A short while back, I got a message from a friend of mine. He urged me to download a game available on the XBox Live Arcade called Bastion. Actually, it was more like he demanded. Well, I acquiesced. And I could not possibly be more pleased that I did. Bastion is going to cost interested parties $14.99 (US currency) and is available for the XBox 360 and for PC gamers as well via the Steam network. I have heard no word about it being available (now or in the future) on the Playstation Network.
So what is Bastion?
Well, it’s an action RPG in the tradition of games such as Diablo. You control a character who is known only as the Kid, who makes his way through a city and world that have been ruined by an apocalyptic event referred to as the Calamity. The Calamity not only destroyed the magnificent city of Caelondia – where the Kid hails from – but also seemingly everything nearby, including the home of the Ura… a superstitious warrior tribe who had often been at odds with the Caelondians. Unfortunately for the Kid, he has no idea how this transpired, or what to do in a world where everything has been smashed to bits. Helping him on his way is a low-voiced narrator who guides the Kid – and, by extension, the player – through the game’s action. The story is told (almost) entirely through the narrator’s quips, which come one line at a time. Rather than having to read through large blocks of text, we instead are treated to a consistent flow of short quips from the narrator. He remarks on almost literally everything… from the progress of the story, to the different perks the Kid equips as he levels up, to the Kid’s choice in weapons… and, of course, on every piece of junk that the Kid finds lying around the burnt-out wreckage of their former home.
As a result of this narration, I would say the story of Bastion is considerably richer than that of many other action-style RPGs – Diablo springs prominently to mind. However, the story is also fairly simple, despite a couple of twists, and there is a dearth of developed characters. It doesn’t play with the same richness as some of the all-time greats in the genre (like some of the Legend of Zelda games). I should, however, note that the casting of newcomer Logan Cunningham as the voice of the narrator does a lot to give this game a style all of its own. Not only does he seek to bring this world alive for us, but he imparts some significant emotion into the games’ heavier moments.
Gameplay takes place over a series of beautifully rendered worlds which are restored a bit at a time (in the form of terrain pieces, both the actual surface of the world and the details accompanying it) recalled from the aether beyond. A variety of enemy types inhabit this world, each with their own quirks. The Kid equips two weapons (and while a melee and ranged weapon are strongly encouraged for ease of use, these weapons can be any pair you desire), a shield which can be used to both block and reflect enemy attacks, as well as a spell chosen from a list of at least 25 such spells (in earnest, I didn’t count. I suspect I missed a few anyway). In addition, the Kid can carry a number of health potions and black potions which restore health and power spells, respectively. Using these implements, the Kid fights his way across a dozen or more chunks of the world, interspersed with ‘Proving Grounds’ for each weapon, where the Kid is called on to complete an extraordinary task with each weapon for big rewards. Between missions, he’ll return to the last safe haven of Caelondia, called the Bastion. In the Bastion, the Kid can purchase upgrades (ten for each of the game’s 11 weapons!), equip spirits (of the 80+ proof kind) that give him significant bonuses, and select his weapon loadout. The player can also make the game more challenging by equipping idols (similar to equipping skulls in the Halo game franchise).
The single player will take perhaps 8 hours to complete (more if you’re extra thorough or big on using idols) and is followed by a New Game+ mode.
I really can’t recommend this one enough. Even at the (seemingly) hefty price tag of $15, it delivers as much content as some newer games which have the gall to charge a full $60~ retail.