Bastion Review Part 1: First Impressions

Bastion, a new Action RPG by Supergiant Games, was released on XBLA yesterday, July the 20th. The trailer for Bastion had caught my eye at E3 and I downloaded the game yesterday afternoon and got a chance to play it in the evening. After just an hour or two of time in the world of Bastion, I can’t wait for more; honestly I’d rather be continuing my adventure in Bastion than writing this article. I will do my best to discuss my first impressions with Bastion without spoiling anything important, but beware minor spoilers if you like to dive into a game without knowing anything about it.

In Bastion players take control of The Kid, a young(?) man who wakes up after the events of what the game calls the Calamity. The Calamity seems to have torn the colorful world into pieces, leaving only a few floating paths and platforms left. Setting out for the safety of the Bastion, as The Kid pushes onward what little is left of the world pieces together as paths allowing him to progress. After reaching the hub-like Bastion, The Kid must search for the world’s Cores which have the power to rebuild the world around the Bastion. Though this premise is simple, and not a new idea for a video game plot, it is The Stranger that makes the game truly special. The Stranger is the narrator of the game, and from the first moment that the game begins this easy-on-the-ears drawl tells The Kid’s story. The narration is very well written, and dynamically responds to the player. For example, within the first 30 seconds of gaining control of The Kid, I accidentally walked off of the edge of the precarious world and without missing a beat The Stranger said something along the lines of “And then the kid fell to his death…just kidding” as I was dropped back onto the platform sustaining a small portion of damage. Within the first couple hours of the game The Stranger’s narration is varied and consistent. He does not repeat himself when The Kid does something repeatedly, but instead narrates the players story as often is as interesting and entertaining.

Backing up the excellent narration is a soundtrack that so far I am loving. The music so far is not extremely catchy – I didn’t wake up this morning remembering a theme song – but I remember that it was beautiful and fitting for the world. If the music continues to provide variety, I will not hesitate to purchase the soundtrack if it becomes available. The graphics of Bastion are special in their own right, an interesting style that reminds me simultaneously of cartoons and water colors drawn into a world formed of floating chunks high above the distant ground. The sound design and graphics create a world that I want to play in, so of course I must discuss just how the playing goes.

As an Action RPG Bastion’s gameplay is somewhere in between the hack and slashing of the Diablo series, and the combat mixture of Devil May Cry. While Bastion does not have a complex combo system and long move list like DMC, The Kid carries two weapons, usually a short range weapon and a long range weapon, can easily use a shield, and has a dodge roll ability. The rapid transitions between beating on enemies with a giant hammer, firing off arrows, dodging enemies and blocking attacks remind me of the combat decisions in DMC but are paired down to a 2D plane and Diablo like viewpoint. The Kid does level up, as the RPG part of it’s genre claim would suggest, but instead of a complex stat upgrade system, leveling opens up new slots for special distilled beverages. Each drink provides a unique status boost such as increased health, loot magnetism, or extra damage, and players can swap which beverages they fill their level slots with anytime they have access to a Distillery (which is often – you can build one in the Bastion hub-world). Combine the many beverage choices when you level, with a rapidly expanding list of special abilities, multiple long range and close range weapons each with their own choices of unlockable upgrades, toss in a variety of aggressive enemies and I think Bastions fighting system will be entertaining until the games end.

I plan on finishing the game before coming back to do write my final opinions on the game, but so far Bastion seems to be a fun and artistic game with no obvious flaws wrapped up in excellent narration. My only worry at this point is that the narration and story won’t continue to be as unique and special as the game continues, and that the truly great fantasy story I am hoping for won’t be there. 

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