E3 2011: Bastion Hands-On Preview

By Lauren Alessandra on June 11, 2011, 11:02PM EDT

Downloadable games have really begun to shine in the past few years and it doesn't seem like they'll fade anytime soon, especially not with the release of games like Bastion. Despite having a small showing in the Warner Bros.' booth, Bastion, the first game to be developed by SuperGiant Games, stole some spotlight away from its retail brethren with its unique appeal. And it looks as though this Action RPG may continue to do so when it releases later this year.

In an interesting move, SuperGiant Games decided to refer to the game's protagonist as nothing more than the "Kid". And when he wakes up to find his entire world has fallen apart - quite literally - it is his duty to then rebuild his shattered world and vanquish any foe that gets in his way. When the game starts, all that's left of the previous world is Kid's bedroom. It's then that players need to begin exploring this world and rebuild it.

With every step, a block of earth rises beneath Kid's feet, although the patterns these blocks create are quite limited. Sometimes, they run on a linear track creating a small path, or they expand to large plots of land. Breakable crates can appear on the larger plots as well as enemies. Don't expect the land structure to hold your hand at all, as if you walk off a track, you won't be held in by an invisible wall. Thankfully dying doesn't create too much of an issue as the checkpoints are very generous, so the odd bit of misguided exploration doesn't have any cruel repercussions. As the game goes forward, Kid will also have access to "Bastion" which acts as a central hub where he can build various buildings. Access to these buildings is granted after finding them during the player's exploration and can provide many services including crafting, drink brewing, and skill/weapon swapping.

There are a few weapons to choose from such as a giant hammer, a shield, and a bow all of which are upgradeable and are able to be customized. Combat is pretty simple; however, if you let yourself get surrounded by enemies it can get pretty dicey. Choosing which enemies to focus, and at what time, will be the key to success. There is also a nice progression system, so Kid's power incrementally improves as you unlock more of Bastion.

One of the things that stands out about this game is the unlikely narrative choice. When going into the game thinking it'll just be another fantasy RPG, a player could expect a narrator with a voice similar to a wizard or perhaps a sorceress. Instead, Bastion provides narration much like the kind you'd find in a late night radio broadcast. The narrator has a deep dark voice and with every action the player performs, he's right there to comment on it. If the player dies, fights, or even if the examines something, the narrator will have something to say.

Aside from this, the art style is very reminiscent of classic action RPGs: overhead camera, pint size heroes, and very detailed environments - though in this case, most of the environment is non-existent. With the narrative in mind, at first sight, this seemed like an unlikely pair, however, all the elements within Bastion flawlessly mesh together.

Bastion is really an ode to all of those classic action RPGs, but with its uncommon pairing of fantasy art design and modern narrative style, it's able to come out looking completely original.

For those of you with Xbox Live, this game is definitely one to look out for Q3 this year and it will be a standout game in Xbox's Summer of Arcade. The developers also hinted at a possible PC release in the future so those of you without Xbox Live, we'll keep you posted.

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