Bastion Xbox 360 Review
Publisher – Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment – Developer – Supergiant Games – Genre – Action RPG – Players – 1 – Age Rating – 7+ – Other console/handheld formats – N/A
Storytelling in gaming can be divisive to say the very least, with some feeling that the story should be laid out through their actions alone, whilst others believe that a narrative can be somewhat of a driving point, adding context to their actions. With Bastion, developer Supergiant Games have crafted a story driven game, but have employed a scarcely used technique to tell its story that might well impress even some of the naysayers.
Bastion is an RPG that rarely pauses to delve into plot exposition, instead its narrative is told almost entirely in game. The only voice you’ll largely hear is that of a narrator, who fills in the story as you play, adding depth to the world. He has a lot of dialogue, of which is well written, and his voice actor has done a wonderful job in conveying both humour and emotion. It’s dynamic enough that it feels as if your actions are having somewhat of a bearing on his comments. He adds a great deal of personality to the game, though some will likely find that his constant chattering begins to grate after a time.
Bastion’s hero is the Kid, a white haired youth that looks as if he could have stepped from any number of Japanese RPG’s. The game takes place in a world that has been left devastated by a mysterious disaster known as The Calamity, of which has wiped out the vast majority of humanity and, as a result, the Kid sets out on a journey in order to find the idyllic sanctuary, Bastion, and hopefully meet up with other survivors. It isn’t a very complex story, but you can’t help feeling for the Kids’ plight and it’s certainly an interesting enough yarn, as well as one told with plenty of heart.
The world of Bastion is certainly interesting, helped no end by its tremendous hand drawn visual style, which really breathes life into it and is often filled with a pleasant vibrancy. Walking through areas will often see paths form ahead of you, which is a neat visual effect that is used regularly throughout, granting somewhat of a distinction to Bastion’s beautiful and eerie world.
The combat is basic hack and slash fare. It isn’t the most refined or deep system, and can feel a bit scrappy and repetitive at times, though generally the fighting is certainly enjoyable and satisfying enough. During the course of the game, the Kid will get his hands on a surprising – given the game’s brevity – amount of weaponry. There’s hammers and swords, whilst ranged weapons come in the form of crossbows and guns. You’re also able to unleash special abilities by gulping down potions, allowing you to toss grenades, set trip mines and spin around with your hammer, amongst other things.
Whilst on the surface, Bastion is rarely difficult, as you advance through the game you’ll however get the chance to activate idols, of which alter the challenge of the game in various ways, making enemies hit harder and move quicker, amongst other things. It’s actually quite a clever way of tackling the subject of difficulty, granting you the freedom to tailor the level of challenge as you see fit. Upon defeating enemies you’re also granted a lovely XP and cash bonus for your additional efforts. There are also Vigils: challenges of sorts which are one of the quickest ways of making cash.
As is typical for the genre, you’re able to enhance the Kid to make him more effective in combat situations. Levelling up through XP earned in battle is a facet of the game, immediately granting you a boost to your maximum health. At the Bastion you can equip a possible 10 potions (one for every level) and weapons can be upgraded, granting them a variety of bonuses.
Further skills can be unlocked through the Proving Ground; optional weapon specific challenges that task you with doing such things as breaking objects with your hammer as quickly as you can and destroying an arrangement of objects with your crossbow with as few shots as possible. There are three prizes available, the highest of which is a new ability for the weapon in question.
Bastion may not have the complexity or breadth of many other RPGs, but in this case that isn’t a bad thing. Its core facets are all executed with efficiency and the result is a personality laden, mechanically sound debut for Supergiant games. This is a game that may not be particularly progressive on a mechanical level, though its narrative is told (literally) in a genuinely refreshing way, further compounding the fact that videogames are as well suited as a storytelling device as any other form of entertainment, and also very much has its own advantages of doing such.