In a world that’s been destroyed, do you rebuild or move on?
You wake up in your bedroom from one of the deepest sleeps you’ve ever known, head nestled safely in your trusty pillow. A soft blanket surrounds you with warmth and comfort. Only on this particular morning, you shake off the fog clouding your head to discover that your whole world was destroyed as you dreamt. You get up, walk through the door and are aren’t quite sure if the dream has ended. The ground forms at your feet as you start out on the path to meet up at the Bastion. That’s all you know you’re supposed to do.
In Supergiant Games’ indie RPG Bastion you play as The Kid, a person of little words whose best friend is a hammer. You’ve learned that an event called the Calamity has destroyed Caelondia, including The Bastion, where everyone was supposed to meet should anything ever happen. It is your duty to go about the world collecting cores that help rebuild the Bastion. With each core you’ll choose different buildings that you can visit in between levels to upgrade your weapons, switch spirits or activate idols, among other things.
The story is narrated by, well, The Narrator (or Rucks, his “real” character name) who also has a habit of describing the very thing you’re doing at that moment. He might comment on a weapon you just picked up or if you’re slaying a large number of enemies quickly. It’s an uncanny, impressive and effective feature that is more than just a neat trick or gimmick. Put aside any passing thoughts you have that it might get annoying or in the way. The Narrator always has something fresh to say and he’s constantly involved in the story, not just relaying it to you. Even during a second playthrough (which you will want to do) the writers gave him plenty of material to work with so you almost never hear the same comment twice.
Throughout the game you’ll only be able to equip no more than two weapons at a time from your arsenal. Being that each weapon has a particular ability, whether it’s blunt force, ranged combat or quick use, this makes for one of the most interesting parts of gameplay. Experimenting with different load outs is a lot of fun and more likely than not you’ll settle on a favorite combo or two. The fragments you collect along the way allow you to upgrade the weapons, making them more effective and fun to use. If you want to hone your skills on a weapon, just take it out to the custom-built Proving Grounds and unlock upgrades for that particular one.
As The Kid explores Caelondia, you’ll see a variety of beautifully rendered areas. The art all looks hand-drawn and is brought to life through a wonderful mixture of animation, sound and song. You feel as though you’re playing through a dream as you watch the floor float up under your feet, seemingly out of nowhere. Everything here is in service to the deep and engaging story, which slowly reveals itself through almost every element in the game. Weapons, locations, buildings, characters…they all have a back story that make you feel like part of their world and truly affects your emotional involvement. It all looks absolutely gorgeous at high resolutions and runs flawlessly.
Whether using the keyboard and mouse or a gamepad, the controls are tight and finely tuned. The Kid attacks with accuracy and rolls away from danger on precise command. You’re never stuck in animation cycles so feel free to fire and move at will. The combat is never overly challenging and there are no traditional difficulty options. However as you explore Caelondia, you’ll come across idols based on the deities of the world. If you’re familiar with the skulls in the Halo franchise these function almost exactly the same. Back at the Bastion you can choose to activate some or all of the idols to reap greater xp and fragments (the currency of Bastion), but you’ll also face a much greater challenge.
It’s a rare game that gets every element absolutely right. It’s also a rare game that truly engages me in its story. Bastion had me in the palm of its hand from the moment it started and I could not put it down. When I wasn’t playing it, I was thinking about playing it. The game raises questions that you’ll be thinking about and discussing with your friends for weeks on end. All this from a tiny team that poured all of themselves into these characters, this world and every element that comes together to form Bastion. Supergiant Games gave us what is not only one of the best games of this year, but one of the best I’ve played in a long time.