Tag Archives: Bastion

Transistor’s futuristic city Cloudbank takes a Turn() for the worse

Transistor game final thoughts

It’s been several weeks now since I played and beat Transistor, and since then I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that Supergiant Games’ second outing is no Bastion II. You might already have suspected that based on the look and tone of Transistor, but everything else seems to shout “same mechanics, same style, same story-telling”…alas, it is not so. That’s not to say that Transistor on its own is not a strong, enjoyable experience, but when put side by side with Bastion, a game I absolutely ate up twice and then some, it stands fully in its shadow. Let me explain some more.

One can easily summarize Transistor‘s story, but to detail it out is a much harder task. Cloudbank’s famous singer Red is, without warning, attacked by the Process, a robotic force commanded by a group called the Camerata. During the fight, she’s transported across Cloudbank and gains possession of the very sword used in her assassination attempt, the mysterious Transistor. She takes the Transistor out of the chest of a dead man, but his consciousness and voice are now a part of the Transistor itself, along with Red’s voice. As Red searches for answers, the Camerata continues to track her across the city, demanding the Transistor returned.

Now, truth be told, I got most of that from Wikipedia. If you want to know anything deeper than that, sorry…I’ve got nothing. And I played the game for a few nights in a row, my face only inches away from my struggling laptop’s screen. Alas, the writing is not as sharp and memorable here as it was in Bastion, though I loved the idea of those interactive terminals, but that air of mystery really hangs about like a damning mist, thickening and making it difficult to see where to go. I’m okay with some aspects of the story being vague, but who Red is and why she is going after these people–and who these people are and are about–well…that’s kind of important stuff and shouldn’t be buried in menus or unlocked through superfluous means. In Bastion, you have to rebuild your safe haven, and you get a big choice at the end; in Transistor, you move from one locale to another, constantly fighting, constantly taking in clouded data, and then you have a showdown with, I guess, the person behind your assassination attempt, and I won’t spoil what happens after that, but you guessed it–it’s unclear.

Okay, so I wasn’t super thrilled with how the story actually unfolded in Transistor–or didn’t unfold, if you will–but at least the combat’s interesting. And fun, sometimes. A few fights felt overwhelming and punishing, and you really don’t get a moment to breathe even though you can pause the action. It’s a mixture of real-time combat and frozen planning, referred to as Turn(). Using the latter will drain Red’s action bar, which takes some time to refill, but allows you to plan out each movement more carefully. It’s really nice that you can take as much time as you want and erase previous decisions if things don’t look sunny and bright, just like with Fallout 3‘s V.A.T.S. Red earns what appears to be set experience points after each battle and can collect new powers, known as Functions, from dead victims of the Process. You can equip up to four of these and combine them in multiple ways to create unique and different effects in battle. I played around with the Functions often, swapping in new ones and attaching others elsewhere just to see how battles changed, and there is quite a lot of variety here. I think you need New Game+ to really see everything though.

Just like with Bastion, Transistor gets its monsters right. From the paparazzi-inspired bots that take Red’s snapshot and momentarily obstruct the screen to the shockwave-creating Jerks that will plow you down if you , they are all uniquely designed and each requires special tactics in battle, which makes for some skillful juggling at times. Early on in the game, you’ll find the beach hideaway, which acts as your training grounds zone, as well as a good place to kick back, listen to some sultry jams, and watch the cyber-sun set. I did not end up completing every challenge here, but I did most of them and always visited when the chance popped up. The time-based and plan-based challenges really give you a feel for some specific combat situations, though I wish they resulted in more than just a bump of XP.

As I’m sure we all remember, music and art were a powerful combo in Bastion, and that trend continues here too. The slick, futuristic lighting of Cloudbank presents a city built on power and elitism, while the music is somber and striking, always setting a mood. At any point in the game, you can press a button and have voiceless Red hum along to whatever tune is playing; a small detail, but a powerful one. I wish one could zoom in a little closer on the battles to see some of the monsters better. Oh, and there are these strange, lightly interactive bridging sequences that really show off Jen Zee’s painting skills.

And so I beat Transistor, saw the message that I could begin playing it all over again in New Game+, and quit right away. I haven’t loaded the game back up since. It’s not that I hated my time with it, just that I feel like I experienced everything it has to offer already, and it’s not like the story is going to radically change a second time through. True, it might become clearer, but the fault is then in the cloudy writing, and it shouldn’t take two playthroughs to really grok it all. Anyways, that return romp would be mostly to try out more Function combos in combat and such, but I think I saw–and tried–plenty along the way, with Spark() probably my favorite Function.

Well, as Rucks might say, “I’ll see you in the next one.”

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Games Completed in 2011, #32 – Bastion

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!

Achievements of the Week – The Calamity Hax0r1! Nut Edition

For this week, Achievements popped in only two games, but I also played a lot of Fallout: New Vegas (shocking, I know), as I’m slowly making progress on those ridiculous challenges added into the game via Gun Runners’ Arsenal, as well as aligning myself with Mr. House eventually. A part of me wants to pop in some older Xbox 360 games and go after a few Achievements, like finishing off LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean or doing that one for getting a ton of damage during a single case in L.A. Noire, but I kind of doubt that will happen. Something with my brain is working against me. Maybe though this weekend, seeing as the biggest of plans is pumpkin-picking and drawing.

Okay, here we go…

From Bastion…


Calamity Kid (30G): Complete the story in New Game Plus.

This didn’t take too long and was much easier than the first romp through. Probably because in New Game+ The Kid’s level and distillery drinks and weapon tweaks all carry over. Some levels I previously had trouble on were a breeze, even the dreamy parts of Who Knows Where. That doesn’t mean it was any less enjoyable, as it totally was. This game is constantly and consistently beautiful, sounds amazing, and it a blast to play. Also, it was nice to hear some more lines from the Narrator.

I also got another Achievement–the last one, actually, making for 12 out of 12–but it’s a hidden one and spoilery so that’s all I’ll say.

From Deus Ex: Human Revolution…


Consciousness is Over-rated (15G): Knock out 100 enemies in a single playthrough.


Hax0r1! (15G): Successfully hack 50 devices within the same playthrough.

The hacking mini-game is…interesting. I didn’t really understand it my first few attempts, and truth be told, I still don’t get it now, some 50+ hacks later, but I am better at it. You have to capture a bunch of nodes without getting noticed, and that’s made a whole lot easier with some Augmentation purchases. Hacking is a pretty important skill for getting into locked places, shutting off cameras, and reading people’s emails.

Also, this one’s definitely a contender for Achievement name of the year.


Gun Nut (20G): Fully upgrade one of your weapons.

I upgraded the tranquilizer rifle so that it reloads faster and fires better. Not that it’s doing me any good. Playing stealthy is one hill after another, and I’m just so ready to go tumbling down to the ground below. Next playthrough, I’m upgrading the shotgun fully and then taking everyone out with a single blast to the face.

And how did you do this week? If you don’t speak up in the comments below, I’ll never know.

Achievements of the Week – The Voyage of the Mind Edition

For awhile there, it was looking like there would be no Achievements of the Week update this week. I only got to play the ol’ Xbox 360 for the first time last night, giving Portal‘s advanced test chambers another swing and then moving forward in my second playthrough of Bastion. Otherwise, the only reason the Xbox 360 was turned on during these last seven days were to watch LOST, The Wonder Years, Frasier, and my favorite episode of Parks and Recreation (“The Fight” if you were curious). Not a terrible reason to hit the on button, but I do wish I could fit in more gaming time; alas, I’m losing my mind and slipping into an even deeper depression, making the things that were once easy and likable a little harder to enjoy…

Right. Achievements. Time to write about ’em.

From Bastion…


Mind Voyager (20G): Complete each trip to Who Knows Where.

Just my two cents, but don’t bother going for this during your first playthrough. Chances are, The Kid won’t be a high enough level to survive, nor will his weapons be fully powered, his distillery fully stocked, and his number of lootable health potions increased. All those things are vital to making it back to the Bastion each time. You basically make three trips to Who Knows Where, and each trip consists of 20 rounds of fighting swarms of monsters; after each round is finished, Bastion‘s narrator will give away another tidbit about the world and its characters, providing pertinent background on stuff like the Ura and Zulf.

I beat all three with the War Machete and Scrap Musket combo, utilizing the Final Warning secret skill a lot; the first two were rather easy, but the final one against the Ura was a dang struggle, as those dudes zoom in fast for the kill, often draining The Kid’s health bar strikingly fast. And potions don’t grow on trees, only getting dropped every other Reflection. Also, make sure you’re a pro at rolling.


Altruist (20G): Complete 100 percent of the Vigils in the Memorial.

This isn’t too hard actually, and thankfully many of the completed ones from the first playthrough carry over on New Game+. There are only a few Vigils–challenges, basically–that can be a bit tough. Namely, The Dynasty (Earn first prize in seven Proving Grounds) and The Faith (Complete a trip to Who Knows Where with at least one God activated). Other than that, everything else comes naturally as you progress. Just make sure you do all of them before moving on to the last stage, as that’s the point of no return.

And that’s it for this week’s AotW. Stay tuned for next week’s edition, which will most certainly feature the remaining two Achievements in Bastion, as I plan on completing this beautiful baby over the weekend. If not, may a new Calamity strike me down.

How’d y’all do this week? Get that Achievement in Rage for horrible texture pop-ins? Slaaaaaaaaaam.

Achievements of the Week – The Big Bad Beat Bastion Edition

This week, I ended up beating two games. Well, one game I beat for the third time, which is nothing terribly exciting, and the other is one that somehow fell off my radar for two months. I apologize, Bastion. I apologize immensely. You’re so freakin’ gorgeous. I want to bath in your colors, and I want to hear Logan Cunningham reflect on my bathing choices, my three-in-one shampoo. I want to…hmm, okay, think I will stop this freaktrain before it derails…

Turns out, I was actually very close to completing Bastion before I forgot all about it so there wasn’t much further to go. Other than that, didn’t play too much Xbox 360. Some nights, it’s hard to plop down on the couch and game away; much easier to hide inside my studio bent over my laptop, clicking the minutes away, keeping the sadness at bay. Click, click, click.

From Fallout: New Vegas…


The Whole Gang’s Here (25G): Recruited all companions.

Already babbled about this one here.


Rocket’s Red Glare (25G): Acquired all upgrades for the Divide’s signature weapon.


Eureka! (15G): Completed Eureka!

This is the Achievement that pops when you complete the game by siding with NCR until the very end. I had little trouble beating the game on my third playthrough, as Kapture, at level 43, was fairly overpowered and carrying some crazy Energy weapons thanks to the Old World Blues DLC. Plus, I had ED-E at my side. I also had Lily, but she turned out to be pretty useless save for absorbing some bullets that would’ve first hit me.

Currently working on my fourth playthrough where Mr. House will get all my love and affection. Though there is a challenge to murder him with a golf club. Hmm…I could always save and reload…

From Bastion…


Kid-at-Arms (10G): Use the Forge to apply at least one upgrade to every weapon.


Vigilante (10G): Complete at least 50 percent of the Vigils in the Memorial.

I think Vigilante is a pretty common name for an Achievement. I know I previously unlocked it in Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: The Game and LEGO Batman, and I’m sure it’s out in a bunch of other titles. Know any off the top of your head?


The End (20G): Complete the story.

Won’t go into too much detail here, as I’ll save a lot of thoughts for a final writeup of the completed game, but…wow. Talk about evoking a mood and emotions from the player. The endgame has two major decisions to make, and they are major; I sat for a bit, staring at the screen, truly thinking about which way I should go. Both choices had their pros and cons, their reasons for being, and it was ultimately up to the Kid to finish things. And there’s this song…this heart-piercing piece of music paired perfectly with the weight the Kid has to carry. Like the haunting conclusion to The Saboteur, I can’t get it out of my head.

There’s a New Game+ option in Bastion, and I’m doing it, which is rare these days, because I’m downright curious to see what the other final choices reveal. Not just about the Kid or Caelondia, but also about me.

That’s it from me. How’d y’all do this week with Achievements? Speak up in the comments section below!

Stress is creeping in at the cracks

I’ve not been having a good week so far, and the stress is eating at me from beneath my skin; it’s only a matter of time until I am nothing more than walking bones, another mindless automaton for some hero–some chickabiddy in shiny, expensive armor–to slay. A few swipes of the sword and down I’ll go, surely, a pile of my former self. I’d fight back, but the thing with skeletons is that they draw no conclusions of their own and take no initiative. And sorry, hero, but I don’t drop any good loot. Unless you’re looking to craft something from my bones. By all means, please do. Give my existence kind of purpose because, as of late, I’m beginning to believe I don’t have one.

This horrible mindset is what blossoms when you spend day after day changing your old mailing address to your new mailing address to only discover, much to your horror, that only some mail is coming through, some is being returned to sender, and that if I want to get a better guarantee on mail being delivered to Grimmauld Place, a form for the USPS has to be filled out. A form. However, I also then got confirmation from the USPS that my new mailing address has been confirmed. Whaaa. Conflicting information is conflicting. Also, this is the first time in, oh, like 10+ years of receiving mail that I’ve had to fill out a form for envelopes to get stuffed into a tiny box. I’d ignore all this hassle and get a P.O. box at the local office, but I already went to a lot of trouble with changing addresses and paying cash-money for mail to be forwarded. Fun times.

Which, I guess, leads us to videogames. Seems like with each day that passes, Grinding Down becomes a little less focused on solely gaming, with my personal life creeping in at the cracks. To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about this, but it’s somewhat inevitable. As a 28-year-old being, I can no longer just play games all day long. I have to sleep, to eat, to go to work, to work, to come home from work, to eat, to shower, to try and make a name for myself–whether through art or writing or simply having everything fall magically and happily into place–and then sleep again. Gaming was a whole lot easier when it was just that: playing a game for as long as I wanted. Maybe taking a break because it was dinner time, and Mom made her marvy tuna noodle casserole, but then kicking back for the remainder of the night for some grinding or item collecting or what-have-you. Now, not only is there the actual videogame to consider, but the game of balance, of time, of giving all you can safely give.

This week, I’ve been using my videogames as both a distraction and dose of relaxation. They are a reward for what little success–or failure–I accomplish every day, and I’m so thankful for them. Don’t want to know what kind of monster I’d turn into without ’em; certainly something worse than a skeleton and bigger than a breadbox.

Getting lost again in Bastion‘s colorful world of Caelondia was heavenly, and I’m already ankle-deep in New Game+ mode, focusing on completing all those mini-challenges in the Bastion’s Shrine. It’s fun to discover the narrator saying different things the second time around, and the button-mashing is actually surprisingly therapeutic. Sometimes it’s more than button-mashing, but for the most part, you just wipe out everything in your path, and a single button pushed over and over again can do that. Watch out, Squirts. The Kid…is back, and he’s got a machete leveled up to the max.

Just finished up my third complete playthrough of Fallout: New Vegas, siding with NCR all the way to the end. Immediately after skipping the credits, I created a fourth dude named Rhaegar who will ultimately be the pawn for siding with Mr. House and getting to try out all those new weapons in the Gun Runners’ Arsenal DLC. Here’s the tagged skills I selected for this build: Guns, Lockpick, and Explosives. If only explosives actually blew doors off their handles and cracked open safes, then I wouldn’t need Lockpicking, but alas, that skill is vital for both XP and moving forward.

And then there’s been some more adventuring in Chrono Trigger. Right now, the game is saved outside a place imaginatively called…Magic Cave. I’m saving that experience for the right time, which could very well be tonight. I don’t know. We’ll see if I even make it home alive; the stress, the stress. It’s still eating at me right now.

Achievements of the Week – The Welcome Home Edition

Oh look, another week at Grinding Down coming to a close. These things just sort of creep on me. Like creepy creepers. Like your hairy uncle that drinks too much at family gatherings. Um…

Right, moving on. Did I play more Deus Ex: Human Revolution and scour China for all of its secrets? Nope. Did I continue on with Mafia II to sneak into some government building and steal gas stamps? Nope. Did I get back into Bastion after going silent on the game for many, many weeks? Nope. Did I play the latest DLC for Fallout: New Vegas? You bet your sweet buttocks I did. And that’s basically all I played. Still dealing with a lot of stress and lack of time/energy. Hopefully, after the next few weeks, that will all be in the past. Hopefully.

From Fallout: New Vegas…


Condemned to Repeat It (20G): Decided the fate of all the Divide Dwellers


Hometown Hero (30G): Completed Lonesome Road.

So far, until more FAQs come out and the wikia is expanded, there are two ways that I know of for dealing with Ulysses, the final boss of Lonesome Road. And they are…

::SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS::

You can talk your way through it, first needing a speech skill check of 90, and then who knows what else after that. Or you can kill him. But to do so, you must first deal with a swarm of medical eyebots that are constantly healing him and constantly respawning, as well as a seemingly endlessly attack from marked men. Chances are you have ED-E with you, but he goes down very fast. Trying to take on Ulysess, two to three eyebots, and at least two marked men at once eats up a lot of stimpaks. There are machines that will stop the eyebots from spawning, but you need a 100 in either Repair or Science to do so. Guess which three skills my character Kapture neglected to focus on during this playthrough? Speech, Science, and Repair.

Basically, I was screwed, and this became even more evident after failing the fight over ten times and trying every tactic in the book. Actually, there was one final tactic left: I changed the difficulty from Normal to Very Easy. Sigh. Not ideal, but it worked; I used Pew Pew to weaken Ulysses farther than ever before and then turned him to ash with a well-timed V.A.T.S. headshot.

After that, there’s some choices involving a nuke, which, even though I clearly labeled this section as spoilery, I will not go into. Maybe another post. They’re pretty interesting, and from what I can tell, actually have a lasting effect when returning to the Mojave Wasteland.

But yeah, between Ulysses and Deus Ex: Human Revolution‘s Barrett, I’m not having a great time with boss battles lately. Why can’t we all just eat cake and talk about how great The Beatles are and then end the night with songs around the campfire? I mean, really.

That’s it from me. How did y’all do this week? I’m guessing many of y’all played Gears of War 3 since that was the big name to drop recently. Let everyone know what Achievements you unlocked in the comments below!