It’s easy to feel like you’re floating when playing Bastion; in fact, due to the Calamity, a catastrophic and harrowing event, the world of Caelondia is now a set of floating islands, and it’s up to The Kid to recreate the Bastion, a safe haven where everyone can go for food, shelter, and answers. But that’s not the real reason for feeling suspended in the air; no, one floats through this colorful and amazing downloadable title because it’s just so freaking special. It begins and makes a home in your heart. It ends, but never leaves you.
Bastion is an action RPG, but it’s greatest strength is in its story, which is paced effectively thanks to the Narrator. Voiced by Logan Cunningham, Rucks the Narrator is both a storyteller and employee for Big Brother, remarking on your every move. Fall off the side of the level? He’ll make a quip. Slash like a maniac with your war machete, murdering a dozen squirts? Be prepared to be called wild and raging. It’s a solid hook, though at times it can be distracting or hard to even hear him over the frantic cries of on-screen enemies and spellbinding soundtrack. Because of this, I missed a few bits of commentary, but thanks to New Game+ got to hear them a second time around, as well as new dialogue made specifically for those on playthrough two.
The game is more action than RPG, but both elements mesh well with each other. The Kid can choose a weapons loadout before heading off to find Shards to complete the Bastion; these include tools of destruction like muskets, hammers, bows, and pistols, as well as a secret skill. All of these weapons can be upgraded with found items and gems, earning stats like 25% more damage or longer ranges/less spread. The Kid himself increases in levels too, with each new level letting you acquiring a new drink from the distillery; these do things like absorb stray fragments (Fetching Fizz), 33% speed while defending (Cinderbrick Stout), or automatically retaliates when injured (Stabsinthe). All of this makes a difference in staying alive and just rolling/slashing your way to an early grave. And be ready to roll a lot; combat can get fast and frantic, but if you know what you’re doing and remember to block now and then, it’s survivable. Of course, if you ever want to up the challenge, turn on some idols.
I won’t go into all of Bastion‘s story details, but it’s a hefty, emotional affair. There comes a time near the game’s end where The Kid will have to make two–not one–major decisions. These are presented blandly on a menu, with some modest flavor text, but they forced me to sit and ponder their individual outcomes more than anything else of late. Watching these choices play out is extremely satisfying; we all play videogames with the hope of completing them, but here, it was more than that. I needed to see what happened next, and not just to get to the credits. I never wanted the credits to scroll, in fact.
As an artist, I have to comment on Jen Zee‘s work in Bastion. Lush, colorful, hand-painted–these all work as adjectives for what makes the game’s visuals pop so much, but I’m sure there’s even better ways to describe. Initially, the look of the game is what bought me; everything from the way the world floated up in front of The Kid to the blurred yet still distinguishable underworlds had a sense of oneness. Even the darker levels let color shine. At times, I wished to zoom in more to get a better look at those crates or gasfellas.
Oh, and I unlocked all the Achievements in the game, which is pretty rare for me. Only a few required some work, but I’ll get to that in another post. Hopefully. Don’t let me forget.
I highly recommend Bastion. For 1200 Microsoft Points (or it’s now on Steam, too), you get an experience unlike anything else, one that continues to resonate long after you’ve completed every Proving Ground, survived every trip to Who Knows Where, and fully upgraded the Bastion itself. Get it, and get restoring the world. Hurry, before Rucks calls you a slacker!