Friday, September 2, 2011

Bastion

Bastion is an action-RPG from Supergiant Games, recently released on PC. Set in the world of Caelondia, after the 'Calamity' it allows you to control the 'Kid', a...kid, who wakes up after the Calamity has happened and finds himself in a strange and terrifying new world filled with all sorts of horrifying creatures. Oh, and the world is literally falling apart around him when it isn't appearing beneath the kids feet. 


This world-raising doesn't really do much apart from draw the eye to Bastions incredibly beautiful landscapes, but really, said landscapes are so fucking beautiful that having your sight drawn to them is a public service. It's for these amazing visuals that I bought Bastion in the first place and while your mileage may vary over whether or not you like them, I find they add a lot to Bastions particular 'feel'.



This feel is one of an almost bright and peppy end-of-the-world, with the falling of the world, the anger of the creatures and the destructiveness of your own character contrasted against the bright colours, often upbeat soundtrack and more optimistic elements of the story. There's an undercurrent of darkness to it all, which Bastion manages to handle reasonably well, though it doesn't always succeed in pulling itself up to the more thoughtful heights it seems to aspire to.

The actual game itself – something I'm sure you'd like to hear about – is a bit of a mixed bag, in that the default controls are complete pain (literally for me) and I haven't replayed the game yet with new controls. The fact that you can re-map the controls is a bonus, given that the original ones can be very difficult to use in the isometric view that Bastion uses. Falling off the world is going to be a common occurrence and it's going to be a frustrating one that isn't helped by the sections of the game that have holes appearing beneath you as an extra special challenge.



The rest of the gameplay is better though, you can carry two weapons at once except when you get that mega-battering-ram-thing; and it's fun in its own way to try and work out the best combination of close-combat to long-ranged weapon. The choices are varied enough to be interesting; with different types of weapons leading to fast-and-weak or slow-and-strong attacks, though there do seem to be a few too many weapons at times, with your choice going from interesting to almost brain-melting. The other options you have amount to the various special skills that you can use (only one at a time mind) ad the different drinks you carry around with you that buff your skills. There's also the option to carry statues of gods around, making the game harder, but leading to more XP for you. In short the gameplay of Bastion is pretty damned impressive in terms of content.



This isn't even counting the titular Bastion; a hub to which you return to after completing each level. At the end of each level you find a shard that allows you to construct more buildings, which are what allow you to swap out your weapons, powers, drinks, statues, etc...This holds the whole game together, and works remarkably well to give Bastion a sense of purpose that is sadly lacking in it's story.

It's not a bad story by any means; the narration that guides you through it is wonderfully well done and helps build the atmosphere of the overall game. It's just not as good as everyone seems to think it is and it isn't a bad thing that it isn't. Nifty choices near the end of the game aside, what makes Bastion work is everything but the story. The sound and art design, the combat and the enemies. It's a good game that stumbles ever so slightly when it aims for something with its story. Which is why it misses and merely ends up being a reasonable excuse to hit enemy creatures over the head with a big hammer.


It's not that the story is bad, or even all that out of place. It's just there are the elements of a story that strive for something more than an excuse to hit your enemies don't match up with the more immediate elements of the story. There are times when you begin to get a feel for the themes that Supergiant Games are trying to get across: the futility of hatred and war and how they're never ending cycles and these are made even more apparent by the choices you can make in-game. But at the end of the game I realised it still wasn't a reason. Why did the Kid go out and look for the Bastion? Because the player was told he would of course, there's a story to tell and it's being told in this [articular way.

For all my last-minute worries about the game, Bastion is really good, worth the fifteen dollars it costs to buy it from Steam or the Xbox Live Marketplace, worth ven more in fact. It's a great game, that does get you thinking a bit (and should be applauded for doing so) but doesn't really manage to back up the thoughts with the sort of plot-advancement that will stop you from being annoyed. Buy it anyway, the soundtrack is worth it alone.

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