Bastion

Title: Bastion
 Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Publisher(s):
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer(s):
Supergiant Games
Genre(s):
Action RPG
Release Date:
20/7/2011
ESRB Rating:
10+
Overall Rating: 4/5

 

Tom Towers (PC) and Mike Lewis (360) come together to form Mike Towers: a game reviewing Voltron that doesn’t afraid of anything.

 
 A proper review’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.  

 A proper review’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.

 

 

  The Bastion is where you go when things go wrong. Very wrong. Well, things have gone very wrong, and The Kid finds himself alone. He wakes up in bed and makes his way through the sky, the world being built around him. Pathways, walls, and buildings fall into place as if at his will as he goes in search of the Bastion. Of course it’s not long before he finds the Bastion. He finds a stranger there and they set about saving the world. How? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see, but everything depends on The Kid.
  The Bastion serves as the game’s hub. From here you will travel to each level in your search for cores: mysterious objects that power the Bastion. Often when you find the core at the end of the level the world that you just helped grow into life again will begin to crumble: you are its resurrection and its death. It gives the world an organic, living feel. The flimsiness of your surroundings (it helps matters that you can just rage for awhile and break nearly everything in sight!) gives the environment a real sense of, well, realness.
  Caelondia was a beautiful city. One that is wonderfully realised by the game’s painterly style, and slick animation. But it’s one that has been devastated. You’ll come across a few people here and there. They’re nothing but dust, and the only interaction you can have with them is to scatter their ashes. It’s just a little bit tragic.
  As you make your way through the ghostly remnants of town you’ll naturally be doing a lot of killing along the way! But even the enemies have this same wonderful sense of tragedy to them; they are victims of the calamity just as much as The Kid and the stranger are. They are just trying to survive and find a place for themselves in this new world. Even the birds, beasts and squirts seem like autonomous victims of the calamity working and struggling for survival. And the cores. They want the cores too.
  It gives your actions far more weight than if The Kid was just slaying stupid beasts in his quest to save the world. It’s for their good of course, as the stranger reminds you, but will the end justify the means? Well, you’ll just have to keep going to find out!

 

 
Running into that wall won’t break it, but raging certainly will!  

Running into that wall won’t break it, but raging certainly will!

 

 

So just how does the Kid go about collecting the precious cores, and defeating the nefarious beasts who want all the power for themselves? That’s right, it’s a healthy dose of the old hack’n’slash. If you’re going to rely on such a traditional gameplay style, you have to make sure you execute (pardon the pun) it well. And Bastion pulls it off with style and grace, not to mention a nice array of weaponry. No-one will be surprised to find both up close and personal and ranged weapons here, but they still provide plenty of variety. Slow but powerful hammer? Yep. Quick but slightly underpowered machete? Yep. Quick draw duelling pistols? Yep. 19th century type musket? Umm, strangely yep. All the weapons do have a different feel and force changes in your play style, that help prevent what is relatively repetitive gameplay from ever becoming stale or dull. You can also choose RPG style upgrades for the weapons as the game progresses, and rather neatly you can switch between the different upgrades whenever you return to the Bastion itself.
  A little more about the Bastion here – as you restore the living, beating heart of the place, you can rebuild various buildings that affect your progress and allow you to purchase weapon upgrades, new skills and items, or just allow you to have a bit of a stroll around to take it all in and appreciate what you’ve achieved. Along with the arsenal and the forge (whose functions should be self-explanatory) there are other buildings such as the shrine, which can be a real game changer. Essentially along your journey you can collect ‘idols’. These idols can be activated in the shrine to basically increase the difficulty of certain game aspects, in return for more rewards and higher XP. One idol for example decreases the damage you dole out to enemies, while another gives your foes powers of health regeneration.

 
This is the Bastion; looking nicely done up too!  

This is the Bastion; looking nicely done up too!

 

 

 The idols also drastically alter the way you play which makes things stay fresh even on New Game Plus in which you can play through the game again with your stats and equipment from your first playthrough! Not all the idols are stat modifiers either. One for example results in enemies exploding when you’ve killed them so that you’ve got to kill then dodge, and another results in enemies periodically mirroring your attacks so they’re sent flying back in your face which completely  changes the dynamics of offence, and means you have to rely a lot more on defence. And there’s plenty more too! Things can get a little hectic when you’ve got your musket rounds being blown back in your face while a thousand peckers have you under projectile barrage, and it’s times like these that you might just roll off the edge of the world.
  Moving around can be a bit awkward when playing with the WSAD set-up which for most PC gamers will probably be the most natural set-up, though it’s not the only one of course! There’s also a set-up where you can move around with the mouse; I found it a tad awkward as the transition between movement and aiming ranged attacks was not so smooth, but if I had invested more time in it I probably would have got used to it.
  The problem with WSAD is that the pathways don’t follow the same, sharp angles that the keyboard’s keys do. It’s not usually a problem, but when things get hectic on thin pathways it’s very easy to fall to your death…just kidding! You’ll then fall from the sky, and hopefully onto an enemy damaging it in the process! Though you take a little hit in the process.
  The only other issue is that sometimes it seems like a bit of a toss up as to whether you should be aiming for the enemy’s shadow or the enemy itself. As far as mouse aiming goes it doesn’t really feel as accurate as one might expect, but once I was used to it I found myself sniping with ease…most of the time anyway. There is a lock on of course, but where’s the fun in that? Clearly a concession to our console brethren! Actually, it does prove useful for sniping enemies off screen! Ah, the joys of being cheap…

 
 Anklegators generally eat more than just ankles.

 Anklegators generally eat more than just ankles.

 

Otherwise the controls feel tight and responsive; it’s a joy to roll around from enemy to enemy, countering and dodging their attacks, and hitting them with a barrage of hurt!
  Controls are certainly less of an issue in the Xbox360 version. If the PC version feels like a few concessions have been made to the console crowd (card carrying member right here!) that’s because it does appear to have been a console based project. Movement is generally pretty slick and intuitive, but that doesn’t stop the same ‘falling off the edge of the world’ issues, which seem to be related to the game design and the sparse amount of room The Kid has on some levels, rather than being due to the controls themselves. Aiming is a little hit and miss (I really have to stop these puns) with similar problems to the PC version. The auto-aim snaps in far too often, and often leads to you attacking a completely different enemy to the one you wanted to take down. Control of some of the more powerful ranged weapons late on can be particularly tricky, with the analogue stick never really allowing for precise aiming. Having said that, this is a minor criticism, and the control issues overall never have a massive impact or really impair your enjoyment of Bastion.
  And it is a very enjoyable experience. Fans of old school adventures will swoon over the isometric viewpoint, whereas everyone else should appreciate the beautiful graphical style, and the amazing soundtrack. This is far from your usual standard sweeping, dramatic orchestral RPG score. It’s varied but beautiful and complements the game perfectly. In fact the soundtrack is so good, that after a clamour from fans of the game, it has now been released for download (with a CD due later this year).

 
Aiming for the enemies? There’s still rocks to break! Geez…

Aiming for the enemies? There’s still rocks to break! Geez…

 

  Though the game is short (probably around eight hours on normal taking into account cutscenes and time spent dead) the narrative is paced in a way that the concise gameplay benefits from. Never do the cutscenes or the downtime sections where all you can do is wander around and talk interrupt the action; instead they only follow on from the climax of one movement of action—a small breather is appreciated, and gives you a chance to reflect on what has just happened both narrative-wise (with your squad mates) and gameplay-wise (with your brain). Sure there are a few brief cutscenes within the levels, but they are given a feeling of authenticity thanks to a false sense of interactivity through brief QTEs. Luckily they serve their purpose, without being frustrating, and if you fail them you usually only a have to sit through a few seconds of previously seen cutscene before you can try again.
  It definitely would have been nice to get the soundtrack as a little swag I’ve got to say! Not only is it not your average sweeping orchestral score, but it’s not afraid to use a genre of music that you wouldn’t normally see in any game, let alone a damn RPG! That genre is countryish folk! (And if that’s not a real genre it should be.) Now before you run a mile it’s used in all the right places. It even has something else games try to avoid: lyrics! Lyrics that punctuate the narration over the top of the music with a more abstract sadness. It really works wonderfully well.
  So that’s Bastion. A game that is elevated well above the average action RPG by its great graphics and music, a solid story and by a few neat quirks such as the narration. It’s not without its problems—the controls should be tighter, and the correlation between your actions and the narration could be a little sharper; in fact it is used very inconsistently, and without much success. It’s cool the first time you hear a comment on your actions, but then when there’s a lull for 30 minutes without any comment and one suddenly pops up out of the blue it merely begins to intrude; especially given that it comments on the same things over and over again, completely ignoring 90% of what you do! FIFA this ain’t. Combat is a tad repetitive, but redeemed by the range of weaponry.  Overall though, Bastion is an excellent gaming experience, and comes highly recommended by these two geeks.

To sum things up…

A gem of an action RPG. Rarely do you see a game that combines sound, graphics and gameplay as well as Bastion does. A few control and narration issues detract from the overall package, but playing through Bastion is a fantastic experience.

The numbers…

Gameplay: 3.5/5
Traditional isometric action RPG. Solid and satisfying.

Aesthetics: 4/5
Beautiful graphics and unique art style. Gorgeous visuals on both console and PC.

Soundtrack: 4.5/5
Fantastic soundtrack that dares to be different, and is both heart breaking and epic at times. Only the narration keeps the sounds overall from being a 5.

Story/Plot: 4/5
Much of it is standard RPG fare, but it’s improved by the Bastion itself as an integral plot device, and with the excellent presentation manages to be very engaging.

Entertainment Value:  4/5
A downloadable title that provides several hours of enjoyable gaming, and that stomps all over many expensive, boxed titles. Definitely worth purchasing at this price.