Review: Bastion – a hand-crafted ambitious RPG gets a perfect score

Bastion RPG game screenshot 2

Developer Summary:

Bastion is an action role-playing experience that redefines storytelling in games, with a reactive narrator who marks your every move. Explore more than 40 lush hand-painted environments as you discover the secrets of the Calamity, a surreal catastrophe that shattered the world to pieces. Wield a huge arsenal of upgradeable weapons and battle savage beasts adapted to their new habitat. Finish the main story to unlock the New Game Plus mode and continue your journey!

What We Think:

From developer Supergiant Games, Bastion is a game that centers around its narrative, and its solid combat system. Right from the start its charm will grope around on you until it finds a firm grip and drags you into its lair for the rest of the ride. And while it relies heavily on its storytelling to get you interested and its unique way of building the world as you traverse the levels, it is the rock-solid combat system that will keep you there until the very end. At its core, Bastion is a stage-based beat-em-up with character advancement through equipment.

Bastion RPG game screenshot 2

I played Bastion with a 360 controller, on an XBOX. The basis of the combat centers around any two of a grip of weapon choices. There are weapons to satisfy any play style, multiple melee and several ranged, and each can even be upgraded in different ways to set up different effects. When you enter a stage, you’re allowed to have any two equipped, as you can swap them out only in the Armory. But, as you will be finding new weapons on about every other stage, there are sometimes Armories played in stages so you can swap back to the trusty old weapons to which you’ve become accustomed, or try a new build along with your newly acquired tool of destruction.

Actual combat is fun, and has a very nice difficulty curve. You are rewarded for actively blocking with counter attack damage, some weapons have knock-backs, bleed effects, AoE, rapid fire, piercing attacks, different speeds and feels. If you like to mash your button as fast as you can, you may enjoy a machete with which you swipe away madly, or you can use the hammer for a more controlled experience with higher per-hit damage.

Each weapon also comes with a challenge stage that will give you a place to test what it’s capable of within its designed area of expertise. The wrist machine gun has you running along a collapsing road shooting targets as you go. The hammer has you clearing an area of rubble within a given time limit. The Bow & Arrow has you practice your piercing charged shot to kill several enemies in a line.

When fighting enemies, getting hit was punishing, but fair. Never did I feel that I was cheap-shotted, nor is there any way to get stuck in a mob of never-ending stun combos. But, that’s not to say some enemies are not a pain to fight. Especially if you want to finish levels without taking a scratch as a personal achievement. You take quite a bit of damage when hit, but you have several bottles of booze which act as potions for extra life. This is where Bastion gets its 10+ ESRB rating. ಠ_ಠ

Bastion screenshot 1

Spoilers ahead

About achievements, once you start rebuilding the Bastion, which is a floating island (I’ll say no more. Spoiler Spoiler!!), you can start building structures on it. This includes a shop, the armory, forge, distillery, archive, and temple of Idols. The Archive contains simple achievements which will award you more cash for the shop and forge use. The Distillery allows you to equip several passive buffs that you discover and buy along the way. But I thought the Idols provided the most interesting addition to the game as they allow you to turn on and off extra difficulty modifiers. These can be simply enemies hitting harder or have more HP, or they can be that upon death, enemies leave behind a little bouncing bomb that you have to take extra care not to run into during heated combat. Having many of these modifiers on grants you more Experience and Cash rewards.

And, after you complete the game, there is a New Game+ that starts you out with every weapon, all your upgrades saved, and items found. This is where turning on every single Idol would be your end game replay.

/END Spoiler

Bastion - RPG Game Review screenshot 4

Finally, since the game has class, and is secondly about its story, I want to express how well it’s done but as spoiler-free as I can:

The old man who lives on the Bastion is narrating as you play. He narrates everything, from major story reveals to the immediate actions of the player. As you walk through the first area he’ll tell you who the people used to be who are now nothing more than piles of dust. If you hang out in an area and destroy all the scenery then the narrator might say, “He wailed on his surroundings for a while to get his frustrations out.”

It’s charming, it’s fairly original, and it works. It’ll keep you interested in the story just enough to complement the action until the very end, where instead of simply complementing the game, it becomes the focal point. I really don’t want to spoil it, but what happens at the end simply blew me away.

If you read other reviews, and they tell you how the story affected them, they’re referring to that last little bit at the end, and nothing more. It’s not a bad thing that it’s not an epic throughout, but it’s a treat that you’re rewarded with an epic upon completion.

Bastion RPG Game Review - E3 2011 screenshot

There is almost nothing bad I can say about Bastion. I only ran into one bug while playing – I rolled into a cage that I should not have been able to enter and it took me a little while to find a way to roll back out so I didn’t get stuck. And some people might get OCD about how the Narrator tends to leave off the first word or two of every sentence he says, “Wondered what happened to all these folks.” Instead of “He wondered” or, “The boy wondered”…

Besides this the only thing this leads me to say next is; “Five points for Griffen-, I mean, Bastion!!”

Get Bastion on Steam

Get Bastion on XBOX 360

Listen or purchase the Bastion soundtrack at Bandcamp

[xrr rating=”5/5″]

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