Bastion Review

By Brandon Fusco,
Before there was Transistor, Supergiant Games created another game. Bastion was released on the Xbox 360 during the Summer of Arcade in 2011. At the time, it was part of an indie movement with a small quantity of short, powerfully artistic games set in contrast to a deluge of gritty AAA titles. The gaming landscape has changed a lot in the past four years, with smaller games becoming the rule rather than the exception, but its recent release on the PS4 created the opportunity to ask a very important question: Was Bastion merely the right game at the right time, or will it continue to hold its own against a new wave of big budget games and small indie titles alike?

The old world had ended, but the new one had just begun.The old world had ended, but the new one had just begun.

Right from the outset of the story, it's hard not to notice an unorthodox inclusion. Rather than conforming to standards, developer Supergiant Games decided to double down on their story book aesthetic by bringing in a narrator, which tends to be a story telling faux pas in most visual entertainment. Not so in Bastion. From before the first button press, the Stranger is with you and provides backstory on the numerous regions, factions, weapons, and enemies, without which much of the character of Bastion, along with any sense of direction, motivation, or cohesion, would have been lost.

The story that the narrator tells alongside the gameplay is descriptive and entertaining. You take on the role of "the Kid" after his home of Caelondia is destroyed by the Calamity. In the opening levels, you make your way to the Bastion, which is a sort of emergency meeting place. From there, you gather a small group of survivors while striking out in search of the cores necessary to rebuild the Bastion. Simple though the premise may be, the presentation creates the feeling of a fantastical bed time story come to life, complete with a narrator whose commentary dynamically changes depending on your actions.

Leave it to you to point out the view."Leave it to you to point out the view."

This continuously colorful monologue forms the glue that allows the developers to run wild with their imaginations. While there is some design overlap among the side areas, almost every main level has a distinct appearance created with a vivid set of watercolors. From the overgrown plants of the Wilds to the sound of smaller enemies puffing up before attacking to the little dancing animations of your pet Squirt, every aspect of the world is steeped in an irresistible charm. Even upgrading your weapons or choosing your perks is executed with personality, using the slapdash buildings of the titular Bastion as substitutes for the often boring and drab menus of most RPGs.

Potentially, the weakest aspect of the game is in the combat itself. Fighting off the enemies throughout each level has less to do with chaining together elegant combos or grand strategies than it does with learning simple enemy attack patterns and positioning yourself properly. Most of the weapons in the game are some variation of melee weapons that you swing or ranged weapons that shoot. While there are certainly differences between them, and most players will likely find a combo they prefer, the greatest gains from the weapons will come more from pairing a particular set of upgrades on a weapon with perks. For instance, dropping the damage on a weapon and increasing the rate of fire can pay off huge dividends if paired with a perk that generates health from hitting enemies.

Battles can get intense, if a bit simple at times.Battles can get intense, if a bit simple at times.

This is not to say that the combat isn't rewarding, so long as the level of challenge from your enemies is high. Cutting through waves of weak creatures doesn't pose enough of a struggle for the battles to be entertaining, but tricky spaces, tough bosses, additional challenge modes, and a set of 10 difficulty modifiers offer additional rewards for testing your mettle. Finishing the most difficult of these challenges with all of the modifiers on is a herculean task that will challenge the best of players.

These challenges factor pretty heavily into the trophies, of which there are 23 compared to the 360's original list of 12 achievements. The new trophies are by far the toughest, requiring you to beat the game's survival challenges with up to 10 of the difficulty modifiers. Also included is a new trophy making use of the new Score Attack, which sums your best scores on all levels and allows you to revisit them to improve. Unfortunately, you'll have to beat the game on New Game Plus for one trophy, which requires clearing the game once first, and then you'll also have to get a score of 1,000,000 points for the Score Attack trophy, essentially requiring you to clear Score Attack as well. While there's plenty of challenge here, there's not a whole lot of inspiration or creativity in the trophy list.

Block those shots at the right time to send them back.Block those shots at the right time to send them back.

By focusing on story, fun, and art style rather than pure graphics, Supergiant has made a game that has thus far aged very well. All of these components work together so that every step feels like walking through a children's story book, not as the small allegory that an adult would see, but rather in the grand rememberings of a child's imagination. While it's still too early to call Bastion a classic, even in a new generation of consoles this game sets a high bar and serves as an example for other games to follow, and that is certainly a good start to a legacy.

Brandon played Bastion for over 15 hours on the PS4 using a copy provided by Supergiant Games, earning 16 of the 23 trophies. He can't wait to see what they do next.
Brandon Fusco
Written by Brandon Fusco
Brandon is an Editor and TGN's Host with the Most. The most what? The most opinions, the most understanding wife, and the most *funny cat videos. Previously Host of the Trophy Talk Podcast. (*Not Verified)