In Bastion, The Kid awakens to find his world torn asunder by The Calamity. Making his way to the floating haven of The Bastion, he must rebuild it by finding the missing pieces scattered by The Calamity. Unfortunately, those pieces are spread across the few remaining parcels of his world, and The Calamity has unleashed hordes of dangerous creatures...
In many ways, Bastion feels like a retro console action-RPG. Itís more than just a nostalgic retread of old game concepts, though, featuring solid game design coupled with some interesting innovations that make it one of the more notable XBLA releases of the year.
First, thereís the Narrator. Games donít often make use of voiceover narration outside of cutscenes, and after playing Bastion youíll wonder why they donít. The narrator isnít just there to fill you in on the story as you play, but also to personalize your experience. Heíll sometimes add commentary based on your in-game actions Ė break a number of crates in quick succession and heíll say something along the lines of, ďThe Kid blows off some steam, smashes a bunch of crates.Ē Yes, it could have been cheesy, it could have been overused, but in Bastion itís pulled off expertly. It brings you into the game more than a cutscene ever could, and helps personalize your experience as The Kid.
Next, thereís the way the game is structured. From The Bastion you launch yourself into the gameís levels, all of which are relatively tight and compact. As you move, the ground literally builds itself under your feet (and, on occasion, drops away as well). You'll never quite know where a level can take you until you begin to prod around its edges. Each of these levels is relatively small and doesn't take too long to complete, and each one is structured a little differently than the others. The result is that the game gives you a lot of variety of play while working within a relatively small framework. This isn't something that's always easy to find in a downloadable title, and the developers deserve credit for their quality level design work.
As you play the game you'll unlock a small arsenal of weapons and you can carry one melee and one ranged weapon with you at a time (although some melee weapons have the advantage of doubling as thrown weapons as well). Some weapons are more effective than others depending on what enemies inhabit a level and on each level's goal and structure, so weapon choice has an impact on the game that goes beyond esthetics or personal preference. And while it may at first seem that mere button-mashing is enough to get through the game, it will quickly become apparent that youíll have to be smart about how you approach battles in the game. In fact, youíd be wise to visit the challenge levels that open when you obtain a new weapon because they are crafted to help you learn the nuisances of each weapon Ė and the better you learn your lesson the better the reward awaiting you upon completion of the challenge.
You can retool The Kid with more than just different weapon loadouts. Weapons can leveled-up and each upgrade comes with a choice of mutually exclusive weapon bonuses. Special attacks add another way to take down enemies and can be thought of as a spell you can carry in your back pocket for use in time of need, but you can only have one active at a time. Tonics, which again you can only carry one of at a time, provide a unique bonus such as a stat boost. And lastly you can also invoke a deity, each of whom will increase the gameís challenge in a unique way but will also reward you for your increased effort.
If you enjoy classic action-RPGs youíre probably sold on Bastion at this point, and you should be. Otherwise, you may not think as highly of it since at its core itís still a throwback to a bygone day of gaming. Itís a good game for what it is, but itís not for everyone. If youíre still on the fence give the demo a try; youíll probably know on which side youíll fall pretty quickly.
Final Rating: 88%. The Kid finds himself starring in an homage to a classic gaming genre.