Bastion is a game carefully crafted by Supergiant Games. Made by only seven people, how does it stack up?
Bastion was the debut title from Supergiant Games, a studio comprising just seven people. It released for the Xbox 360 in 2011, arriving on PC less than a month later and then on iOS the following year. It made its way to the PlayStation 4 earlier this year, with a Vita release planned before 2016 arrives. It quickly became a cult classic, even within my own household. It was my partner who convinced me to give it a shot, and I am definitely glad he did.
The first thing I noticed about Bastion was the aesthetic. I enjoyed the way the game had been represented via its art style, with all of its beautifully drawn locations. Each one was totally unique, so I never felt as if I were journeying through the same area more than once, or that they had reused anything from old locations in another. This was coupled with what has become one of my favourite game soundtracks of all time; most of its tracks stand well on their own, and make a memorable accompaniment on your journey. It was nice to explore all of these starkly different environments as the story progressed, with the wonderful soundtrack setting the mood in the background.
Bastion has you assume control of the Kid, who at the beginning of the game made his way to a floating island known as the Bastion. The land of Caelondia, just before the story begun, had been broken into pieces by the Calamity. The Calamity’s cause was unknown, and throughout the game, the Kid works to find out what had happened, and see if he can put the pieces of Caeldonia back together and revive its people. He sought the Cores that had scattered across the land’s remnants on the instruction of a man named Rucks. These Cores powered the old continent, and Rucks told the Kid they can be used to activate a device known as the Bastion, which may – or may not – restore the land to its former, pre-Calamity condition.
There were only a handful of characters in Bastion. Because of this, they were well-developed, and it was good getting to know them throughout the game. I grew to love Rucks in particular, as he lent his voice to the entire game, narrating the actions the Kid took as he fought to find the Cores. The game offered some extra levels to expand on each of their backstories, which made for fun additions.
Ruck’s narration was a highlight of my experience with Bastion. Aside from his silky-smooth voice, the narration was context-dependent; it changed depending on the actions you took with the Kid as you played. One time in particular which sticks out in my mind was when I stumbled on a statue of a famous character from the game’s world, and Rucks regaled me with the tale that made him so well known. I promptly destroyed the statue, to which Rucks replied, “Well, I never did like him anyway”. The things he will say to the Kid during battle change depending on how effectively you defeat your opponents as well. Each phrase is unique, such that you won’t hear the same one twice except in subsequent playthroughs. Depending on your actions, you may not even get the same ones when you play the game through again.
One thing that really shined in Bastion were the frequent small details that the developers had paid attention to. I loved Ruck’s narration as much as I did because it added a strong element of flavour to the game, especially as it changed according to how you played the game and the choices you made. Another great one was a gramophone, which was sitting on the ground on the Bastion. Interacting with it caused it to start playing music, and as I moved the Kid towards the left, it got louder in my right earpiece and softer in my left, and vice versa. There were other examples of this level of detail in Bastion, and they were a large part of what made me enjoy this game so much.
The Bastion acts as your hub, with the Kid returning there between each mission. It contains six places the Kid could upgrade whenever he came back with a Core. There were places where he could buy items, as well as change his equipment, active skills, and upgrade his weapons. There was also a Memorial, from which the Kid could take sidequests for extra fragments, which are pieces of the old world which acted as the game’s currency. The Shrine was an interesting building that could increase your play time by a fair bit. It contains a number of gods for the Kid to pray to, who will throw added challenges his way for better rewards and special achievements. I didn’t get into them too much, but they looked as if they would take a while to complete.
The Kid is able to equip two weapons and a secret skill. In battle, he has his regular attack, a more powerful attack that relies on precise button presses, and secret skills. Secret skills consume one Black Tonic, which can be found throughout each level, occasionally being dropped by the Kid’s foes. They’re powerful skills, some specific to one particular weapon, while others were able to be used no matter what the Kid had equipped. The Kid gains experience as he defeated his foes in real-time combat so he could level up, get stronger, and equip more buffs; he was able to get one more buff with each level, for a maximum of ten.
The PC version of the game lets you control the Kid using either a keyboard and mouse combination, or with just your keyboard. I finished Bastion’s main story in just under six hours. It’s worth noting, though, that I missed a large chunk of extra pieces of story because I didn’t explore the game’s world as much as I could have. I also didn’t partake in many of the challenges the game made available. Doing both of these things will easily extend your play time to far more than just the six hours I spent in the core of the game.
For those who may not be particularly good at games but are interested in this one, Bastion offers a ‘No-Sweat Mode’ that makes the game significantly easier. It’s completely optional, so if you want more of a challenge, you can just select the regular mode. I like it when games include options like this, as they make games accessible to more people. Finishing the game on normal mode unlocks a New Game + mode, which will start a fresh game with a fully upgraded Bastion, and allow you to retain your old levels and equipment. Score attack allows you to replay levels as much as you like, aiming to gain as high a score as possible.
Bastion is a well-crafted title that looks and, between its soundtrack and narrator, sounds fantastic. The gameplay is nice and simple, with enough options to keep it interesting and find new ways to play. The shortness of the plot is balanced by the postgame content and extras which can be found in each level, making for excellent replayability. Given how short and well-crafted it is, I would recommend this game to anyone. You can either simply commit to the story and be done with it in half a day, or if you want more, can work through the various challenges or replay old levels to find more content. If you’ve yet to pick up Bastion, I highly advise you do.