Long overdue thoughts on a game I played, finished, and 100%-ed long ago. But the reason this game deserves better than my tardy reflection proffers is because it’s so great.
Bastion is a simple isometric action game that doesn’t introduce anything unique. That Bastion doesn’t attempt to set itself apart with gimmicks is what makes it so good. The creators know what gamers enjoy and deliver it cleanly and simply. Let that be a lesson to you other game developers. Don’t muddy the experience with complicated rules. The game gives you multiple weapons to play with, money to earn, upgrades to spend your money on, difficulty adjustments, arena challenges, and even farming opportunities for you RPG completionists. I don’t want to waste time with specifics, but the design choices were very well thought out.
This will be my first time calling out the music for a game. I can’t describe the genre at all so it’s best you just listen yourself here. And don’t think you have an impression of what the music is like just by listening to a single track. Each song is special and is, I consider, deserving to be mentioned on its own.
The story. Don’t expect a completely mind-blowing story, because those are few and far between. I’m somewhat biased, but it’s hard to find a more creative story-telling mind than my very own Ken Levine. So while Bastion has an interesting story and some really well-done (and cry-worthy) moments near the end, my favorite is how the game delivers story: through a 3rd person narrator called The Narrator. The story unfolds in a way that works well with the general pace the game wants to maintain. It’s not overwhelming and in your face a la MGS4. Instead, bits and pieces come together little by little, which is also just like how the levels themselves are revealed to the player.
They call him The Narrator for a reason: he actually narrates your game. Pick up an item, he discusses it. Fall off a cliff, he jokes about it. You get the feeling that he is both driving you forward and at the same time telling your own personal story to an unnamed audience. There are even tutorial elements hinted in his narration, but not in a “do this” fashion. It really is a hint, and it makes you feel smart for having picked up on it. The Narrator is rightfully considered a feature of the gameplay. He’s got a sexy voice too.
Bastion is a well-polished gaming experience that also has brilliant little nuggets that are easy to miss but truly rewarding to find. I can’t remember the last time I smiled to myself while playing a game. I finished it twice-over myself by using the New Game+ feature, and the second time was not a chore. Buy Bastion because some of the guys who created the game are friends and former co-workers. But also buy it because it’s one of the best games I’ve played in a long time.