You probably think you've heard this story before: Calamity strikes and the whole world ends. You're one of the few people left standing in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by monsters. It's up to you to collect the pieces and rebuild your broken home. It sounds so familiar, doesn't it? Well think again, because nothing is what it appears. I guarantee you've never heard a story like Bastion.
This brand new Xbox Live Arcade game proves that it's not always about the adventure you go on, but sometimes it's the way the story is told. In the case of Bastion, Supergiant Games employed a narrator telling the story all while the action happens on screen. The result is unlike anything I've experienced on the Xbox 360; a one-man show that tells a stirring (if not heartbreaking) story. Bastion plays out like an interactive campfire story.
It's impossible to grasp what makes Bastion so special without knowing a thing or two about the narrator. In this case he's a crotchety old cowboy-type (think Sam Elliot and you're on the right track) who seems to know more about the situation than he's letting on. Every time the kid enters a room, the wise old narrator has something to say. This works to fill in some of the context of the world, while also adding a play-by-play to the action. Killing an enemy will result in the narrator giving words of encouragement, while he'll openly mock our hero for falling off the side of the map. There isn't a comment for every action, but the developers have certainly given off the illusion that there's somebody writing a book to your on-screen actions.
Normally when I tell people that Bastion has a narrator talking over the action I'm met with blank stares. I'll admit that the idea of somebody commenting on the action does sound like it would get old quickly, but Supergiant Games has managed to dodge that bullet by crafting an incredibly well written script. The narrator doesn't repeat his lines, instead he tells a fully realized story about a kid who wakes up one day and has to rebuild the world. There's something comforting about the narrator's voice and the writing elevates what could have been a generic action/RPG story.
The game is broken up into around three dozen stages, in which players look around for helpful items, new weapons and parts of the Bastion's core. Not every level plays out the same way, with many stages leaving the player empty handed. Each of the stages takes place on a sky walkway, a strange area where the ground you stand on magically forms as you explore. But don't fall off the walkway or you'll lose a little life (and lot of pride).
The combat is simple, allowing our hero to hold two weapons at the same time as well as one special move. The game is filled with a lot of predictable weapons made to look unconventional. You get a shotgun, rocket launcher, machete, crossbow, giant hammer, sniper rifle and more. Each of these weapons can be upgraded in different ways, giving players incentive to collect as much money as possible.
On top of the weapons, we're also given a choice of special abilities to use. Bastion does a good job of offering multiple types of abilities, including those that devastate everything around them to others that help you escape or regain health. For much of the game I rained fireballs down on my enemies, but late in the game I saw the benefit of creating a dummy that lures baddies away from our hero. These attacks are limited, so you can't use the abilities as your primary attack. Thankfully you are able to pick up more special items from defeating bad guys and breaking crates.
It's not always about the adventure you go on, but sometimes it's the way the story is told. Bastion weaves an incredible story that goes places I wasn't expecting. The game's narrations are unlike anything I've experienced before; improving what could have been an otherwise mediocre dungeon crawler. With some clever twists and turns, Bastion stays interesting from beginning to end!
This product was submitted by the publisher for review. As a rule, Defunct Games does not review games we spent money on. However, that does not always apply to classic/retro games. This specific product, however, came straight from a PR guy for the purposes of being reviewed!