Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Bastion review

Bastion hit the Xbox Live Marketplace last month, and many PC users wondered how long it would be before they were able to sample the game which took the gaming world by storm. Fortunately, it wasn't long. A few short weeks passed and the definitive version of Bastion hit the Steam store, and had the same effect on gamers that it did a month earlier. Here's our verdict on the PC version.

 "Proper story's supposed to start at the beginning..."
A kid wakes up in his bedroom, only to find that the world around him has been destroyed. The calamity has hit, leaving the world in disarray and many people dead. He makes his way to the Bastion, the place that everyone agreed to go to in case of trouble. The ground appears in front of him, raised from far beneath him, and he sets off on his journey. He encounters many foes, but finds a few weapons to help him out. When he eventually gets to the Bastion, he finds but one survivor, Rucks.

This is the first time we see Rucks, but he has been narrating from the very start. This is what makes Bastion stand out from literally any other game. It has a dynamic narrator. Rucks reveals story details at set points, and his enigmatic, philosophical way of speaking is engrossing and hypnotising. The dynamic narration is different though, as you are told things that you choose. For example, choose the hammer and the repeater in the Arsenal and Rucks will talk about that exact combination, even mentioning the names. Another example is when you fall off the floating levels, he will comment on the Kid's need to be more careful. It's these little things that draw you into the world of Bastion, and the quality of the voice acting and script are incredible; the story's quality is better than 90% of the AAA retail titles out there right now. 
Block at the perfect time to send the shot right back
After you get used to the Bastion and Rucks, you use the Skyway to travel to other levels. Making your way through various environments, you are looking for shards and cores. These power up the Bastion, making it stronger and more powerful. It's not all straight forward though, as the many different levels pose different challenges and scenarios. What happens when the core is right at the start of the level? Five minutes of intense battle, as items, enemies and friends drop from the sky, constantly. What happens when someone else takes a core, and the world starts to crumble, with no energy left to hold the place together? These variations on the typical level structure work with the narrator to deliver one of the most riveting games of recent years.

As well as the story levels, there are Proving Ground levels and Who Knows Where. There is one Proving Ground for each weapon, which rewards mastery each specific weapon. Some of them are a bit too easy, and some are actually quite challenging. Either way, they're all fun to play, and the rewards are definitely worth it. The rewards are usually special moves or upgrade items, but sometimes you get fragments of the Old World, which act as currency in Bastion. As well as the Proving Grounds, there are the trips to Who Knows Where. There are three of these, which are unlocked one at a time as you progress through the game. They take you into a dream world, where you find many enemies and rewards, but are also told the stories of three of the characters. They are a great way to level up and earn some fragments, and listening to the narrator's voice is always a good thing.
Enemies come in all shapes and sizes

As well as working towards the Bastion's purpose, they also allow shops and other useful structures to be built, allowing you to change, upgrade and buy weapons and items, anger the gods or complete extra challenges. It is definitely worth taking a good luck at each one, as the rewards are definitely beneficial.

The graphics in Bastion are another fine example of game design. Each and every level is hand-painted, and it looks beautiful. The whole game is like a book; Rucks telling the story, the world looking like it could literally be on paper. The music has also not been forgotten about, as Bastion has one of the greatest soundtracks in gaming. With some incredible instrumentals and two mind-blowing vocal performances, the soundtrack should not be overlooked, even if the game is not your cup of tea.
The musket makes quick work of Squirts

Bastion has done what so many games fail to. As well as providing a fun gameplay experience, it also delivers an amazing story, which we are told by one man. The twists and turns, the jokes and advice, are all told perfectly by Rucks. The last level is by far one of the most emotional sections of any recent game. It gives you tough choices, and the consequences tug on your heart strings. The beautifully arranged soundtrack just adds to the effect, and should definitely win some awards. Each element in Bastion comes together perfectly, much like the ground underneath the Kid's feet. The end product is an absolute masterpiece of art, sound and story, and not only stands equal with top indie games such as Braid and Limbo, but towers above them.


by Louis Gardner

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