The world is broken. It was a calamity that broke it; they have a habit of doing that. In Bastion you play as the ‘The Kid’, a silent protagonist trying to rebuild the world for no reason other than there is little else you can do with a broken world. While the world builds itself around you as you walk through it there is a good deal more to do before the damage of the calamity can be undone. But where to start? At the Bastion.

I came to playing Bastion having seen the trailers and heard the E3 hype but I wasn’t all that sure what kind of game it was. I had read it was an Action RPG. I guess that’s accurate but it may not be clear from the offset what RPG elements are used. There is XP and leveling but that all seems fairly arbitrary as levels only unlock customisation slots. There are no stats to assign or keep track of, no branching skill trees and no character classes to speak of. Weapon customisation is important and forms the very core of the combat system but again it is fairly lightweight. What does make Bastion appear to be an Action RPG rather than just an isometric brawler is the epic, character driven narrative. You start with very little idea of what is going on and as you progress you are fed information. Tiny bits of story weave themselves into a tale that you will feel very much invested in. This is in part due to the fact that you are never given all the facts, just short anecdotes and tales recounted by the game’s outstanding narrator, leaving you to fill in the gaps. That said, you will never feel short changed. The story builds quickly as you take steps towards rebuilding your world and begin discovering new characters to join your cause.

Considering that the narrator is the only speaking character in the game, with the whole game playing out as if he is telling you a story, it’s amazing you ever form any bond with the other characters. In actuality they do very little; the narrator will recount what they did or said in any situation. Other than that they will just stand there in your hub world awaiting salvation. By all rights I shouldn’t give two fucks about them, but I did care and I was interested—must have been me filling in the gaps again. It’s worth mentioning that the narrator is not on a fixed script and will commentate on your actions in games as you perform them. It’s a nice touch that only helps to deepen your immersion into the world.

And what a world it is. Broken, it may be, but the world of Bastion is beautiful. I find it hard to describe the art style; I concede this is a failing on my part. I wanted to say it reminded me a little of Braid, but that doesn’t do it any justice. The world is often lush and bright, made all the more spectacular when you see it building up under your feet as you walk, but environments soon turn dark and foreboding and the urge to escape back to the safety of your Bastion will fill you and have you dodging and bypassing enemies.

Although the story and beautifully detailed world will drive you to play Bastion what you will be doing in that world is fighting. Lots of fighting. The hook in combat is the customisable weapon system. You have three attack buttons that are assigned to two weapons and a skill of your choice. With a choice of about ten weapons ranging from a machete to a long range hunting bow, you can pair them up as you see fit, giving you the freedom to fight in a style that suits you or the environment you happen to be in. Your chosen skill is a sort of limited use super attack, generally serving to get you out of a sticky situation when outnumbered. This freedom does open up the possibility of making a bad choice and being stuck with it for a whole area, but areas can be quit and retried with no penalty so experimentation is encouraged.

I’d like to explain the style of combat further but it is so dependent on your weapon choice that the only way to sum it up is to say that there are tons of enemies of all different shapes and sizes and you’ll need to work out how each behaves in order to take them all down or in some cases avoid them all together.

The Bastion serves as your hub world and from there you will venture out into various parts of the broken world collecting sources of energy that will allow the Bastion to grow and expand your reach further into the world. As the Bastion grows you will be given the choice of building various structures that will aid you in your quest: a place to swap your weapons, a forge to upgrade them, a shop to buy parts. There are six in total and each can be upgraded once but you will end up with all six, it’s just a matter of choosing the order.

Beyond the standard ‘story’ zones there are also challenge zones and dream zones. Challenge zones offer prizes based on your performance with a particular weapon and are best attempted once you’ve upgraded that weapon with a few buffs. Dream zones work like a kind of ‘Horde Mode’ with you being tasked with surviving wave after wave of enemies for money and experience points. Both of these extra modes are optional but will help you along your way and offer a nice distraction from the main game.

Before summing up and slapping a score on Bastion I should cover what I don’t like about it. Just one thing, really. When you find a new weapon or skill it replaces the one you currently have equipped. This seems like a minor gripe but when I’ve just spent time on the extra stages earning money and parts to upgrade my favorite weapons I want to use them. Having a new weapon forced upon me seems like a contrived way to get me through that area. In actuality you often do need that new weapon for the area and the enemies you encounter will act as a kind of tutorial for how it is to be used. I’d just like the choice.







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