|System: Xbox 360|
|Dev: Supergiant Games|
|Pub: WB Games|
|Release: July 20, 2011|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco|
Optional areas and minigames offer a break from the game's main levels. The Kid can visit various "proving grounds" at any point in order to complete weapon challenges that offer upgrades and special abilities as prizes. There are also three survival challenges in places known only as "Who Knows Where." Each tells the background story of one of the game's few surviving characters if The Kid can successfully fight off waves of enemies long enough to hear the entire tale. Like the main levels, these optional areas contain stories that add interest and flavor to the game. There's no padding here; everything is very deliberately crafted to give the player another piece of the puzzle that is Bastion's now-destroyed world.
Bastion's visuals and audio work are integral parts of the experience. The graphic design proves that it's possible to present a convincing post-apocalyptic setting that is also vibrantly colorful. Everything in the game is hand-drawn in a lovely watercolor style, with each level of the game possessing its own visual identity to go along with its unique design and story. The game's enemies are also well-drawn and animated, with personalities befitting their attack styles. The overall visual presentation is a breath of fresh air in a genre saturated with grim-darkness, and should be an inspiration for other small game companies.
The audio elements of the game are also top-notch. The musical selections help create the mood of each level, and the game's signature vocal piece is hauntingly beautiful. The narrator's voice acting is always on point, and his amenable storytelling style keeps his frequent narration from becoming tiresome. In fact, the entire narration system is brilliantly done, alternating between telling the story of the world and the Kid's personal story. Different actions will provoke different responses from the narrator, though impressively he almost never repeats himself. It's particularly gratifying to be rewarded for doing well in an action segment by the narrator. For example, after completing a sequence on a floating barge without falling off, the narrator breaks in with, "Know how many times The Kid fell off that barge? Not even once." It's moments like these that show how much the narrator contributes to the enjoyment of the game, causing the player to smile and think, "Yeah, I did well!"
Giving any details about the game's plot would only spoil the experience, but rest assured that it's a compelling mystery with numerous twists and turns. Almost all storyline questions are answered by the end of the game, but the answers to the moral conundrums it presents (and there are many) are left entirely up to the player. In fact, after going along with the main plan for most of the game, The Kid is finally given some choices to make at the very end. There is no judgment of the player's choices here, only the acknowledgment that The Kid has the right to decide some things after all the work he's done. When all is said and done, it's both a satisfying and deeply discomfiting story experience.
With diverse, interesting gameplay, excellent production, and a world that sucks the player in, Bastion is a downloadable experience that's not to be missed. It's a game that every gamer should pick up, as it hits the core of why we all love our gaming hobby. Bastion celebrates experimentation, rewards exploration, allows room for growth and challenge, and never condescends. In the end, it leaves The Kid's motivations as an open issue. Are you a hero working toward a new golden age, a villain working out some major anger issues, or just a kid doing his best to muddle out of a bad situation? The Bastion ain't gonna tell you, son. That's gotta be up to you to decide.
CCC Contributing Writer