August 1, 2011
Bastion: The Review
This is the second time in a row that the Summer of Arcade has started off with an obscure title that I never really follow until it hits, and they end up being one of my favorite games. Limbo last year caught me off guard with its simple story telling, malevolent world, and platforming game play. This year Bastion is my Limbo, something that completely surprised me in every way and I am better off all for it. Bastion is something that Hollywood and the main stream games industry is lacking, creativity. Bastion oozes goodness out of all its pours to create something unique yet you feel like you have played this before.
The game is an isometric action RPG much in the vein of torchlight or Diablo. You have an active combat system, heath vials, and a combination of ranged and melee weapons, 11 weapons in all. Those weapons are upgradable through finding the right minerals for the right weapons and spending the shards of crystals you obtain by smashing things in the world and enemies. You can roll and jumping becomes available to you late in the game. You have a special ability that is mapped to the right trigger. 20 of these abilities in all, some are weapon specific while others take effect regardless of your load out. After the tutorial you have a central hub know as the Bastion. From there you will choose your destination to progress the story or to head to weapon challenge areas that provide you with practice to hone your skill with a particular weapon and to gain prizes depending on how well you do. As the story progresses you will rebuild the Bastion any way you see fit. Depending on what building you choose to resurrect first will determine your options for upgrading and choosing load outs, etc. The action when out in the world is pretty standard action RPG fare but watching the Kid, the main protagonist, hammer and enemy never got old. Included in the Bastion, once certain items are obtained, there are challenge rooms for you to complete known as “Who Knows Where” that will gain you mass amounts of shards and XP. Towards the end of the game there are a few “choices” that you have to make. They caught me off guard but was pleasantly surprised to see they were grey choices; no right vs. wrong. I feel they were added to make the ending how you wanted it to end, give the user some input on this creative title.
Style is the name of this game and it oozes this stuff out in gallons. The art style is amazing. It is a blend of watercolor and anime that gives it a 16-bit modern feel. The levels come up from right under the Kids feet giving a sense of progression throughout the game. The game is 3-D but lay against a watercolor painting in the background. The art is simply stunning. The real catch to the game is the way the story and action are told throughout by Rucks; a character and narrator. Every time you come to a point that would require narrative or just simply choosing a new load out, Rucks is there with a smooth voice over that never stops the action. It is something so subtle and so well done you will start to hate $60 titles that have horrible voice work even more; I know a few full priced games that should be downright ashamed. Then we come to the music. Oh the music. I have not wanted to go out and buy a soundtrack as bad as this one. The soundtrack was composed by Darren Korb, as is amazing. It is all over the place with its influences but comes together so well. There are Indian, Middle Eastern, European, Japanese, and western influences abound, I would pay $15 for the soundtrack alone; it is that good. I will leave you with a few tracks at the end of the review.
Bastion is a great start to the Summer of Arcade. The only gripe I have with the game is the frame rate stutters when there are plenty of enemies on the screen but this rarely happened. Add in a new game + mode that you unlock when you finish the game and Bastion rounds out an already impressive package. If you are in away a fan of action RPG’s, interactive story telling at its finest, or love to see something truly unique and creative then I implore you to pick up Bastion; could be easily the best game of the summer.
+ Interactive narration
+Fun, upgradable combat
+A visual style like no other
+an amazing soundtrack
+choices, no distinct right or wrong
-Frame rate drops on occasion
Final Score 9/10
Editor’s note: It took me about 8 hours to complete the game. There are different endings as well as a new game+ mode that is available after completion. I could see a few replays down the road. Here is some of the music from the game for you to enjoy.