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Game review: Bastion 🎮

24 October 2020 - Reading time: 4 minutes

You awaken in a world that's experienced an apocalyptic event. Your first task is to find the Bastion, a refuge for your people in case of trouble. As you journey to the damaged Bastion, and then throughout your broken world searching for powerful cores to repair it, you discover more about the Calamity that struck your world, and why. Did anyone else survive the Calamity? How? And who exactly is this narrator, telling your story like it's already happened?

Bastion is an action game - I played it with a controller. You travel through lushly designed zones, discover a variety of weapons and skills to fight enemies, collect resources to upgrade your base and your gear, and master the gameplay in special challenge arenas. I'm not great at action games and am prone to get frustrated if the button-mashing becomes too complex or frenetic, but I never had a problem with Bastion. The combat is quite easy to pick up, and once you reach a certain stage in the early game, you can start customizing the difficulty level to your liking.

The weapons are diverse and each has unique moves, I enjoyed experimenting with different loadouts. Combat is quite simple but it's fun and fast-paced; the basic enemy moves aren't hard to figure out, but they are challenging once you customize their difficulty levels. While certain gear works better against certain enemies, you can't change your loadout of two weapons except at the base camp and certain stops in each zones, so after a while I found myself settling into my two favourite weapons and not really changing up the playstyle in the late game.

Bastion is a delight for the eyes and ears. All the graphics are colourful and lovingly made, enemy and character designs are memorable, and all the locations have diverse yet fitting colour palettes and features. The music soundtrack has an adventuresome "Old West" feel touched with deep melancholy, it sets the game's mood quite well. The voice acting was the other star of the sound design show: Logan Cunningham voiced Bastion's narrator to perfection. (Cunningham has gone on to voice just about all of Supergiant's games and develop something of a cult following.) Apart from telling you the story in a wry, understated way, Bastion's narrator is also somewhat reactive as he comments about all your moves and combat throughout the game. The most memorable line for me was falling off the edge of the map, and hearing the narrator say: "And then he falls to his death… nah, I'm just fooling."

As for the story… don't let the colourful, cute graphics and upbeat soundtrack fool you, it's actually quite grim. The tragedy of this world didn't really hit me until I replayed it and paid more attention to that understated narrative. There are a couple of "choices" you make in the endgame, which became more poignant the more I considered the implications of the story. You can choose to focus on the gameplay and let the voice-acted narrative sink into the background, but it's more rewarding to pay attention to that thought-provoking story.

Bastion is a linear game and can be played in 10-15 hours, there's not much replay value beyond Steam achievements. But it's a satisfying experience. This was Supergiant Games' debut release, and it already contained all the traits that have come to be associated with the studio: fun and fast combat, tightly-integrated gameplay mechanics, colourful graphics, distinctive soundtrack, and an evocative story told through voiceover narration. Bastion is now pushing 10 years old, and Supergiant's later games are much more sophisticated, but I think it continues to stand strong as a fun, fresh, and memorable action game.

Cross-posted at We The Players.

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