Version reviewed: Xbox One
In 2011, indie game, Bastion, arrived to huge critical acclaim. The story of, the Kid, travelling through the rich and diverse lands of Caledonia in a supreme effort to find the cores that will restore, The Bastion, and pretty much save the day basked under the glow of some serious love. Players enjoyed the slick action, the great storytelling and the variety in which the task could be approached.
And I missed the whole damned party.
I was of course aware of the game, but hadn’t managed to actually get my mitts on it. Until now that is. Bastion is back.
Supergiant Games have brought their wonderful isometric adventure to the Xbox One, and I can finally get to see if the love was warranted and if the game stands up five years down the line.
In some ways the most difficult part about reviewing a re-released game is there’s a strong likelihood that everything I want to say has already been said countless times before.
For those like myself who missed the original release, let’s paint some details. The region of Caledonia is in ruins, crushed under the weight of an event known as the Calamity. Almost the entire population is gone, turned to ash and dust as around them buildings crumbled and Death took hold. Of the few that made it out alive, we step into the boots of, the Kid, the last hope in the face of despair. By venturing deep into the broken lands and retrieving cores, the Bastion, and hope, can be restored. Sounds simple enough.
Every step through the world on this quest is brilliantly narrated by, Ruck, a soothing gravel voiced stranger with a quick wit and some decent ideas on how to save the day. This narration takes hold right from the game’s opening and really captures the imagination. Stepping into Bastion minus this feature would feel a little samey perhaps to other games of this ilk, however, by adding this additional extra I found it really grabbed my attention from the get go.
The basics of the action play as follows; the player chooses the next location to hit in search of cores and then fights through the landscape until the core is retrieved and the Bastion upgraded. The upgrades make the Kid a more powerful warrior on the battlefield or open up new opportunities for inflicting pain on the monsters of the land. For anyone that has ever played any type of game featuring levelling up and such, this will be instantly second nature. Likewise, the combat is also very much something most players will have encountered before. A mix of close-up hack and slash and stand well out of the way ranged attacks are available. The different weapons offer some variety in how best to approach each area, with some offering fast, less powerful, strikes and others delivering big lumbering blows that hit hard. Both close quarters, and ranged, come in some nice varieties and choosing the best combination whilst trying out the various options is quite engaging.
Upgrading the Bastion itself results in constructing new buildings. These might come in the form of a place to upgrade and build new weapons, or perhaps a distillery where the Kid can enjoy some extra abilities in play, or even a place of worship where choosing a God can bring bigger reward but at a cost of increased difficulty. As a player, I like that it isn’t simply a case of finding a core, upgrading from a screen and heading out again. The use of buildings in the restoration of the Bastion and how these can then affect the gameplay is something I really enjoy, and watching the initially desolate home area gradually grow into something quite impressive is very satisfying.
The gameplay is as slick, polished and immediate as I always imagined it would be. The pace of the action is nicely balanced with small nuggets of downtime and exploration nestled in-between out and out relentless sword swinging. The enemies, and sometimes the landscape, offer a decent mix of challenge and variety in getting from A to B, but could possibly do with a little more difference between lands. At times it felt like the same creatures would pop up in front of me a little too often, but never enough that it threatened to pull the game into the realms of monotony.
Each area has its own unique style easily identifiable from the last, and does a great job of holding the attention. The artwork itself is simply sumptuous. With images that look to have come straight from the paintbrush of a watercolour artist, Bastion truly excels in the looks department. Everything on screen has a vibrancy that entrances, and although this style is something we’ve enjoyed before, Bastion very much has its own identity.
After only a short time playing I could see what all the fuss was about five years ago. The stunning visuals combined with simple but thoroughly enjoyable gameplay is a perfect mix that took me into one of those states of play where real time suddenly loses all meaning, and when you emerge back into reality the clock seems to have moved at a frightening speed.
In terms of the actual story, I think it’s saved somewhat from your typical ‘hero saves the world’ plot by the inclusion of the narrator. The narration in Bastion is critical in raising the game beyond the sum of its other parts. Take it away and we have a beautiful looking, stylish hack and slash adventure with some levelling elements. That’s great on its own of course, but, throw in the unique idea of a running commentary describing the events with warmth and wit, and suddenly the game becomes something altogether more special.
It has been five years since Bastion first released, this new Xbox One edition is the perfect opportunity to remind yourself why you fell in love with this game, or perhaps, like myself, finally embrace a game that I really should have invested in all that time ago.
The return of Bastion on Xbox One is the perfect excuse for those already in love with the game to return to its charms, and for those yet to encounter it, to rectify that as soon as possible! A sprawling, vivid, and beautiful game that should be in everyone’s collection.