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Bastion (Xbox 360) artwork

Bastion (Xbox 360) review

" almost feel like you didn't want it to end in the first place, and it wasn't just because of that welcoming old voice or the awesome visuals. The game itself is fun, challenging and addictive thanks to it's simple and easy to pick up gameplay. Bastion has something that a lot of recent “artsy” games don't: both style and substance. "

The instant I started up Bastion and heard that wizened old voice narrating my motions, I felt a strange sensation. When I saw pieces of the ground rising up from a void below me form the steps I would be taking, took in the vibrant colors that felt counterintuitive in a game about the end of the world, and crashed my way through miles of destructible environments, I knew what that sensation was. I had fallen in love with Bastion, and that's something I haven't done with a game in a long time. Now I just need to keep my wife from knowing...

Bastion (XLA) asset

It's not that the gameplay is anything new. There have been dozens, maybe even hundreds, of isometric perspective games where the core gameplay consists of mashing the attack button to crush large crowds of enemies and collect money to further yourself. It's that Bastion pieces together all of the different facets and elements, both the gameplay and the artsy atmosphere, to create something genuine, beautiful and fun.

As I touched on earlier, the world has ended. You, one of the few survivors, have made your way to a place called the Bastion. Its purposes are unknown, but living there is an old man who gives you direction that will allow you to build and improve the Bastion by adding cores to a console at its center. Adding these cores will allow you to erect various buildings that aid you in your quest. Building a distillery gives you access to different spirits that boost your stats or give you special passive enhancements, or creating a forge allows you to upgrade your weaponry. Need some items? Then make a lost-and-found.

You can't build these helpful places without picking up cores or shards, and you can't snag any of those without visiting levels. Outside the Bastion are the remnants of the world. Traversing each level is an experience in itself. No matter how many times you've seen it, watching a level build right before you is an amazing experience. It's one sweetened by the colorful graphics and lush environments that feature many destructible pieces like rocks, barrels, certain walls... Hell, just about everything can be destroyed. Even though the levels consist of little more than a littered pathway, they are full of life and wonder. Swamps spring up with murky waters and grass taller than your character. A romantic path rises from the void complete with gorgeously tiled roads and an enchanted-garden-like landscape.

Bastion (XLA) asset

The treat doesn't stop at the visual end. The old man from the Bastion knows your every move. You know this because he narrates the game as you creep from place to place. It's through his narration that we hear much of the story. Each level has a background that he sheds light on, and others have inhabitants that he'll tell you about. Some of his narration goes beyond that to commenting on some of your basic actions. If you fall off the edge of the terrain at the beginning of the game, the narrator will say, “...And just like that, he falls to his death.” When you reappear, he'll laugh heartily and say, “Just kidding.” During other tense scenes and trials, he'll speak of how you're nearly defeated, how you fought hard to kill those windbags, how the peckers came at you en masse. The man's raspy old voice adds a facet to Bastion that makes it stand out, defining it. His background on levels gives them even more depth and keeps you wanting to explore further to see and hear about other such wonders.

You and the old man are not alone in this world. Apart from other people, many wild animals and maddened beasts have survived doomsday. Ghost-like Gasfellas will attempt to beat you to a pulp, slithering Scumbags will spit acidic saliva at you, and giant armored frogs called Lunkheads will pounce upon you. It falls to you to crush skulls with your hammer, a slow but powerful weapon. If that's not your forte, rest easy. Bastion has a wide collection of various melee and ranged weapons, like a flame-throwing bellows to thin herds of enemies, a war machete that trades strength for speed, a pair of pistols that can rapidly cause damage at a distance, or even a rocket launcher that can decimate a group of foes in a single blast. Each weapon is upgradable and has a couple different special abilities that you can unleash upon the hordes.

Simply attacking isn't enough, and rolling out of the way can only be effective for so long. The developers took defensive tactics to the next level by adding a special shield. Blocking may protect you from various hits or even dampen the amount of damage you take, but countering is where it's at. Timing your block, you can counter your enemies attacks and cause devastating damage to them. This adds an extra element of risk-taking to a simple, yet intense, combat system.

Bastion (XLA) asset

If you're in dire need of a diversion from the main story, there aren't very many. There are some areas that test your prowess with each weapon and reward you with new skills, as well as various conditions to meet for money, called Vigils, in the memorial. Mostly, Bastion is a straightforward romp without much branching. You can explore areas and find special items, but there really aren't any actual side quests. This isn't a slam at all, because the main rail you run is a fierce ride loaded with awe and action.

The unfortunate thing about Bastion comes from completing it. Eventually it all has to end, and when it does you'll want more. The developers thankfully included a New Game + feature that keeps all your money, levels and weapon upgrades from your previous game. Even still, you almost feel like you didn't want it to end in the first place, and it wasn't just because of that welcoming old voice or the awesome visuals. The game itself is fun, challenging and addictive thanks to it's simple and easy to pick up gameplay. Bastion has something that a lot of recent “artsy” games don't: both style and substance.


JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Community review by JoeTheDestroyer (August 03, 2011)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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If you enjoyed this Bastion review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Linkamoto posted August 03, 2011:

Great review, Joe. I had read a little on this prior to ingesting your review, but this really gave me an inkling to play it. As you mention, the graphics look fabulous, and you described them in wondrous detail. Nicely written, my friend.
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JoeTheDestroyer posted August 03, 2011:

Thanks, miyamoto! I'm glad you enjoyed it.

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