Sony might have the leg up on Microsoft with it’s first party lineup for 2011 but the 360 is definitely way ahead of the PS3 with it’s downloadable offerings. One of the first games to come out in this year’s summer of arcade is a game called Bastion, which was released last July 20, 2011.
Bastion is the first game from developer Supergiant games and its basically an action RPG set in a very artsy game world. You play as the main character who is aptly named ‘the Kid’ and you’re objective is to undo or repair the destruction brought about by the event called Calamity. Like Gordon Freeman (Half-Life 2) the character you control doesn’t really say anything and we don’t really know what he’s thinking at any given time as well but that doesn’t make him any less charismatic than the next guy. There’s not a lot of text that you have to read in this game as well, no particular NPC’s giving you side-quests or help texts popping up whenever you get a new weapon or even tomes/books that you can read so that you can get a better idea of what’s going on around and discover how the Calamity happened and what you can do to fix your world.
So if the main character is silent and there isn’t a lot of things for you to read, aside from the loading screen hints, then how does this game explain anything to you? The game basically narrates everything that’s happening through voice over from one characters you meet, an old guy named Rucks who’s basically the dude that Morgan Freeman is going to play if ever this game became a movie. His voice is perfect for narration; whether it was inferring what the kid was feeling or telling you more about the stage you’re currently on and even a few jokes here and there. This voice over feature really made me interested and got me through the early parts where I usually give up on finishing a game especially downloadable ones. Sometimes I would tune out the narrator when I’m too busy in combat so I miss out on some plot details, that’s why I wish there were still tomes that I could collect so that I can go back and read them after I’ve finished the game.
Everything about the gameplay in Bastion feels like it came from a triple A title. The way the environment slowly builds from the abyss as you walk near the edge was really unique and it presented some risk/rewards because there is fall damage if you dodge attacks and roll off an edge accidentally or you’d eventually find a secret path with some extra goodies in it. Collectibles also add to the depth of the game’s RPG side. You can collect shards, cores, weapons, weapon upgrades, minerals(currency), mementos, spirits & idols. Sound like a handful? Well yes and no, there’s definitely a lot of things to collect but unless you’re a completionist then you don’t have to worry. Still, I was encouraged to explored every nook and cranny of a particular level to get a few items and upgrades. All these collectibles eventually end up in your base, the Bastion, spread throughout a few buildings:
Arsenal: A place where you can change your current weapon loadout, including your special move
Forge: Upgrade each weapon you come across up to 5 times, using specific upgrade materials and minerals
Lost-and-Found: you can buy materials, mementos, and Spirits with mineral fragments (money).
Memorial: contains a set of challengers that once completed rewards you with minerals (amount depends on difficulty)
Shrine: Use the idols that you find so that you can make the game more difficult and in turn get more exp and money from kills
Distillery: you can equip 1 spirit per level which gives you advantages like extra hp, crit, etc
There are also special stages called proving grounds where you have to use a particular weapon and complete challenges. The better you are with a challenge, the more rewards you get. This feature is really helpful, Bastion doesn’t force you to change weapons but it gives you an idea of how each of them works through the proving grounds so you can decide on which loadout you like the most.
The combat was good enough for a downloadable game, the controls were well-mapped and wasn’t sophisticated so you can hand this game to your younger cousin or girlfriend and they’ll be able to enjoy the game as well. The problem with the combat though is that you could pretty much go through the game pretty easily just firing you’re ranged weapon most of the time. Maybe it’s just my playstyle but I really didn’t see any opponent that forced me to use my melee weapon. And by default the game is too easy, good thing there’s are idols you can collect/buy that make enemies a lot stronger so the game becomes increasingly more challenging per idol you use, but you get more exp and money as well! After you finish the game you can start a new game+ which adds replayability to Bastion, which is more than I can say for Shadows of the Damned!
The anime-esque art of this game was really something to admire. Jen Zee (her portfolio ) did an amazing job creating an authentic look for the main characters and diverse environments so that the game never got boring. I usually hear a game’s soundtrack and judge whether it added enough to the mood of the current situation but in Bastion there were a few times when I actually stopped and just listened to the track that was playing, it was that good! You can actually buy the game’s soundtrack for 10$ here. I’ve embedded the tracklist at the end of this post, ‘Build That Wall’ is my favorite cut.
My only gripe would be that I wish I could control camera angles or at least camera zoom levels. Oh, and it might be asking too much from a $15 downloadable game but co-op/multiplayer would be so much fun in this game.
Bastion is a really good game, it reminded me of games I used to play on my Super Nintendo and it’s a nice break from the typical space marine FPS/RPG that I get to play on consoles these days. I would recommend this game to any type of player, if you have an Xbox 360 go and download this game (let’s face it there are no good games for Xbox ‘till Gears 3 arrives =D). Bastion arrives for the PC on August 16.