On July 20, 2011, Bastion was released on the XBox Live Arcade by SuperGiant Games as part of the Summer of Arcade promotion. Selling for 1200 Microsoft Points, or $15, this game, nay, work of art is worth every penny.
At first glance, Bastion seems to be a fairly standard action-RPG; the main character, “the Kid,” wakes up one morning to find his entire world destroyed by “the calamity,” an ambiguous apocalyptic event. He rushes to a safe-haven, the Bastion, and meets the only other survivor, “the Stranger,” an old man who instructs him to help repair the Bastion. To do so, the Kid must travel to different parts of the world to slash through enemies and collect pieces of “the Core” that will eventually allow the Bastion to fix everything that went wrong.
Bastion manages to put an interesting twist on most classic RPG elements by allowing the player to change their chosen upgrades at any point throughout the game. For instance, when the Kid levels up, instead of spending points in a class system, he unlocks one more open spot in the Distillery where the player selects drinks that act as passive power ups for the Kid. These drinks can be changed at a Distillery at any point in the game, which makes it easy to change play-style depending on either necessity or the player’s mood.
Similarly, all upgrades to the 11 different weapons can be modified at any time through the Forge. Each weapon has a unique feel of its own, but by making use of the different upgrades, the player can entirely change the way a weapon handles. For instance, when the Kid first finds the Army Carbine, it is extremely powerful and slow to aim. However, by upgrading its speed, it becomes a relatively quick long-range weapon with high firepower. Or, by upgrading critical hit chance and maximum damage, the gun maintains its low fire rate but becomes massively more powerful. Bastion gives the player the power to experiment with the two, or to land somewhere in the middle, at all times throughout the game.
Control in Bastion is tight and accurate, all of the weapons are fun to use, the enemies are varied and challenging, and there are many, many levels and challenges throughout the game. However, these qualities only make for a fun game, not a work of art. Bastion qualifies as a work of art because it moves beyond the typical confines of a video game. The most important detail of Bastion’s gameplay is the storytelling. See, throughout the game, the Stranger narrates everything that happens as it happens. At first this concept sounds irritating, but the narrator’s smooth voice is endearing and his narration is interesting to listen to. If anything, the narrator acts as a companion for the player rather than as an irritating sound effect. The narrator makes Bastion feel alive and vibrant; it makes the player feel like they are bringing a story to life as they play. Like a good book, this game is best enjoyed alone where every last detail can be soaked in and the imagination can run wild.