Should I Buy? – Bastion


Yes. Now. In fact, the rest of this review is superfluous. All that matters is the first word. Do read anyway though, I worked hard on this.

Meet the Kid

Bastion is the first title from indie developer Supergiant Games, available on XBLA and Steam. It’s an isometric action-RPG that revels in the hack-n-slash rather than the number crunching. One day you, the Kid (of no relation to the Kid from ICO or I Wanna Be The Guy), wake up in your bed only to find that the world’s been basically destroyed and some guy’s narrating what you’re doing.

This narration is the sole source of exposition in the game, and its much touted ‘dynamic narrator’ feature keeps up a running commentary of your actions while also talking about the characters you encounter, the backstory of the areas you explore and the people that inhabited it and the challenges you face.

Luckily, the smooth, rich tones and effort put into giving him so many phrases avoid annoying repeats like “The Kid chose the Machete” or “Then he fell off the map”. There are some other unique features to it, like each weapon combination having a line based on its effectiveness or significance and incorporating things like deaths and falling off the map into the narration, with Rucks commenting with lines like “Lost my train of thought”.

As long as I could talk about that sexy, sexy voice, the combat is what you’ll stay for. It’s fairly simple stuff, you can have two weapons at once and a special move depending on what you’ve got equipped. Each of these is upgradeable, but when you come across a new, basic weapon chances are you’ll test it out and decide you want one of your old reliables back.

Some of them also feel a bit redundant. You’ve got the Breaker’s Bow, a single target long range weapon with high power and charge time! And the Army Carbine with etc etc etc.! Plus the Fire Bellows damn near break the game, and are only not the perfect weapon because of limited range and a recharge timer.

Another problem is that to fully upgrade each weapon, you’ll need to conquer the difficult Proving Grounds. Though just finishing it gives you an upgrade item, you have no chance to get first or probably even 2nd place without a few upgrades first.

The screen does get very clustered at time, and this can wreak merry hell with an old processor. Unless your computer is truly a relic though, I doubt this’ll be a deal breaker. This tendency towards large groups can also leave all but the most hardened player at a loss to deal with the myriad threats, reducing you to running and drinking a health tonic.

Though the levels are quite pretty and well designed, the isometric viewpoint can be finicky and confusing. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I fell of the stage simply because I was walking on a narrow ledge and pressed down instead if down-left or something equally stupid.

Speaking of the design, the colourful animesque art style is charming and serviceable, though it all feels like it was adopted more for ease of animation rather than visual charm. The music though, is exceptional. It’s a fusion of western folksy strings and more frenetic Asian music, that sounds like it comes from all over the continent. Seriously, it’s worth purchasing the soundtrack even if you don’t get the game.

This game needs posters

The replay value of this game is entirely in the combat. You probably won’t reach level 5/10 in one playthrough, and finishing the game unlocks New Game + which is the only way to access certain tonics and Prayers. Oh, and those of you who buy this through Steam, on a New Game + you get a special attack that spawns Portal turrets. Awesome.

Supporting repeat play for combat are the Proving Grounds, which quickly get monstrously difficult, the Who Knows Where, a series of dream sequences that have Rucks narrate a character’s backstory while you fight off waves of foes and the Prayers in the Shrine. See, the Pantheon are pissed at you, and by invoking they’ll help your enemies and make things harder for you. Doing so ups the challenge and the reward.

If you’re playing this on a PC or Laptop, I recommend investing in a Gamepad as the controls are a little cluttered and fiddly on PC. Though I did, and it won’t recognise it. Overall, I’d say getting this on XBOX Live Arcade is a better option, even if you do miss out on the Portal turrets.

When you’re biggest problem with a game is a specific enemy type, you know you’re onto something great. Buy Bastion now. Then we can talk about it all day long! And if the price is putting you off, it has a demo. Try it.

Price: (Steam) £11.49
Soundtrack £5.99
Game & Soundtrack £16.99

(XBLA) 1200 Microsoft Points

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Mitch Allan
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 21:45:31

    Tried out the demo at the weekend, and I don’t think I’ve ever been so impressed with a title so quickly.
    Except for that isometric view which has me constantly tumbling off the map – but that’s probably my clumsy fingers and not the game’s fault.
    Everything about this game is charming, and it’s probably the first title I’ll buy when I get my new computer.
    Fab review, as always.

    Reply

  2. jackcalico
    Aug 25, 2011 @ 21:48:51

    Yeah, Arkham City, El Shaddai or Catherine are going to have to live up to every bit of hype to stand a chance against this for my game of the year. I seriously recommend getting the version with the soundtrack. It’s so worth it.

    Reply

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