Replay: Bastion

“Listen, all this takes a lot of gettin’ use to. And you do get used to it, after a while.
There’s three things I’ll always miss though:

One, not havin’ to watch my step all the time.
Two… Ah, forget about two
And three… I miss the songs…”

Bastion is beautiful. There’s no other word that can describe it so completely. From the story to the art design to the music, it is a creation of genius that most can only aspire to achieve. A watercolour fairytale told to your inner-child by a fireside grandfather. A tale of love, loss and war, of monsters in the dark and in our hearts.

Do yourself a favour: go and play Bastion right now. I can guarantee that you will not regret it, and I don’t want to ruin anything here before you’ve experienced it for yourself.

Bastion tells the story of the Kid, waking up in the city of Caelondia and witnessing the aftermath of the Calamity. The event has reduced the surrounding areas to fractured shards of land floating in the sky, and the city’s inhabitants to ash statues, trapped in their final moments. The local wildlife is taking over, and the world is no longer what it once was. Things have changed, and the Kid is on a journey to see if the world can be set right. The plot is a little bare-bones, and requires some commitment on our part to flesh it out with our imaginations, but much like a enjoyable storybook you will find yourself happy to oblige, drawing your own opinions of the characters and their actions.

A key feature for involving you in the game is that every action you do in the game is Narrated, with a capital N, by the fantastic Logan Cunningham. Every event or action gets a little piece of dialogue, which can provide crucial exposition about the mysterious world you walk through, or could just be a corny one-liner told with the humour of a world-weary man. It again compounds the idea that you are being told a story.

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Gameplay-wise, Bastion plays as an isometric hack n’ slash, a kind of cross between Diablo and Zelda. A wide variety of weapons are introduced through the story, and a rudimentary upgrade system allows you to tailor your play style suitably. Combat is well paced, easy to learn but challenging to master. Enemies telegraph their attacks well, allowing you to adjust accordingly.  Your biggest foe will almost certainly be the edge of the path, where you will often fall, even if you are trying to be careful. This doesn’t result in a game over though. You just land back to where you fell off, with no more than a bit of a wrist-slap dealt to your health. Bastion’s forgiving approach to combat fits well with the flow of the game and its aesthetic – the hero of a story can’t die properly.

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The world is drawn in breathtaking style and detail. Bright colours and broken tiles make up the shattered city, and deep greens and purples make up the encroaching wilderness. Clouds drift below and waters pour off the edge of the world, all in a beautiful art style. Cutscenes are presented as hand drawn illustrations ripped right from a book, somehow managing to portray all the emotion and impact of the tale with just a still image, a sad song and a gruff voice-over. Character designs are bright and crisp, easily identifiable and easily loveable.

The soundtrack fits the world perfectly, with powerful blues mixing with eastern strings and subtle electronic loops to create a style that seems to have been pulled out from Caelondia itself into our world. At every moment, there is the perfect song to drive it into your heart. Each character has a theme, as does each opponent. Battles raise the tempo suitably to quicken your pulse, and slow, mesmeric beats are almost hypnotic when they are played during the story. Bastion is never hard on the eyes or ears.

Bastion is a gorgeous experience, a sad fairytale painted onto an isometric adventure game. It provides an emotional connection that drives the story forward at a powerful but well-crafted pace, and the original soundtrack is just phenomenally good. You’ll find yourself caring for all of the characters, not just the Kid, from beginning to end. You owe it to yourself to experience its beauty.


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