- Street Date:
- July 20th, 2011
- Reviewed by:
- Chad Goodmurphy
- Review Date:1
- December 10th, 2011
- Game Release Year:
- Xbox 360
- Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
- Supergiant Games
- ESRB Rating:
- E10+ (Everyone 10 and older)
Dating back to the debut of the video game industry, our favourite interactive experiences have been scrutinized by those on the outside of the community. Although certain films are considered to be works of art, many believe that this medium should never be mentioned alongside that classy term. Though, as gamers, we all know that is bogus and elitist, as well as evidence of snobbery. Like you, I’ve played through many games, which I would consider to be art. One of those is Bastion, which is available on PC and Xbox LIVE Arcade.
The Game Itself: Our Reviewer's Take
Developed by the folks from Supergiant Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive, Bastion tells the story of a world in turmoil. A catastrophic event known as the Calamity, has destroyed most of the city of Caelondia, turning its citizens into hardened ash, while unleashing dangerous creatures. This occurrence has ties to a previous war between two races, exploring a devastating side of racism.
Gamers control a mute hero who is simply known as, The Kid. He awakens one day to find that everything he knew has been destroyed and/or altered, including his neighbours. His home was spared, alongside the local watering hole, but almost every inch of his beloved city is infested with dark and dangerous baddies. The only way to get through is to take up arms. Thankfully, his trusty hammer and bow aren’t far away.
Worried that a terrible event like this could occur at some point, the residents of Caelondia agreed on a meeting place. Their chosen stronghold was the Bastion – a floating island set safely away from the city’s walls. Unfortunately, when The Kid gets there, he quickly realizes that he’s the only one who made it. At least, apart from Rucks, who acts as a mentor and gruff narrator within the game’s campaign.
Once the shock wears off, our mute hero comes to the realization that the safe land he’s fled to has also seen some wear as a result of the Calamity. In an attempt to revitalize it, he sets out to the floating island outskirts of his land, hoping to bring back resurgence in the form of core crystals. Though, that isn’t the only reason for his trek: The Kid also hopes to figure out what triggered the seemingly unnecessary devastation. Thankfully, he gets his answers amidst danger-filled combat, although we won’t spoil anything here.
Necessary genre classification pegs Bastion as an action-RPG. It employs classic mechanics, allowing players to use a bevy of different close and long-range weapons to deal hit point damage against ugly foes. Two buttons are linked to combat, with one weapon able to be hot linked to each. This means that you can essentially create and customize your favourite combination of damage dealers, including a hammer, sword, musket, rifle, mortar gun, hunter’s pole and rocket launcher. Some of that stuff is certainly different from standard role-playing game fare; especially titles that fall under the fantasy setting like this one does. However, they all fit into this experience pretty well.
There aren’t any save points to be found, which doesn’t result in any sort of frustration. In fact, each stage is short enough that a save option is unnecessary. At the journey’s onset, the Kid has three health potions he can use, alongside special move tonics. They can be re-filled, with an inventory upgrade option. You use those to replenish your health fully, whenever it’s diminished, with continue options present when everything runs out. Both are helpful in survival challenges, which occur a total of three times.
Although Bastion isn’t an overly difficult game, there are sections that can become challenging. The key is to use evasive rolls and shield block counters, in order to gain the advantage over varied types of enemies. There are quite a few different species to be found in the game’s varied landscapes, with each one having its own unique defeat mechanics. Most of the time, it boils down to baiting then evading. However, you will occasionally fall off the map doing this. Luckily, your avatar only receives minimal health loss as a result of his seemingly deadly plunge.
Playing through this title reminded me of gaming yesteryears – specifically the sixteen-bit era. Bastion is very reminiscent to the style of action-RPGs we saw back then, although it’s certainly a heck of a lot more visually attractive. Not to mention the fact that it also employs a somewhat unique landscape design system, as player progression results in platform creation. As you walk forward, pathways form out of thin air. Exploration is key, in order to find paths that go off the beaten path, although you’ll also find some dead ends.
Both of the hero’s goals are intertwined, providing great reason to explore every area to its fullest. Those who do, will find hidden collectibles, which can then be used to upgrade weaponry. This can be done in the Bastion, where returned cores open up building areas. Build a forge to upgrade your arsenal, or choose one of the other varied huts. For example, the distillery provides stat-altering tonics per each level upgrade, and a built memorial presents unique challenges to complete. These places become vital in allowing players to customize their experience.
Those who download Bastion at its affordable fifteen-dollar price tag, will be in for a digital treat, which is noticeably different from most recent releases. The best thing is that, while it’s unique in mechanical terms, the designed game play included within is also of quality. It’s hard to fault the way that things work, although there could have been a bit of extra variety added in. Some sections can become slightly repetitive, but not to a point where it’s a major issue. A couple of the available weapons can also be a bit cumbersome at times.
The Video: Sizing Up the Picture
The art team behind Bastion’s artistically drawn art style needs to be commended for its great work. In my opinion, this game is one of the best-looking titles available on the Xbox LIVE Arcade service. Its visuals are unique, creative, rich and diverse. Enemy designs also follow that same suit, with some very interesting creations presented. That’s the case for the most part, although there happen to be a couple which could’ve used a bit of added innovation. Though that admittedly happens to be far from a major complaint.
Going into descriptors, one could refer to the game’s hand-drawn art style’s effects as being a mixture of cell-shading and anime inspiration. However, the Japanese influence isn’t overly prevalent, meaning that the experience features an art style that is more modern North American than anything else. Its cell-shaded features take prominence.
Thankfully, Bastion plays as well as it looks. It also runs with similar quality, with incredibly rare frame rate drops acting as the only noticed performance issue. Those moments of slowdown are so infrequent, that they’re almost not even worth mentioning. When that issue occurs, it’s very minor and doesn’t last for long.
The Audio: Rating the Sound
Not only is Bastion one of the best-looking downloadable games around; it’s also one of the best sounding titles in that category. The folks behind its sound made effective use of an audio versus silence balance. In doing so, they gave the experience character, charm and mystery – all of which it exudes in spades, with the help of quality sound effects.
The entire game is narrated by Rucks; an old man who was mentioned previously in this review. One of the only survivors of the Calamity, he’s a knowledgeable man with a hidden past. His narration is incredible, to say the least. Almost every action that The Kid completes is detailed audibly, using gruff lines that feature a ton of charm, and minor hints of humor. A great example is, “The Kid just rages for a while.” However, his narration also includes tons of back-story talk, which is both interesting and well written.
Last, but certainly not least, is the original score that pops-up occasionally throughout this colourful title. There are some quality orchestral tunes, although the most memorable songs happen to be two originally created songs by vocal performers. You’ll hear each one more than once. However, neither one becomes annoying or repetitive, which says a lot about how great those two tunes are. In fact, they could easily be two of the best original songs found in any game released this generation.
In order to get all of the achievements in this game, two play throughs are required. The final moments of the experience offer two different moral choices, which impact your concluding Gamerscore award. There also happens to be a new game plus mode, where earned skills, weapons and levels are kept for another campaign completion attempt. This option increases the title’s replay value, especially since it has its own achievement to unlock.
Even if you’re not into achievements or anything of the sort, Bastion is gripping and memorable, meaning that it’s the type of game that will be booted up more than once. In the argument revolving around whether video games are art, it serves as a prime piece of evidence, providing content that will wow those who don’t normally play interactive games. Regardless of that fact, most gamers will want to give it another shot sometime, because it’s just that good.
If you haven’t already purchased Bastion, then you’re certainly missing out. This is a high-quality game, which demands that every lover of quality video games gives it a chance. Although it has a couple of minor issues, this relatively lengthy and high quality downloadable game is a home run in digital form. Don’t pass it up, or else you’ll miss out on one of the best experiences of the year and, perhaps one of the best of this generation.
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