Bastion Review


Now here’s a game whose whole world got all twisted. The best kind of games got unity, got cohesion, and this game, well, it ain’t got it. That don’t mean it’s not the best kind though. I wouldn’t of known it to look at the runt, but, hell, it is.

Can’t hardly begin talking about the game without giving a nod at its narrator. Gruff-sounding fella. Likes to talk in short, fractured sentences — gets to the point. Usually ends a monologue with a poignant, hind-sighted, terse little spit of wisdom. Turns out, that works.

He’s reactive, proactive, telling the game what it’s doing, what it’s done, and where it’ll go. Almost like having Keith David give a eulogy — it’s a damn shame, but, shoot if I don’t enjoy it. Tricky thing is, he’s in the game he’s narratin’. Yeah, he shapes the game up, down, and sideways, gives it context, makes it about something. Guides the game like a rudder while puttin’ wind in the narrative sails. And he never shuts up, beginning to end.

So it’s funny how he never brings the game down. I figured he’d be pissing in the mud after an hour or two, but he kept charming me eight hours later. And the second time through, too; New Game Plus is a neat trick.


As much as he stuck with me, the game ain’t even about him. Nah, it’s about some short, white-haired shrimp waking up to find the world’s just about ended and there’s only one thing for it. He’s got to collect some rocks and stick ‘em back in the Bastion, try to find a way to rebuild Caelondia. Why? Seems like the right thing to do, I suppose. And that narrator keeps eggin’ him on, anyway. More shards mean more experience, and the game likes to reward experience.

It starts out slow, just a hammer and some blue “windbags,” like nails for a board. Each nail that gets hit builds skills, turns the hammer into a real threat. The kid, as he’s called, learns to use all sorts of weapons — bows, pikes, shields, knives, guns, and… well, there’s a few surprises. Point is the kid, the game, has a whole mess of ways to pound through baddies and the fashion of upgrades to keep it interesting.

This is where it ain’t right, though, and stranger still ‘cause it’s on purpose. See, these fellas that made the game, Supergiant, didn’t want to see the thinkin’ man bored, so they fixed up a story, gave it a voice, laced it with relatable themes, carved it real deep, even made the story about storytelling. It’s the kind of ivory tower, highfalutin nonsense only game reviewers and other two-bit peddlers pay any mind to, and the game’s just drippin’ with it.

Then they whipped up a crisp action role-playing game to give the other folks something to whack at, something to upgrade while the narrator’s yammerin’ along. You ask me, I’d say the poor game’s caught in an identity crisis.

But wait, that ain’t it…


Know why? Both ends of the game’s forked tongue are as potent and downright paralyzing as a viper’s venom (I sat down with it and couldn’t move for anything). The organic flow of levels, never staying too long on one idea or purpose, throwing wrenches every which way. The balanced, responsive feel of the weapons, and the variety, not to mention a whole nest-full of give-and-take augments and abilities. The Bastion even customizes difficulty piece by piece, and gives incentive to push the limit with challenges.

Tell you what, though, that’s nothing next to those “intellectual type” hooks the game wears like Sunday best. It may be drawing-room fluff, but it takes on themes like intoxication as gratifying introspection, religion as a rigorous, if comforting, placebo, technology as communication, communication as creation and destruction, and the reason the game exists. I swear I even caught a glimpse of American foreign policy squirmin’ around in there, but it might’ve just been the chaos.

The game had me at that. I’d a’ been mighty pleased to walk away with a head full of thoughts and two thumbs trained in quick combat, but that’s just the appetizer. It’s a gen-yoo-wine feast for the eyes and ears, serving up heaping portions of “acoustic frontier trip-hop” (Supergiant called it that) and an American Western, modern, ancient, wild, floating landscape that I never could place — and it never seemed to matter. I’d call it original, but you probably already figured that out. If the game manages to push out a dedicated soundtrack, folks with discriminatin’ tastes would be wise to snatch it up.

The game hiccups every so often, coughing up some stale, forced bits right alongside the fluid ones. The tale takes a wry turn once or twice, leaning back on old stand-by paths to get on. It doesn’t last so long, and causes less suspicion than the hackin’ repetition action role-playing game’s rely on.


Then the narrator spends a fair time talking over the characters, giving ‘em a past, a motive, a mood. The problem with one narrator, turns out, is the others’ shut traps. They’re developed, alright, but they ain’t got voices, and a voice is about the truest thing in a person. The girl’s got a hauntin’ introduction tune, but she fades.

In memory, all the rough patches are sanded over by the two separate, dense games the game’s got in it. Disjointed? Sure, the game ain’t tryin’ to fit into that form, and damn well it shouldn’t if it does right by both apart. Any way I slice it, all that’s left of the Bastion now are my choices…

The kid gets up. He just rages for awhile. What if you could do it all over again, take back the people you hurt? There’s another reason I’m telling you this story. The Bastion has the power to set everything right. The best stories start from the beginning. Nah, I’m just foolin’.


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Author: Dan Crabtree View all posts by
Dan is Managing Editor for GamerNode and a freelance gaming writer. His dog is pretty great. Check him out on Twitter @DanRCrabtree.

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