Bastion

BastionI picked up Bastion as part of the Humble Indie Bundle V in early April 2012. It’s a two-dimensional isometric action RPG. You play “the Kid”. A catastrophic event, referred to as The Calamity, has broken the city of Caelondia. As a survivor, you head to the Bastion, where everyone is supposed to go in times of trouble. Once there you find Rucks, apparently the only other survivor, and you being the adventurous sort he sends you off on the Skyway to other remnants of the city and surrounding lands to find the cores with can be used to power the Bastion and rebuild.

The first thing you encounter in this game is the narrator, which you learn quite quickly is Rucks. But what makes the narrator awesome is that unlike other games where narration fires off based on events or locations – i.e. you cross a certain doorway and a block of narration kicks in telling you about the place you’ve just entered – it is also based on your actions. When you first get into the game, your character is in bed. If you do nothing, nothing happens, but the moment you move the controls and the Kid gets up, the narrator fires off something like “the Kid gets out of bed”. Later, when I was in a room full of boxes, taking my time to destroy them all and collect the items the game uses for money, the narrator said, “the Kid rages around, destroying everything in his path” or something close to it. If you double back on your path too many times it might say, “the Kid wasn’t sure where he was going, but he was getting there fast”. If you run past enemies rather than fighting them you might get a “the Kid was moving fast, no looking back”. It adds an element to the game that other narrations don’t simply because the narration is based on my actions (or lack thereof) and not just my location.

Being an RPG means that you have to level and upgrade your character. You get to improve your weapons, adding extra abilities and special properties, as well as equip the Kid with things that improve him directly. And it wouldn’t be an RPG without choices, so you only get to have two weapons and one special attack at a time, which you can swap out at an armory. To augment this, in addition to the normal game levels, there are a series of Proving Grounds designed for each weapon where you can practice using them as well as earn more bonuses by beating the third, second and first place goals. I really like this mechanic that lets me step out of the story and go play a little, improving both my skill at the game as well as earning new upgrades to my weapons.

The art style of the game is beautiful. Sometimes I just want to stare at the screen. Most of the game play shots below were actually taken during my second play through, in the New Game Plus mode where you get to keep your levels and everything from the regular game, because I was too busy enjoying the game, the play and the graphics, to remember to hit the F12 key.

I made it through the first run through in a little over 11 hours, which feels about right for the story. It never got boring, the pace never dragged, and I never needed to needlessly grind out cash. That last point is important. Being an RPG, you have to buy stuff – weapon upgrades and skills and such – and while you don’t earn enough money to buy everything, you also don’t need everything to finish the game.

As I said above, once you finish the first play through you get the option to do it again while keeping your previous levels, meaning you’ll be able to finish buying everything and get to level 10 – I only got to 6 the first time around. I look forward to continuing playing the game, getting all the items and seeking to get the Steam achievements.

Another great element of the game is the music. Instrumentals, songs with voices & lyrics. When I got the game I also got the soundtrack, which can be purchased through Steam, and it’s good enough that I’m certain I will listen to it even outside of game.

All in all, from top to bottom, I really enjoyed Bastion and would recommend it to others. What a great little game. Now, before I go, enjoy these screenshots. Be warned, a few of the artistic cut scene shots might be considered spoilers.

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