
Platforms available: Xbox 360 (Out now), PC (Release ‘later this year’)
Version reviewed: Xbox 360