I Played Bastion.
Back when the Xbox 360(!) was the main console going, I don’t remember the marketplace being a very dominant aspect. When a game would come around that would garner the type of attention that would raise eyebrows, it was something of a big deal. Bastion is one of those games that jumped out to me somewhere, whether in a gaming aggregate website or from a video shown at a conference, and I downloaded it before it really seemed to catch on. It was one of the first games that I remember spreading throughout my customer base and friend group through word of mouth and a genuine sense of excitement.
I remember the sense of the game being light and having that handmade, artisanal indie feel. The graphics have a painted, unpolished look. The music spans a great deal from light and idyllic to aggressive and tense, but always tightly written and suits the mood at any given moment. I would say, though, that there is a great deal of disparity in just that: this game’s mood. In shined in my memory as the one thing that really held tightly in this game so robustly when I was first working my way through the game’s 6 or so hours. It wasn’t until I revisited it just this past week on the Nintendo Switch that I was reminded that indie games have done a great deal of work in terms of building ambience and emotive qualities in the past decade to the point where perhaps the same work no longer yields the same internal response. This may be true of etiher the game or its user and unfortunately, me being the user, I am unable to give an unbiased answer.
The thing that stood out most to me as I first started playing this game (especially through my early moments with it on the 360) is the narrator. As you play through the game, from the very opening bits right down through the very end of the game, a narrator speaks over the world as if he is reciting to you the tale of “The Kid” and his mission to restore The Bastion to its rightful place after The Calamity. He makes mention when you roll, when you fall, when you strike, even when you change gear or grant yourself powerups or equip bonus potions. These things were so resonant to me in my memory that it took me quite a while to actually jump into the Switch version because I really wanted to be sure to have the volume turned up a bit so I could jive with the words of the man. The voice (Logan Cunningham) is so rich, so powerful that it conveys the sense of girthy knowledge and ancient wisdom, and rarely any weakness or questionability. It is so distinct, so robust. I think it may just be my favorite part of the game. This feature back on the 360 was such a revelation to me at the time, that it’s precisely why I wishlisted the game on the Switch once it was available.
Combat in the game is super fun, super fast and never daunting. The game certainly doesn’t lend itself to much variety, so you have your Up Close Guys, your Guys Who Block and your Ranged Guys and each of them arrive in different species and in the different biomes, but ultimately your strategy reminds staunchly the same. Depending on your loadout (I went with this musket and the hammer) you may have a bit more fun than I did in terms of mixing up the playstyle, but once I crossed over a certain point and was very comfortable with my build, I was able to stay the course and all but whited my mind activity out while going through passages of the game that asked me to take down swaths of enemies. Even past the climax when tougher guys started showing up, it was more an act of endurance than it was difficulty. That being said, even though the combat was fairly drab, I found that I continued to return to the game for that dopamine hit of succeeding in the game’s slowly revealing mazes as I played. Just as addicting as Cunningham’s voice was the way that the levels put themselves together as you played through them, tiles appearing from below the ether as you walked. It gave the game a bit of a dreamlike quality, which not only appears tangibly, but also in the storytelling. This narrative has very fairy tale vibes, lots of the vagueness of myth which might be why the story being told in big and heavy strokes feels like it makes a ton of sense.
As of this writing, Bastion is $14.99 on the Xbox Marketplace or the Nintendo eShop. I don’t recommend shelling out this price for the game in question, however if it shows up on a sale or on Game Pass, I’d definitely recommend giving it a quick playthough. It was perfect for what I was looking for on Switch, a nice palate cleanser that I could jump in and out of during commercials or intermissions during hockey games or beside a cup of coffee in the morning. Fun and light, this is a game that clearly laid the groundwork for Super Giant’s next couple of games as they got their feet wet in the isometric action genre and have become legendary in the process.
The game right now may not be great, but you can see that this set up a brilliant foundation for a series of incredible work (namely Hades) that is a game that I still play to this day and plan to play deep into the future.