Boy done good.
‘Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning, ain’t so simple with this one. Now here’s a kid whose whole world got all twisted, leaving him stranded on a rock in the sky. He gets up, sets off for the Bastion, where everyone agreed to go in case of trouble. The ground forms up under his feet as if pointing the way, he don’t stop to wonder why. Finds his lifelong friend just lying in the road.’
‘The Kid picks up his Cael Hammer and begins to swing it wildly. Well it’s a…touching reunion. His old friend comforts The Kid in more ways than one. He sees what’s left of the Rippling Walls. Years of work undone in an instant. In The Calamity.’
From the opening scene of The Kid waking from his bed on that rock in the sky, you know this is going to be one hell of a ride. Welcome to the aftermath of The Calamity. Welcome, to Bastion.
The colourful city of Caelondia and its surrounding world has been shattered by an apocalyptic event known only as The Calamity. The Kid runs through streets that form under his every step, the first ranged weapon makes its entrance:
An old repeater falls out of the sky. Ain’t a gift from the gods, but it’ll have to do.
The Kid wastes no time puncturing the soft membranes of the squirts that materialise around him. He carries on, towards the Bastion.
On arrival to the this new found sanctuary The Kid meets the man behind the gruff voice that has been narrating every step of his journey so far. Rucks is what he is called, but you’ll not as soon remember his name as you will his voice.
The story of Bastion is not presented in the form of endless scrolling text or cumbersome cut scenes. The story is read to you like an epic audio book, your movements and actions dictating what Rucks reveals next. His voice speaks not just words of wisdom and guidance, but narrates the journey of our silent protagonist The Kid – piecing together the world one fragment at a time.
To complement the sandy voice of our narrator and the huffs and grunts of The Kid as he shoots, slices and bludgeons his way through enemies and obstacles, is an original, award-winning soundtrack described by composer/musician Darren Korb as ‘acoustic frontier trip-hop’. The tracks crescendo as battles approach their climax, the voice over describing your last throes before defeat or your victorious fatal strike on your enemy. The audio could tell the story of Bastion all by itself.
In the past whenever I heard the words ‘Indie Game’ I thought of the low budget, disposable gaming haystack known as the app store or pixelated retro remakes for the PC hipster crowd. But despite being created by a team of seven people, Supergiant Games has delivered a game that redefines indie games as a genre. Smaller budgets and more freethinking teams of developers like Supergiant Games are paving the way for a new generation of boutique-style gaming for hardcores and casuals alike. That is the beauty of Bastion – its simplicity. The tight, easy to master controls (best played with a gamepad) and short, 10-15 minute levels with tunable difficulty and a world that lays the path ahead of you without a minimap. You have two types of potions – water for rejuvenation and black tonics for special attacks. You can equip two weapons and one black tonic of your choice. Anyone can pick this game up and instantly be enthralled.
While the areas The Kid can walk in this world are limited, your eyes constantly wander to the colourful backdrops. A soft glow borders a palette of watercolours seeping together, the crisp and sometimes sparkling ruins of Caelondia almost jump off the screen. The animations of The Kid’s attacks, the grimaced look on his face, even how he gets to his feet after entering a new zone face first from the Skybridge, every detail in the graphics is polished. Yet the game remains in a full time isometric view, no zooming or changing camera angles, a refreshing change after so many awkward view points in dungeon crawlers.
Build The Bastion
Progress in the game is made by upgrading the buildings at the Bastion with cores and shards, the improvements unlocking upgrades to weapons, buffs and all other manner of customisations to your playing style. With one setting for difficulty, a greater challenge is sought by invoking idols of the gods. Each idol will give your enemies a certain advantage and reward you with additional fragments (currency of Bastion) and XP. After playing through the game once (around six hours) you can restart with all your accumulated weapons and stats and invoke the idols you want to balance the difficulty.
A hack and slash would not be complete without a solid array of weapons and in Bastion there are plenty, both ranged and melee. Machetes, carbines, battering rams are but a few of the quirky and customisable tools of war that help you gather the cores and shards. Just when you have mastered your current weapon and have experienced its new fighting style, another weapon that is even more awesome appears. As your arsenal grows, so do your combat options but only at the Bastion itself. Mid-level weapon changes are few and far between and you have to adapt your choice of weapons to the combat situation at hand.
Bastion was reviewed on PC.
Kid You Not
Bastion is a masterpiece and proof that “Indie” is a veritable genre of video games. Rather than following the story, the narration follows you – a new and different concept that had me applauding as the end credits rolled. At £11.49 ($14.99) on Steam and 1200 MS points on XBLA, there’s ample play time to be had with excellent replay value. Oh and be sure to add an extra £7.99 ($9.99) for the brilliant Bastion soundtrack.