You know how normally in video games, the player is tasked with saving the world from utter annihilation? Well, Bastion does things a bit differently and starts right after that moment in time, with the player being tasked to saving what is left of his world, following a cataclysmic event.
Bastion really doesn’t need me to review it. The game has been out for five years by now and it’s made quite the name for itself but the thing is, I love this game so much that I simply want to share my thoughts about it.
You know how normally in video games, the player is tasked with saving the world from utter annihilation?
Well, Supergiant Games do things a bit differently and start us right after that crucial moment in time, with the player being tasked with saving what is left of the world, following a cataclysmic event.
Bastion features a vibrantly colored and wonderfully hand-painted world. The art style reminded me of Torchlight to a certain degree, but with considerably more saturated colors.
I believe the creators wanted to use this art direction as a means of contrasting the fact that their story takes place after an apocalyptic event. Simply because something has to do with the end of the world, it doesn’t necessarily have to be all gloomy and gritty wasteland. It does help that we’re set quite firmly in a fantasy setting, with weird things happening and existing at every step.
You play as the Kid, a rather nondescript character meant to allow the developers to both have a named protagonist in their story, while at the same time allow players – both male and female – to identify with him.
As the Kid, you’ll have to smash, slice and shoot your way through several interesting and diverse-looking levels, dealing with a plethora of different enemies. Each enemy is more susceptible to certain types of weapon damage and likewise, the Kid is capable of wielding various weapons and skills for them.
Your overall goal is to rebuild the game’s namesake, the Bastion, it being the last remaining piece of the great city of Caelondia.
The game uses the theme and the aftermath of the Calamity as an overall game design approach. For instance, the maps are loaded square-by-square, you literally see them as they appear out of the nothingness caused by the Calamity to offer the Kid some very shaky ground to quest through. Also, due to the nature of this event, the entire environment got imbued with the energy that used to power Caelondia. Smashing your surroundings results in resources which you’ll be using to upgrade your weapons.
There’s a bit of a selection in terms of weapons and related abilities that you can mix and match. Similarly there are some buffs that you can equip, the longer you play the game, the more of these buffs you can stack.
However, your success will largely depend on you mastering how to use these weapons and abilities. Thankfully the game offers special training stages. These will teach you how to better use your weapons and abilities.Not only that but the game is also courteous enough to reward you for your efforts with in-game items as well.
Bastion is made of atmosphere
In all honesty though, I haven’t really described anything special until now. We have seen this type of action-RPG-lite approach before. What sets Bastion aside from the bulk of the similar offerings isn’t the story or the gameplay mechanics, it is how it tells that story and how it creates an engrossing atmosphere.
And atmosphere is what makes Bastion the great experience that it is.
A great voice narrates your actions as you journey through the game. And I don’t mean there’s a voice over narrating the character dialogue or providing info dumps. I mean. it does that, and does it wonderfully but the narrator’s voice is actually that of a character within the game world telling the story of the Kid and the rebuilding of the Bastion. When you’re playing, you’re glad it is there, sometime explaining what’s going on and why, and usually describing things that just happened regardless of how random they might seem.
The narrator’s voice brings an extra layer of immersion into the game while at the same time being somehow removed from it, it offers a type of external interaction that you, as a player, can only observe and not actively take part in.
Music and sound are a large part of a game’s atmosphere and for a game that is made mostly of atmosphere, these parts are some major players. And in the case of Bastion’s soundtrack, it does not disappoint, not one bit.
Each zone of the game world features its own particular type of theme, with the music changing to fit the events on screen – for instance when it comes to boss fights. One characteristic that comes out of the soundtrack is that it cannot really be classified as any ONE genre. It obviously takes inspiration from a bunch of places, ranging from Oriental sounds to those more commonly associated with the Old West. Blends them together into a raw and visceral sound that is meant to go hand in hand with the story and the game world.
Where the already good soundtrack excels is with the songs that feature lyrics, with two of them catching my attention in particular. One is sung by a female voice – Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme), the other by a male voice – Mother I’m Here (Zulf’s Theme). Two very different songs both in nature as well as in message, until you listen to the soundtrack a couple of times and realize that they are in fact two parts of the same song that is present later on in the soundtrack. Setting Sail, Coming Home (Final Theme). Listening to these songs still elicits an emotional response from me and the response isn’t even linked to events in the game, I listened to the entire soundtrack without finishing the game. The emotional response is due exclusively to the songs on their own. They are that good.