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Bastion (PC) artwork

Bastion (PC) review

"Logan Cunningham is entirely underappreciated."

Your room has no walls and no floor, except for the bed upon which you lay. When you awaken, it is to the crooning drawl of a man who sounds like Mark Knoplfer, or Clint Eastwood. You exit the floating remains of your room through the lonely door and the brick shards of its frame. Underneath your feet the floor rises up from the gloomy dark as you stride fearlessly head.

The man calmly narrates your actions, and your determination mounts. The Calamity has destroyed everything you know and love, and it is up to you to rebuild the Bastion, and learn who has survived the disaster. You do what you do best: You build, you fight, and you survive.

Known only as the “The Kid”, your history is veiled in tales untold and victories won. The bloated Scumbags and pick wielding Gasfellas will get in your way, opposed to the reconstruction of the Bastion. The Stranger, Rucks, knows the secrets of the Bastion, and serves as your guide to the crystalline components that will power the floating island.

As you venture through the ruins of places like the Sundown Path, Cinderblock Fort, and Jawson’s Bog, the challenges you met with the Cael Hammer and Breaker’s Bow will require the use of new weapon discoveries, among which are the Fang Repeater, Flame Bellows and twelve others. The scraps you re-purpose to upgrade these weapons will make them far more lethal than they were before.

The Proving Grounds, as you test and trial your skills, offer valuable rewards such as new Secret Skills and valuable stashes of currency. The Bastion, as you rebuild it, will reform the buildings you need to forge those weapons into their pinnacle forms. Rucks won’t be shy about his distillery, and the benefits of those drinks will give you some life saving abilities.

Whale Ale will toughen you up; Stabsinthe gives you a auto-retaliate ability, while a drink that tastes like “peppered bootheel” will increase your critical rate when low on health. When you can, eventually, stack the effects of ten of these, which will you choose? Of course, drinks aren’t the only mementos to be recovered, and the survivors you return to the Bastion with will have choice tales to tell about those items.

Some of those items may have unforeseen consequences, but it wouldn’t be an adventure if they didn’t. Super Giant proves, in Bastion, that they know a thing or two about engaging storytelling. The narrator – voiced by Logan Cunningham – is very much exposition, but he also comments on your performance, too. Not once does he badger you to take one path or another; you’re never barred by invisible walls.

The action has been carefully interwoven with the level design, art, music and voice acting. Logan is a lone performer, but without him it can be argued that Bastion would be an above average run-of-the-mill isometric platformer in a sea of similarly endowed titles. Yes, in 2011 it was blazing trail innovation, but the true test of a game is time.

Speaking of innovation, how would you choose to present floating islands that spawn in front of you as you explore? Bastion’s angled, isometric view assures your confidence, most of the time. There will be the occasional moment of falling off an edge without warning, but generally the game resists the urge to just let you slip off into space. What’s more is the penalty: A sliver of health, which can be mitigated further with the smartly named Falling Malt. Having to choose between just two weapons and one Secret Skill is a time honoured tradition that invites all players in by allowing them to play their preferred style.

The gorgeous pixel art in Bastion is worthy of concerted appreciation, and its story a replay as well. Thankfully, New Game Plus grants that wish by letting you keep your previous upgrades, level, unlocked rewards, and everything else. That means you’ll have access to weapons well in advance of their introduction, but I had a tendency to stick to my favourites: The Fang Repeater and War Machete. A very natural feeling combination. Animations do communicate tactile feedback on the whole very well, though I never really mastered shield blocking, even though enemy tells are quite easy to read.

You might not know this, but Bastion was the first foray for Super Giant into PC gaming, and so preceded Transistor. That means it doesn’t have some of its worst flaws. I would describe the combat in Transistor high-order strategy at-your-leisure, whereas Bastion favours a cool headed steady pace more akin to a western shootout. There can be moments of frenetic activity, but more often than not you’re give time to plan your attack and how to defend yourself.

Bastion does hint at the music excellence present in the lavish art deco experience that is Transistor, but with just one hinted example. Listen for it, and you’ll hear what inspired the team to orient an entire game around the talents of Darren Korb and Ashley Barret. Darren’s western guitar plucks at serene moments of reflection are a hint of his ability to masterfully use audio to set emotional tone.

This game is clocks in at just under eight hours, which you could at most increase to twenty if you strive for completion. However, it is one of the finest examples of how to draw players into a lore rich story and challenge them with a difficult choice. Ironically, you don’t beat your players over the head with dialogue, dramatic scenes or overdone acting.

Now would be a great time to pick the title up on Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS and enjoy a tale possibly timeless in its (re)telling.

hastypixels's avatar
Community review by hastypixels (May 14, 2017)

At some point you stop justifying what you play and begin to realize what you're learning by playing.

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