I honestly did not know what I was getting into with Bastion, an indie game that came with a bucketload of recommendations and a folder full of evocative screenshots. I knew it was a highly recommended game, it was an Xbox Live Arcade downloadable title and that it was a hack-n-slash role playing game (RPG).
Nobody warned me about the haunting storyline and the beautiful soundtrack. Even if they did, I was too busy staring at the gorgeous screenshots to notice.
Bastion is, as mentioned before, an action RPG in which you play as the Kid a young silver-haired fellow who is as silent throughout the game as Gordon Freeman is in Half Life. The Kid wakes up at the end of a world-ending Calamity and seeks out the Bastion where he was told to go in times like these. There he finds out much and more about the Calamity and what he must do to repair the damage. However, the subtext of memory, remembrance and nostalgia is at times so subtle that it is invisible and at others, too jarring to be of any use. It is thus a good idea to re-play the game to understand a good chunk of the plot properly.
The Kid’s story is told by a kindly old narrator as you plod through the game. Each and every action of the kid is narrated dynamically by the narrator and the story itself is furthered by the narrator’s words. The world literally falls into place as the Kid progresses through the story, so much so that if you play this game without turning up the sound you are missing out.
The music of the game complements the storyline and its redolently striking art style. In a world that has been shaken by an unknown Calamity every level is a shadow of its former self, yet as the Kid plods through the worlds, Bastion‘s music touches upon that level’s former beauty and shakes poignant chords in the player’s heart. In one level, I was completely mesmerized by a melancholy song to the extent that I stopped playing for a few minutes just to listen to that song. The tune lingered throughout my playthrough from that point onwards and I am sure it will stay in my mind much longer.
The gameplay is quite similar to other hack-n-slash games, with a variety of weapons to unlock. You can select your loadout (the weapon that you will use with the left click, the right click and a special weapon as well) before starting a mission, or sometimes during the mission itself. The levels themselves vary in difficulty and it is essential that you get used to a set of weapons and upgrade them as you play the game.
The game is a treasure-trove for the 100%-ers (gamers who wish to do everything and find everything in a game) since there is way too much to do. You can finish a level in your own time, or go to a training level to earn trinkets and upgrade materials. There are achievements to unlock and level-hardening idols to worship. There is a lot to do in this game and it does not get boring too fast (however it does since after a point, it’s just mindless clicking. I still maintain that Diablo II mastered the art of keeping one entertained through hours of mouseclicks).
I heartily recommend Bastion to any fan of action RPGs or indie games. It’s a surprisingly well-made game that will keep you entertained enough for at least two playthroughs, while the soundtrack will haunt your ears for a longer time.