Developer: Supergiant Games
Released: July 2011 (XBox Live) / August 2011 (Steam)
Bastion is an action-RPG where you play as "the kid", one of the only survivors of a catastrophic event called the Calamity, which reduced his country to dust and a few floating chunks of land. The kid sets off to the Bastion, a safe haven where people agreed to meet in troubled times. There he meets the Stranger, who sends him off to collect cores from the shattered city, in the hope of using the Bastion to repair the damage caused by the Calamity. Of course, it'll take every weapon and skill in the kid's arsenal to fight his way through the panicked and malicious creatures that survived.
Bastion's review scores averaged in the high eighties. Critics loved the game's graphics, music, and narration, as well as the variety and depth of the unlocks. Some were neutral on the story, and others felt that combat had great variety but lacked depth and complexity.
Bastion has received plenty of updates, mostly bug fixes. One major update added some new content: a new challenge map, a score attack mode (where you can replay levels to compete with other players for points), and a new difficulty with unlimited continues.
Visuals & Audio
All the environments are hand-painted, and each block and object is animated individually. The world is colourful and feels full of life, even after the Calamity.
The game's music is also excellent, particularly the boss battle music and the songs with vocals.
Variety & Choice
You've got tons of options and things to do in Bastion. There are twelve unlockable weapons, each with five upgrade slots (and each upgrade slot offers a choice of two bonuses), and all weapons have their own unique feel and mechanics. There are a few dozen skills, some tied to weapons, others independent. You can equip two weapons and one skill at once, in any combination you choose. There are challenge maps to help you master each weapon. There are a ton of spirits (the alcohol kind) that grant you diverse passive bonuses. There are vigils to complete, which function as in-game achievements that reward you with money.
The narrator reminds me of Morgan Freeman. Not that he sounds similar, but in that I could just sit there and listen to him talk for hours. The voice acting is very well done and conveys a sense of wisdom, and simultaneous hope and sorrow.
Functionally, the narrator gives you scripted bits of story as you progress through each level, but what's more interesting is that he also comments on your actions. If you do one thing for a long time, take certain actions, equip certain weapons, or perform feats of skill, he'll comment on all of those. For example, when you first find your hammer, if you smash everything around you he'll say "Kid just rages for a while". If you roll a lot, he'll comment
New Game +
After you finish the game you have the option of restarting with your experience, unlocks, and upgrades intact. You also get an additional challenge map, the Stranger's Dream. More interesting, though, is that new game + adds just a little bit to the story, hinting that resetting the timeline did not, in fact, prevent the Calamity from reoccurring (highlight spoiler at your own risk!).
There are times where I was surprised by the darkness and maturity of tone, which contrasts with the friendly visuals. As an example, when you explore the remains of the main section of Caelondia, you find the stone remains of plenty of people. The narrator tells you who they are, and comments that "they didn't make it" - for every one. You hear "they didn't make it" a dozen times in quick succession, describing all these friendly people the kid used to know. It's pretty sad.
If you play through the Who Knows Where segments accessible from the Bastion, you can also learn the stories of the characters you encounter. They also tend to be surprisingly tragic - for example, the kid went to serve his duty in the army on the wall for five years, but when he returned, his mother had passed away. Not knowing what else to do, he became the only one ever to return for a second tour of duty on the wall. And one day, when he woke up, the Calamity had happened and everything he knew was gone.
And at the end of the game, (highlight for spoiler) you have to choose between resetting the timeline without knowing if that will stop the Calamity from happening all over again, or whether to accept the devastation and move on.
Weapon Range and Aim
With some weapons, the animation doesn't quite seem to match the actual range of the weapon. You get used to it quickly enough, but it can be weird to try to get the feel for a new weapon.
Also, the isometric view makes it hard to aim certain ranged weapons. The lock-on compensates pretty well, but still.
Recommendation: play it.
Bastion is beautiful in both visuals and audio, and offers a lot of choice and variety. It's a decent length (about seven hours for me), and offers solid replayability with new game + and score attack. The narrator does a great job of blending gameplay and story, so that you're not always sure what's scripted and what's spontaneous. Bastion is definitely worth your fifteen bucks.