Bastion – Build That Wall (Darren Korb)

I’ve discovered Bastion just few weeks ago – it’s a relatively small indie game from this year by Supergiant Games. I think I will express feelings of most of those who had a chance to play it – this game is a freakin’ jewel. For me personally, it could easily compete for the title of game of the year.

In it’s essence, Bastion is a isometric 2D hack’n’slash game, you know the “Diablo”-like. You wander around, you kill things, you collect bonuses and upgrades, and push on. There are many games pursuing that scheme. But Bastion stands out because of two things. The gameplay and the story.

The game is brilliantly balanced, I imagine tons of hours being spent in testing to tweak the game to the final state. Bastion is not hard, it’s not ridiculously easy, but it should not be an obstacle for an average gamer. The game is about to experience it, not to beat it. Then, there are rpg things – your character levels up, you can choose from several types of weapons for your primary and secondary weapon (each weapon has 5 upgrades), you can have extra powerful skill, you can take some “bottled spirits” with you, that will further boost your abilities. Heck, you can even control the difficulty level, by enabling or disabling gods’ idols. Whenever you enable one, a part of the game is harder – monster can be faster, flying, deflect your missiles, etc. As a reward, you get more bonuses and experience. Different weapon combinations can result in dramatically different playstyle, melee or ranged, so you can tailor something to your exact needs. And when you play a level, whatever you do, feels very rewarding, be it killing a monster, smashing furiously all the barrels and boxes around or killing a boss.

The story is where Bastion gets really unique. Basically, there is a narrator. All the time. Always with you. When you play, he’s describing what you do, and this way, he tells a story. You might fall of the cliff or pick a certain weapon, you might choose to do something wacky – narrator will always notice this and comment this in a funky way. It’s incredible. This way, you feel like you’re participating in both creating the story and listening to the story. You’re the story hero, and story listener, in the same time. Initially, you don’t know who is telling the story and who is listening – further in the game, you will discover answers to both these. Because of the narrator, developers achieved a very interesting result of, maybe for the first time, disconnecting from the main hero and rooting for him in the same time. You know it’s not “your” story, yet you still want to see how it ends. And, because of this, you absorb more facts, you tend to listen more and pay attention. It’s like these new language learning methods – you absorb the game and the story by immersion, by being in it, by listening. Play Bastion and wait for the “didn’t make it” narration part. Then, at the end of the game, you will hear it juxtaposed in different situation. The effect is just mindblowing.

I don’t want to spoil much of the story. You play as Kid in a world of Caelondia, which has been recently touched by terrible Calamity. Eventually you reach Bastion, which is a floating island-device, and will be your hub for the rest of the story. The Bastion is also a key for all the events in Caelondia. You will meet few people on your way and their stories will affect greatly your further actions. You will learn about a great conflict and how different people were tossed into it. Time will be also involved. The story is fantastic, I promise. It does not aspire to tell you a epic tale. It’s just a small novel, but a meaningful one.

The overall music background for Bastion revolves around western-ish feeling, classical or specially amped guitars, slow tempo. Surprisingly, the music combines with the game very well, even if the game visuals are not showing you the Wild West. The world pictured is an imagined one, but has this small flavours, details here or there, giving us the impression, that while it has its own roots, they definitely come from stories, where you had this lone traveller with a rifle or gun, driving hundreds of miles on a dusty road, chasing the setting sun on the horizon. Kid resembles that type of hero, there are hints in the way he’s dressed.

The song I’ve picked has lyrics and is kinda important to the game itself. If you intend to play the game soon and don’t want any spoilers, don’t listen to this track. It does not reveal any significant truth about the story, but the pleasure of hearing it for the first time in the right place is something you want to have. I’ve finished Bastion, but this song stays in my head.

The game sort of reminds me of Braid (I will cover Braid too), it has similar graphic style, it revolves around consequences of time and also attempts to provide a different kind of narration.

More about Bastion –
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bastion_(video_game)

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