Ruminations: Bastion (Supergiant Games) – Xbox 360

For a low budget / no budget game, Bastion certainly delivers. (I’ll throw a soft spoiler warning up here – I’m not spilling all the beans, but just hinting at some of the beans that are to be spilled over the course of the game.)

– Game mechanics are simple and effective. What struck me as inspired is that despite only having two weapon choices, a shield, some passive buffs (the spirits) and a special attack you have so much flexibility. And that flexibility isn’t punished (although I think a run that used only the Bellows and the Mortar would be very challenging).

– In what is a short-ish game, Supergiant Games have built a world with its own history, animals, lore and thinking. And without the use of audio diaries, codecs or other common gaming tricks. Instead it uses…

Logan Cunningham - image taken from the Giant Bomb page

Logan Cunningham. If he used his vocal powers for evil, we'd all die virgins.

– The Narrator (or Rucks, since his name is revealed in time) is brilliant. Logan Cunningham knocks it out of the park (and this appears to be his first go in gaming voice overs, being a part-time actor). His narration – not only of what is happening on screen but also of what happened in the past and about the world – is note perfect in both delivery and content. That Rucks is an unreliable, regretful narrator (as captured by Cunningham) suits Bastion perfectly.

– Bastion realises two great truths in gaming voice overs – redundancy and shutting up. Redundancy in putting voice content into a game that a player may never hear (unless they die / play the game again / try some combination of weapons) but is there anyway, waiting to be found; shutting up in that sometimes you don’t want the game telling you the same thing it told you when you when you tried to beat the level before.

– The music is also wonderful in both its service to the games mood and its integration into the gameplay. In coming across Zia, for instance, you come across her song long before you ever see her and it just adds to what is coming up. Having found Zia, I didn’t want to interrupt her singing. Each area has a distinct sound.

The cast of Bastion (from right to left): The Kid, Zulf, Zia and Rucks

The characters of Bastion in a rare moment of togetherness. (From right to left): The Kid, Zulf, Zia and Rucks)

– At its heart, Bastion is a game about lonely people. There are no happy stories when you meet the characters, nor can you fault Zulf for what he does given what you learn. Every character here only had a little to start off with and the Calamity took all of it anyway.

– One thing I loved in the Bastion narrative is that there are no villains (or, if there are, they’re all dead now). It’s 5 past the end of the world and all that’s left to do is pick up the pieces.

– The one major criticism I had of the game is the lack of variety in enemies. Sure, there is a progression, but not one that felt particularly well spread out to me.

– Bastion is a game that was so good that I hope it doesn’t get a sequel. The story is self contained, the characters have fully contained arcs and anything more just risks the experience Bastion created. More games from Supergiant Games please, but just not Bastion 2: The Kid is Alright.

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