Bastion Review

Bastion Review

Bastion, the debut title from Supergiant Games, is an action RPG chosen to kick-off the Summer of Arcade downloadable festivities on Xbox Live. While fundamentally built upon many staples of its genre - such as elements of hack-and-slash combat, dungeon crawling and loot collection - Bastion distinguishes itself in seemingly endless ways, most noticeably through a colourful narrator who reacts to your every move. Beyond narration, the versatile combat, thoughtfully integrated mechanics, detailed and varied environments, memorable soundtrack, and intriguing plot all make Bastion an incredibly well-rounded package and a true testament to the skill of its creators.

Bastion relishes in keeping players in the dark, slowly providing bits of context as the plot unfolds. Affectionately dubbed "the Kid" by the game's narrator, players awake to an unfamiliar setting and quickly find themselves tasked with picking up the pieces of a civilization torn apart by an event known as the Calamity. The only way to do this is by rebuilding the Bastion, a last line of defense for the Kid's people in troubled times.

There's a great deal of ambiguity in Bastion. As mentioned above, the wider story is told primarily through allusion, casually referring to outside events but never giving a complete picture of them. This gives the impression there's always more at hand than you know and makes the fiction feel rich. Supergiant also use this lack of clarity to blur the lines between good and evil, friend and foe as they explore themes of imperialism and call into question the reliability of a certain storyteller. It's a carefully crafted tale that rewards the player's investment by the game's conclusion.

Bastion 1

Of course, the above successes were largely made possible thanks to the dynamic, ever-present narration. Rucks, the narrator, guides players through the hazy world of Bastion with a well-timed observation on something you're doing or explanation of an event. The writing and voice-acting sells the fiction well and adds considerable personality to Bastion. The deadpan commentary on otherwise mundane events adds a bit colour and gives players a real reason to play close attention.

What's even more impressive is that Rucks almost never repeats himself, because so many contextual lines were written to anticipate player actions. One of my favourite moments was when Supergiant decided to showoff by having Rucks keep track of my stumbles during one particularly treacherous sequence, just as the thought was crossing my mind. The excellent narration is just one of the many ways Supergiant shows their masterful understanding of modern, user-friendly game design.


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