Old Disney movies had this sort of magic when it came to storytelling; something about them that was inexplicably entrancing and amazing. From the hand painted artwork to the whimsical characters and intriguing, yet often dark, storylines, they effectively captured your attention and always had you coming back for more.
Long gone are the days of Sleeping Beauty and Snow White, but SuperGiant Games’ Bastion has beautifully reintroduced the method of artistic delivery that once set the bar, and has done so with a core development team of about half a dozen individuals.
As the Kid, you wake up in a world ravaged by the destructive event known as the Calamity. You make your way to the Bastion, a safe haven in case an incident such as this occurs. Not fully functional, you embark on a quest to collect items to repair the Bastion, adding stores and buildings that can be used to upgrade your character as you progress through the game, all while learning more about the Calamity.
The story is extremely well paced throughout, an experience no doubt enhanced by the ongoing narration, voiced by Logan Cunningham. This narration – which takes place throughout the entire game, whether in battle or exploring the Bastion hub world – adds a beautifully dynamic layer to the experience; even though you are actively playing through the game, you almost feel as if you are being told a fairytale at the same time.
Artistically, Bastion is absolutely jaw-dropping. The hand-painted environments feel as if you are moving through a world actually built upon the brush strokes of a well-crafted artist, instead of one constructed of digital pixels. The various creatures and set places that you encounter are well imagined, beautifully illustrated, and never cease to keep you forgetting that Bastion is actually a $15 downloadable title and not a full retail game.
When making your way through the various levels of Bastion, you find yourself in an isometric beat-em-up game with loot and experience based RPG elements built within. In battle, you are equipped with a combination of short and long range weapons, such as a hammer, a bow and arrow, or even a gun or two, all of which act very differently from each other. Item and loot drops help you on your way to upgrade the Kid and his arsenal with a lightly customizable leveling system.
In the 8-10 hours that it will take you to complete Bastion, you may find that gameplay can be a bit redundant. Being a non-puzzle, (mostly) non-decision based game can occasionally do that. Luckily, the story, art, and loot and experience upgrade systems are more than enough to keep your attention at bay.
An in-game goal system will keep you coming back for more, as well as a New Game Plus mode, made available once you complete your first playthrough. Bastion is not an in-depth exploration game so an additional playthrough will likely leave you unsatisfied in that regard, but there are a couple of decisions that are made that have a major affect on the game’s outcome, so an extra time around wouldn’t be completely unwarranted.
As a whole, Bastion is a beautiful storybook come to life. The artistic direction is stunning and extremely effective; Cunningham’s well-written and delivered narration single handedly propels this game to a higher echelon; and the gameplay and overarching storyline are just as fun as they are adventurous. Bastion will not be soon forgotten and, like any well-made downloadable title, has set an example that even full retail games need to take note of.