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Yet another pointless personal blog

Bastion

Yesterday, I finally finished my second play through of Bastion. The game is so great, that I want to recommend it here.

Story

On first sight, The Bastion appears to be little more than a flying peace of rock drifting through the remains of what the Calamity left of the old world. In the beginning of the game, The Bastion finds The Kid (or The Kid finds The Bastion). On the Bastion, the Kid meets The Stranger and – guided by him – The Kid searches the land to find other survivors and ultimately to uncover the secrets of the Calamity, that fractured the earth, destroyed Caelondia and left so few survivors.

When The Kid and The Stranger first met, the Bastion is weak and powerless. To bring her back to old glory, The Kid first has to search for the Cores, that are scattered throughout the land. With every Core that is recovered, the Bastion gains new Energy and grows, enabling them to travel much further into the lands. Soon they realize, they are not the only ones who survived the Calamity. Other Survivors, like Zulf from the folk of the Ura, join them on the Bastion.

In the end, they figure out, what the Calamity actually was, what led to this huge catastrophe. A discovery, not everyone deals with equally…

Gameplay

One could think of Bastion as a hack-n-slash RPG. You control The Kid and roam the world in an isometric top-down perspective. Battle in Bastion is realtime and The Kid gathers quite an arsenal of close-combat and long-range weapons. Throw in his Bullhead Shield and some special abilities and you are set. There is also some leveling involved, but apart from packing a bigger punch and more health, leveling up doesn’t gain you much. So don’t expect a Diablo-Style skill tree or anything.

Bastion started out as an Indie game on XBox Live but is now available on nearly everything that has a display. I’ve played it on the iPad, but if you can, play it on something that has a bigger screen – Bastion is beautiful. Bastion is drawn in living, vibrant colors and has a comic-art-style that really hits my taste. It’s meant to be played on your big screen TV, with the rocking volume from your speakers. But I’ll get to the audio later.

The difficulty was quite right for me. I had no problem, finishing the game. The occasional death happened, but it never got frustrating. And if you like a challenge, the last few achievements are really hardcore (I haven’t managed to finish any of the dreams with all 10 gods enabled. I already struggle with 5).

The Bad

Since we are on the go, it was most convenient for me to play Bastion on the iPad. The iPad is really great for recreational gaming. Melt with a couch or a comfy chair, pop in your favorite headphones and dive into the space between your hands. However a touchscreen isn’t the perfect input device for games like bastion. While it did get the job done most of the time, a real gamepad would have been a lot better. It is just too easy to hit the wrong touch-area (aka button) in busy moment and do a barrel roll into the abyss instead of pushing the enemy into the same.

So, the touchscreen controls, while being ok, have to go into the bad section. Along with the german localization. Luckily they just translated onscreen texts and added subtitles. Yet, I would have preferred having the game the way it was intended to be. But I couldn’t find a way to switch the language on my iPad although my entire iPad is set to english anyways. So either I am too stupid or the lack of a language switch has to be my biggest complaint about Bastion. Really, that is my biggest complaint about the game. That I couldn’t set it to another language. The game itself, I have nothing to complain about.

I could imagine, that some people might complain about replay-value. To be honest, once you’ve finished the game a second time, there is not much left to do. The story has been told. The secrets are uncovered. There is not a lot left to pull you back into the game afterwards. But I consider that a plus. I am no student anymore and my time for games is scarce. I like it, when a game has a clear cut ending and I can put it away and move on. Nothing worse than those kind of games, that hook you up and never ever let you go again.

The Good

So the length of the game goes into The Good. The story had me hooked from the get go and unfolded at a great pace. You get a good value out of your buck. The game is usually priced between 10 and 20 $ and goes on different sales or bundles from time to time. And for that, you get many hours of fun gameplay, a great story and an atmosphere that will hook you right in.

A big part of that atmosphere are the beautiful visuals. Bastion looks great with living colors and fluid animations. The whole world feels alive.

Another equally big part is the music. Bastion has one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a game for a long time (although this doesn’t really mean a lot considering how much I game these days). It’s often dominated by acoustic guitars and strings, has a great beat and sometimes drifts a bit into the oriental space. The music perfectly underlines what is happening on the screen and you really want to turn it up. The soundtrack can even stand on its own. I have to admit, that the soundtrack had many rotations in my playlist long, long before I actually played the game. Bastion even manages to sneak in a few songs with lyrics in certain areas of the game – lyrics… in a game!

I guess, whether you like this game or not boils down to whether you like the story and atmosphere. If they don’t get you hooked, you probably won’t like the game as much as I did. Yeah, it is fun. It is fun walking around and engaging in battle. It is fun getting new weapons and leveling them up. It feels great to counter block an enemy and than smash him in the ground. But if you are not hooked into the story, you’ll probably put the controller aside sooner than later. From a pure gameplay-perspective, there are probably a few better hack-n-slash RPGs.

But this one has a twist. A catch, that the others don’t have. A nugget of awesome.

The Awesome

Two words: Logan Cunningham. It is quite a challenge writing so much about Bastion without mentioning Logan Cunningham until this point. Logan is the voice actor of Rucks, The Stranger. And with his smokey, rough voice, he comments and narrates the entire story from beginning to end. And this is Bastions unique and awesome twist. Most games tell their story between the Levels, advancing it via cutscenes and the like. But in Bastion, there is a story teller, a narrator. He is telling you a story; the story you are just playing. And it works. It works beautifully. Even though there is rarely a minute where Rucks is not narrating what is happening on the screen, it never feels repetitive or out of place. The only downside of this is, the game is very linear. You don’t have a lot of choice how to advance next.

Trust me, just writing/reading this doesn’t give it justice. You have to hear and see it in action.

Conclusion

As you might have guessed, I enjoyed Bastion a lot. I enjoyed it so much that I decided to tell the world about it. I give it ★★★★★ without hesitation. I know, I’m a bit late to the party (at least, Bastion isn’t 5 years old by now). Bastion was first released well over a year. So you have no excuse as well. If you like games with some action at all, you should at least give it a try. So, if you don’t yet own a copy, head over to your favorite digital store and get it. I recommend making sure to get the Soundtrack as well. As I said, it can easily stand on its own as a cool tune.

If you give it a try, let me know, how you liked it!

Turn up the volume all the way to eleven, take your Breaker’s Bow and your Cael Hammer and let the Bastion guide your way. Ain’t much Kid can’t handle with Hammer and Bow in hand.

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