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Bastion Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Even though it's a port of a four year old Xbox Live Arcade release, Bastion still feels fresh and exciting. It's a triumph in storytelling, and will make you look at game narratives in a different way. Best of all, it understands pacing and is constantly adding new elements. Whether it's on the PlayStation 4 or somewhere else, Bastion is an adventure you simply cannot miss. Rating: 85%
Bastion
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You never really know how a game will age over time. As much as critics would like to pound their chest and proclaim their new favorite thing to be timeless, the truth is that it's nearly impossible to predict the future. Games I felt would live on forever were made obsolete months after release, while titles that barely registered at the time are now considered cherished classics. If there's one thing I've learned, it's to leave the guessing games to Miss Cleo.

Like so many people, I fell in love with Bastion when it was first released back in 2011. I gushed over the amazing art style and even noted that it was an experience I'll likely never forget. At the same time, I nitpicked that the gameplay was on the shallow side and the adventure was an example of style over substance. But even if those complaints are valid, I have spent a surprising amount of the last four years thinking about Bastion. It's a game that has really stuck with me. And having just played through the PlayStation 4 port, I'm starting to think Supergiant Games' debut release is only getting better with age.


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 PlayStation 4 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 employs a narrator who will not just keep the plot moving, but also describe the struggles our hero is going through in real time. The result is wholly unique; a one-man show that tells a stirring (if not heartbreaking) story about trying to make everything right. 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.

I'll admit that the idea of somebody commenting on the action does sound like it would get old quickly, but the developers have 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 very easily been a generic action/RPG story.

Bastion (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

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 level 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 and allows 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.

Bastion understands how to keep things moving. The game clocks in at around six hours, which is the perfect length for this style of adventure. On my second play through (with all my experience, upgraded weapons and power-ups) the game took half that time. The developers didn't add too much padding, instead giving players a satisfying adventure that neither feels too long nor short. It's worth noting that Bastion offers two completely different endings based on late-game decisions, giving players yet another reason to play through story a second time.

There's an argument to be made that the gameplay itself isn't especially deep and the role-playing game elements are barely present. The level designs, while artistically unique, aren't the highlight of this game. Worse yet, I managed to get stuck in the game's background on a number of occasions. But none of these issues bothered me as much in this playthrough. Instead of wishing there were more combos to master, I found myself thoroughly riveted by the emotional story.

Bastion (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The game employs a water color aesthetic, similar to what we saw in Braid. No matter what environment the kid finds himself fighting in (the forest, caverns, swamp, etc.), the graphics are lush and give off that hand-drawn style I can't resist. The way the world builds itself up (and in some ways tears itself down) is unlike anything I've seen this before. Bastion looks like it jumped right off the pages of a children's book, which may be the biggest compliment one can give the game.

As good as the graphics are, everything plays second fiddle to the voice acting. Although he's not the only voice in the game, Logan Cunningham needs to be singled out for his stunning work as the narrator. This is largely a one-man show and he delivers the goods. As I played through the game I pictured an aging cowboy type, somebody with a deep voice that commanded attention. My jaw hit the floor when I saw his picture on the internet. Forget Nolan North, Logan Cunningham needs to be in a lot more games.

Bastion is a triumph in video game storytelling. The action is fast and exciting, but the entire experience is elevated by the running commentary and emotional story beats. The game's sharp visuals also help to sell the illusion. Bastion is a four year old action game that doesn't feel like it has aged a day. In fact, I like it more now than I did in 2011. How many games can you say that about?
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