Version played: XBLA
Also available on: PC, Chrome Web Store.
Publishers: Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment.
Developers: Supergiant Games.
Time played by reviewer: 20+ hours
Anyone who has known me and my gaming career in the last 20 odd years will know that ‘indie’ games were not something I was interested in. It was all about the big titles like Sonic, Tomb Raider and Call of Duty etc.
Then I discovered Bastion.
Bastion is set in a post-apocalyptic world after an event called The Calamity. You play the role of a silent protagonist called The Kid who wakes up to find that the city of Caelondia has been broken up into floating islands, and as you move The Kid through his journey to the Bastion, the world is rebuilt under his feet. All the while the Narrator is telling the story as it happens.
Don’t worry, there are no major spoilers!
It starts off with a simple but effective tutorial that is cleverly intertwined with the story. Purposely drip feeding you the controls. The controls are the epitome of simple. Hit X to smash something, press B to shoot something else and so on.
When you return to the Bastion you learn that it needs rebuilding too and you are the only one who can achieve it by going out and hunting down Cores. The Cores are then inserted into the Monument which in turn opens up sections where you can build various structures such as The Armoury or The Distillery. It’s in these structures that you can purchase upgrades and other bonus’ using fragments that you collect on your journey.
The style of Bastion is one of the things that first grabbed my attention. It has a steampunk appearance to it but uses a very bright, colourful palette and adopts an isometric view. The various floating islands have their own style, whether it is of abandoned cities, green forests or burning landscapes, which are populated with their own style of enemy.
The isometric angle gives a good all round view of the world, making it easy to see where the next attack is coming from or items that need collecting. Sometimes however it is easy to forget that you can fall off the edge of the island, which did give me a little chuckle when The Kid is then dropped back onto the island on his face! No, seriously I laughed for ages!
Aside from the story driven islands there are also individual weapon training islands where you can practice using each of the death dealing tools that you find on your travels. Each training island also has a score to beat so you can unlock upgrades and special weapon skills to help you out of the many sticky situations you will find yourself in.
There are eleven weapons to find and upgrade but I beat the game with just two and felt that the other weapons were just something to collect to help with longevity but found it a little tedious trying to get all the upgrades etc.
However, it is, by far, the soundtrack that stands out as the best part of this indie hit. With some haunting yet beautiful tunes to further immerse you into the world of Bastion.
One of my most favourite parts is during the story. A gramophone appears in the Bastion and it gives you the ability to cycle through the soundtrack, in game, at the press of a button. I lost many hours just sitting in the Bastion enjoying the calming music.
The stand out tune has to be Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme) sung by Ashley Barrett who has a hauntingly beautiful voice and which had me humming this tune day and night.
Incidentally Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme) won The Best Song in a Game Award at the 2011 Spike Video Games Awards while the whole soundtrack won Best Original Score so don’t just take my word for it.
Bastion is a very polished article with a great look to it and an engaging story that makes you care about what happens to the world and its inhabitants. The Narrator also adds something special, just like Morgan Freeman did in Shawshank Redemption. Yes there are bits which I felt dragged on and were unnecessary, like the weapons and their upgrades but I guess that’s my curse for wanting to complete everything!
I feel that without the soundtrack, Bastion would just be another good XBLA title but thankfully it does have it and it adds something that few XBLA, or even some full retail titles have.
It is very rare for me to purchase indie titles as I said before but Bastion is a game that can easily sway gaming sheep like me that only follow the triple A shepherd.