Bastion at its core is a relatively simple hack and slash style adventure game. It’s a simple game with simple mechanics which might sound like it’s boring or just a standard Zelda style clone, but that’s where you’d be wrong. You play as “The Kid” as you beat up cute monsters with things like a hammer, repeater, bow and other standard weapon types. While it may not offer anything new to the genre from a combat perspective, it certainly does what it has as well as anyone could ask for with solid controls and a static camera set up in an isometric view. What really brings this game alive is the backing soundtrack, the narration and the art style which you come to expect with indie titles like Bastion.
With Bastion you have gritty, gravely narration done by Logan Cunningham that pushes along the story by quite literally narrating everything that your character is doing. It’s a different take on telling a story especially in this genre and it really adds a lot of personality to the game. The soundtrack is yet again solid and adds a gritty western feel to the game which gives it a unique personality that makes you want to come back for more. The art style is what sold me on Bastion initially. The hand painted art assets that are colorful and beautiful popping up under your feet as you move the character immediately grabbed me and made me play through the first few levels alone. For a relatively simple adventure game, it’s those things that make this stand out.
Supergiant Games have added in an interesting way of tuning Bastion’s difficulty for the player and adding some superficial replay value by having God Idols. They flip the norm here by making each idol add difficulty to the game by doing things like speeding up enemies while also adding in a reward like additional XP for each kill. It’s a novel way of getting a few more hours of gameplay for those that are still left hungering for a little more, but it’s a functionality that is added way too late into the game to leave its mark on the first playthrough.
Now unfortunately, here comes the part where I have to say the story is mediocre. The first 5 minutes is intriguing and holds enough mystery so you want to find out what happens next, but the writers hold on to that for most of the game so things get dry and monotonous very quick. You find yourself moving from level to level not recognizing that there is a story until everything breaks open and moves forward towards the end of the game. Now I’ve heard other gamers say the story is moving and it is…. just at the end of the game. It’s disappointing since it could have easily been paced much better throughout and gave the characters even more of a personality and the ending even more emotional weight.
Overall, Bastion is a really solid game that has a lot of things going for it. A better story however would have sealed the deal and made this the standard for indie adventure gaming to live up to. It’s that giant miss that left me feeling a little hollow when I beat the game and why I really haven’t picked it up much afterwards. I will say that for the $15 it is on Steam, its worthy of a buy as some might be able to overlook the slow building story. At the very least, its solid game mechanics, interesting hand painted artwork, great narration and beautiful soundtrack make it a good addition to your game collection.