Bastion. Noun. A well fortified position. One of the greatest games to come out of 2011.
Bastion is a loveable game based around the adventures of the otherwise anonymous “kid” as he tries to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, with few survivors. Prior to the calamity that wrecked their world, the people of the city of Caelondia had designed the Bastion, a floating fortress to be accessed in times of strife. You play as the kid, questing into the wilds surrounding the ruins of Caelondia, searching for cores to power the Bastion.
The game is set out in as a relatively simple 2D isometric adventure/fighter game, with a series of weapons and special abilities to help you fight through the swarms of creatures that have been left afraid and paranoid by the calamity. You control the kid with a fairly standard set of controls, with two default setups for either mouse or keyboard heavy control, however, in either instance, the keys are fully rebindable. With regards to weapons, you get to pick two weapons from a wide variety from swords and bows to repeaters and handguns, each of which handles differently, giving you something for every play style. As well as picking your two weapons, you get to choose a secret skill, from several generic ones to some more powerful, weapon specific attacks. These skills are all powered by the mysterious black tonics that you find scattered around the levels. In addition to all this, you get to choose other, passive tonics (skills) from the distillery and upgrade weapons at the forge.
The game uses a very pleasing progression system that is based partly on currency, partly on experience points. By defeating the various enemies in the levels, you will gain experience points as well as causing drops of currency. You can also gain currency by destroying the various scenery, while experience can be gained from collecting relics of the destroyed world. Experience points is what will gain you levels, with new levels increasing your maximum health and allowing you to take extra skills. Currency can be used to buy upgrades for your weapons or new skills and items at the shop. The game also allows you to increase the difficulty for you by invoking the various gods, powering up enemies with either new abilities or buffs in exchange for increased experience and currency. Although most of the mechanics are not particularly innovative, it doesn’t need to reinvent the wheel to be great as its occasional puzzle and boss fight, as well as its brilliant aesthetic are enough to make the game incredibly enjoyable. And on the subject of aesthetic…
Graphics and Design
Bastion, despite large amounts of it being in ruined city areas, manages to avoid the trap of greying the world, a trap many games have fell into recently. It remains colourful throughout, without losing the post-apocalyptic feel. The creatures in the game range from steampunk-esque creations to sentient plants and giant monsters of legend, none of which feel out of place. The storyline for the game is compelling; you are able to empathise with the characters and really get immersed in the world. The game is also accompanied by an incredibly enchanting soundtrack that is used to perfectly echo the gameplay. That then brings us onto the topic of the voice actors. The game is almost unique in this part as it has exactly one voiced character, an elderly man who narrates the entire game. He has one of the most compelling voices, and the lines are written in the style of an old grandfather telling tales of adventure to his grandchildren around a fire on a cold winter’s night. While playing the levels, the narrator will comment on your gameplay, exalting you if you are performing well, mocking you if you keep falling off the edge.
Final Thoughts and Scoring
I will conclude now by just saying that this is quite possibly one of the best games of the past year, and it is definitely worth buying.
My Score: 93%