Review: Bastion – A story teller

The repetition of hearing the same noises and sounds, or walking through a similar looking environment killing the same enemies can be annoying to a point where it can eliminate any desire to continue forward. Bastion’s differentiating feature was the narrator, and to my initial understanding, he would describe every movement my character made. I imagined the narrator spewing lines of worthless dialog like “He swung his hammer, hit the enemy hard, and sent it back to where it came from. He continues walking and walking until he arrives at a door”. Looking back that may have been an exaggeration on my part; I couldn’t help but imagine that it wouldn’t be annoying when it was often described as “Someone narrates everything you do”. However, it’s a rather unfair representation as the narrator is more of a story teller sharing his grand story to whoever was listening. Bastion is not just a game with a narrator; it’s an experience that starts with a simple approach to combat, character progression and art style, and again ends with a simple yet self-reflecting story.

 The Calamity has struck, fracturing the world beneath you, leaving it in pieces for you “The Kid” to put back together again. You head towards the Bastion where everyone has agreed to meet up in case of the Calamity, and on the way there you see that the world reconstructs itself beneath you. Pieces of the ground rise from the depths and form the pathway, on which you walk on.

The hand drawn aesthetic along with the path forming pieces of earth is in itself impressive, as all the vibrant colors and mystery of where to go feels like your exploring, even when each path is generally straight forward. Like the layout of each level, your goal is to rebuild the Bastion, to make the world livable again. As you rebuild the Bastion you gain access to new facilities to help improve your weapons and character. Weapons are assigned to only two buttons, making for fairly basic combat. But to make up for the simplicity, there is a wide range of weapons to choose from, giving you the freedom to combine any two to fit your tastes. It wasn’t until near the end of the game, when I found and tried most of the weapons, that I stuck to a combination I loved.

There’s a lot of variety and a lot to consider, since you can focus on long range, melee or combine the two. All the weapons such as hammers, guns, and projectiles, all behave differently and have strengths and weaknesses. You are constantly learning new things in Bastion, so you never hit that point in the game where you take everything you have learned and just try to perfect it. As you explore, you learn something new, making you want to explore further. For having fairly simple combat, the weapon selection and customization gives the game a lot more depth than I initially had expected.

When you’re satisfied with your weapons choices, you are sent out into the wild, looking to put the world back together again. Here is where majority of the narration happens, slowly describing the situation, but also moving the story forward. It doesn’t seem very significant at first, but the great writing and stellar voice work adds an element that makes you feel even more comfortable. Those moments where he does stop talking though, you wonder where he has gone, almost like you are playing the game alone again. But when he speaks, it creates this atmosphere where you’re being watched, that your actions carry more weight than you had initially thought.

The story and the narration play a larger role in Bastion than to simply act as a gimmick. I wouldn’t say the approach to the entire game is simplistic, it just doesn’t reach a high level of complexity that most games do, yet it doesn’t need it. Everything, from the combat, graphics and especially the music, is executed to the point where finding flaws is only nit picking. The soundtrack by the way, is so memorable, I often found myself humming songs from the last level I played, and even had thoughts (still have them) of buying the original soundtrack. So many different types of tracks all made to properly suit the dark or bright environments, some with lyrics and some without. I was impressed with the lyrical songs; games usually try to stay away from songs that have a singer and focus on strictly instrumental because it can distract the player.

Bastion’s narration proves that it doesn’t annoy the player, but serves as one core piece in delivering an emotional story in a game firmly grounded gameplay depth. Supergiant Game’s first release doesn’t solely rely on a great aesthetic, memorable soundtrack, or a lot of weapons to hold up the entire game, it’s a combination of all these great aspects that makes Bastion an incredible experience. Some might not include downloadable titles when speaking of the year’s great games, but the amount of content and the overall quality comes close to replicating a retail experience. This Summer of Arcade release is not just a must own arcade game, it’s a must own Xbox 360 title.