Bastion PC review

July 17, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): Supergiant Games
Release Date: August 16, 2011
Platform(s): 360, PC, Mac

Before Bastion even found its way to any online content delivery system, it won many awards and caught the eye of a dozen game developers when it debuted at E3 in 2011. It was hailed as, “the most beautiful game” at E3, and with only a handful of gameplay videos and a brief story overview, this little action-roleplaying game became the title to look forward to in 2011. And when Bastion finally landed into the Steam store, often considered the proving grounds for many indie games, it exploded.

The Good
- Gorgeous visuals: great blend of 3D elements with 2D sprite elements
- Outstanding music, sound effects, and narration
- Truly unique story and world; can explore at your own pace
- Progression grants tougher enemies and more weapons

The Bad
- Some weapons feel out of place or too awkward for practical use
- Somewhat linear storytelling in certain areas of the game
- A few enemies seem way too powerful compared to others
- Isometric view is good, but creates some path finding errors with AI

Within a few hours of picking up the game and getting my first weapons and special skills, I knew Bastion would be included in my list of all-time favorites. Immediately after beating it and seeing how my actions influenced the ending, I started my second play-through. It was simply that good; I didn’t want it to end.

In Bastion, you play the role of a mysterious young man known simply as, “the Kid” who has survived a world-shattering event known as The Calamity. You get to explore exotic areas of the world that have been torn asunder, all while gathering lost pieces of civilization in hopes of rebuilding a society that has been almost completely destroyed. There are barely any character optimization tools other than the weapons you choose, and the gameplay is pretty straightforward in that you explore areas of the map and slay monsters. At times, there is beauty in such simplicity – and Bastion does an incredible job in executing such play style.

The Quality / Quantity Quandary

One thing that Portal taught us is that the length of a game doesn’t have to be a significant factor when dictating quality. Bastion is no exception in this regard – while you can blow through the main story in under 8 hours, it simply isn’t as rewarding as unlocking all of the nifty extras in the process. Since weapons are the primary customization tools within the game, you can opt to complete a series of challenges in different areas of the world and unlock upgrades for your arsenal. The upgrades allow the player to unleash new attacks or simply alter primary powers. In other words, these challenges not only provide upgrades to your choice of weapons, but allow you to explore areas of the world in the process. As you traverse the map and slowly rebuild a world torn asunder, you gain access to buildings that present you with different opportunities to furthermore customize your gameplay experience.

Choices, Choices, and More Choices…

The choice of primary, secondary and special weapons is vital to completing each stage, and each area comes with a new set of enemies and obstacles. While upgrading each of the weapons, you’re given the option of picking previous upgrades (if you wish) without any penalty to your progress. There are a wide variety of weapons to choose from, allowing for a good deal of customization - in terms of how you wish to smash/shoot/explode your way through waves of enemies. There are some weapons that feel particularly cumbersome or wonky, however – such as the Mortar or Machete. Ultimately, it comes down a matter of taste.

Similarly, you can customize the variety of tonics and potions in town, which grant you special bonus attributes and passive benefits that you can’t get anywhere else in the game. With certain levels come certain unique challenges, so changing your weapon setup and tonics in town keeps the gameplay fresh.

Easy, Normal, Hard, or Insanely Difficult?

One of the unique features is the ability to determine your own difficulty setting by invoking the power of the old Gods. As you progress, you gain access to godlike idols and each one provides passive benefits to enemy encounters. “Why the hell would I even have the option to do this?” you’re probably wondering. Well, with each idol you activate, you gain a bonus to currency and the experience (XP) points that you accrue. It’s a unique way to simultaneously determine how difficult and rewarding you want the game to be and it is a great design tool, in my opinion. Each idol can do something simple like making enemies more resilient to damage, or something crazy like exploding when you slay them. The choice is entirely up to you, and while not vital to any part of the game, it adds a certain amount of panache that you’ll be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

Do You Hear the Voices too?

Perhaps the most intriguing and notable thing about Bastion is the use of a narrator throughout the game. Since the Kid has no spoken dialogue, the narrator provides insight into the Kid’s thoughts, actions and emotions. The game developers also used the narrator as a tool to describe events in the game, such as the precursor to a boss fight or the acquisition of new weapons. Regardless of what the narrator says, his voice makes everything you do seem more engrossing. Speaking in a nostalgic tone, his seasoned, raspy voice slowly morphs into a part of the game that you embrace with a fond expectancy. 

Oh My God, So Beautiful

One of the first things you’ll notice about Bastion are the stunning visuals. The title screen alone, with its unique colors and textures, evokes a certain mood that's present throughout the entire game. The artists at Supergiant did an incredible job at creating a cohesive, well-illustrated world that is full of color and emotion. Similarly, the level design is well thought out – with each level having a clear & concise theme, environment and story behind it that help piece together events prior to the Calamity. There are a few problems with the isometric view of the world and the destructible terrain causes some path finding errors, but they are hardly noticeable. Most of the monsters and projectiles that you shoot interact favorably. While Bastion may not boast the complex physics algorithms of Crysis or the polygonal density of the Gears of War character models, it has an elegant charm that many people will find irresistible. 

Review by Jordan Powers

Final Score “Amazing” 9.0
Incredibly creative art style. Absolutely gorgeous environments. Bastion is like an art book.
Using the Godlike statues to adjust difficulty and alter gameplay is a fantastic idea that keeps the game exciting the entire time.
Once you’re done with your first playthrough, you’ll want to immediately revisit Bastion’s world for all the great extras and collectibles.
Outstanding music and voice acting. The narrator ads a ton of character to the Bastion universe.

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