Every so often, one developer manages to come out of nowhere and surprise everyone with a title that is truly special. Last year, that developer was Supergiant Games, and their game was none other than Bastion.
When he unveiled the game to the world for the first time, Supergiant Games Creative Director Greg Kasavin, stated:
“Our goal with Bastion is to hit players’ emotional chords in unexpected ways, in addition to delivering highly responsive gameplay that rewards finesse and experimentation. We’re pushing to make it so that players become absorbed in the game’s distinctive setting and narrative tone from the first moments.”
Ten months later, Kasavin and the rest of the Supergiant team completely nailed that goal, with a hauntingly beautiful video game.
The basic goal of Bastion is simple; as ‘The Kid’ construct a safe haven in the devastating wake of the Calamity, a cataclysmic event that devastated the world into a series of floating islands. Its crucial point of difference however, is the inclusion of a dynamic narrator; the solitary, sultry voice that will flow through your headphones or speakers throughout the duration of your journey.
It’s a feature that simply must be in more games, and one that provides the Action RPG with its core identity. Your omniscient friend is there to guide you through the beautifully designed levels, provide helpful tips as you open up cans of whoop ass upon your foes, and above all, reveal the rich back story that you quickly become engrossed in.
Speaking of story, from Mass Effect to Fallout, moral choice is becoming increasingly prevalent in modern video games. Yet strangely enough, it was Bastion that presented me with some of the toughest I have faced within the medium. Yes, if you’re watching the clock the game may appear to be a relatively short experience.
But in that time, Supergiant Games lures you into legitimately caring about the wonderful world you work so hard to repair. Though all characterisation is presented via a single narrator, an incredible bond is formed between you, The Kid, his plights and above all, his fate. It is nothing but an utter testament to the skill and talent of Supergiant that they had me staring at my screen for close to twenty minutes, torn over what to do.
To discuss Bastion however, and not mention its unbelievably engaging soundtrack is a crime. For, to call Bastion’s soundtrack one of gamings greatest might sound hyperbolic, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
With stupidly catchy beats, meshed into an unexpectedly moving score, the game manages to transition from slugging Squirts and Gasfellas to moments of pure sentiment with what feels like little, to no effort at all. Though the soundtrack only possesses three songs with proper vocals, their placement is deftly melded into critical moments of the games narrative, often helping solidify Bastion’s melancholic tone.
As a whole, Bastion remains a perfect cacophony of fresh game design, backed up by rock solid game mechanics. Sure, it could be argued that combat becomes a tad repetitive towards the end; it’s just that it doesn’t matter. Weapons are handed out consistently enough to allow fresh approaches, and the need to determine just what happened in Caelondia is enough of a drive to keep you chugging to the very end.
Amidst a time where sequels were order of the day, and there were more ‘Hollywood Shooters’ then you could cock a gun at, Bastion dared to be different, and shone through to easily become not only the best downloadable game, but one of the best games, period, of last year. Play it.