Bastion Review: Piece by Piece

Bastion by Supergiant Games, is one of those creative gems that springs forth at the right time. With an economy in flux, publishers want to push the same ideas, re-skinned to gamble “safely” within the market. Bastion is a step in the opposite direction—a creative endeavor in the industry’s current offerings. Bastion is the literal experience of a tale. From a player’s very first actions, the idea is clear—every action is its own story.

Using the inviting voice acting of Logan Cunningham, the narration of Bastion is an organic part of the gameplay—even timely helping players understand how to go about progressing through areas. It also serves to produce an air of humor at certain points (I made plenty of mistakes in this game) and intricately unravels the Bastion story as players are engaged with the action.

New weapons are discovered in areas where their initial use shines! I mention this because I’ve played too many games in which a great weapon is discovered too late for enjoyment. And what would those weapons be without enemies to use them on? The enemies are varied enough to force players seek a strategy for success, as players can roll into a situation where there are at least four enemies, each with unique attacks that can make for complex scenarios.

One part of the Bastion lore really peaks my interest—‘The Calamity.’ It’s a catastrophic event that destroys all there is of the world of Caelondia. But that’s it. There’s where it originates from, who’s responsible, but nothing about what the event itself is and that leaves much room for interpretation. It gives that impression upon the mind like a good fiction novel does when allowing the reader to interpret the story. Also accompanying the smooth game mechanics is the art or aesthetic itself. Lush, “oil-painted” scenery provides delicacy and mystique to the world of Caelondia, reflecting the fleeting beauty of a world now lost to sudden destruction.

Let me make mention of the game music. If I was ever asked what is the best soundtrack to have been created, game or not, Bastion creeps into the discussion. It is rich, lively and impressionistic—it will inject players into the atmosphere of Bastion. The music is just as much a part of the gameplay and I enjoy listening to it even while taking a stroll around town!

One slight conflict I have with the experience is the way the controls sometimes seem to produce a delayed response. I bring it up mainly because almost constant movement and reaction is required. In these strenuous moments, the immersion tends to break (not sure if that’s due to using an Xbox controller over a keyboard).

What I really don’t care for in Bastion is its dependence upon paganism. What I’m mainly referring to is the ‘Shrine’ that’s erected throughout the gameplay. It’s just as the name implies, housing idols of gods within its walls. Now each idol has some affect upon the game when activated which increases the difficulty level in some way—meaning they can be invoked.

While Bastion doesn’t make interacting with these idols necessary to complete the game, their presence is still reinforced by adding areas that can only be played once activating them. This detracts from the aesthetic that’s to be enjoyed and cheapens an otherwise great game—dabbling into pagan myths doesn’t strengthen the story, nor is it innocent.

The combination of stunning environments, clever narration, compelling soundtrack and gameplay serve Bastion well. Further explanation of Caelondia and the characters are available, but not forced, serving players of diverse interests—but the games stumbles over its idolatry. If the developer can leave that behind in future projects, the best is yet to come from its studio.