The first game in Xbox Live’s annual Summer of Arcade event is out and if Bastion is any indication of how amazing the rest of the games are going to be then this year could end up being better than the last. For the uninitiated, Bastion is an action/adventure RPG with a gorgeous hand-drawn art style, a beautiful world that builds itself right before your eyes, and an innovative dynamic narration system (more on that later).
XBLA doesn’t have a stellar selection of fantasy RPGs, though there have been a few that stand out, like the dungeon crawler Torchlight, a game that I love pretty deeply. But really, Bastion is in a league all its own and it manages to do something unique while at the same time giving us a level of content that rivals many full-priced games. The Baby Factor: If beauty, innovation, humor, and fantasy all got together for a filthy week-long orgy before somehow becoming fused together – Bastion would be the result.
One of the first things you’ll notice about this game is the omnipresent voice of a faceless man who comments on your actions and narrates the game’s story. This velvety voice will follow you everywhere and actually comments on what you do as you do it. Say you’re causing all sorts of chaos, destroying everything in sight – this guy will comment on it. Sometimes he’s funny, other times what he has to say is vital to the story, but it’s always interesting.
Forget Nolan North, I’m sick of him and I’m sure many of you are too. Logan Cunningham, the guy that does the narrating in Bastion, needs to be in more games from now on because his voice has the miraculous ability to caress my earholes in such a way that I crave more of it when I’m not playing the game. I got so used to having my deeds narrated in real time that I soon found myself expecting to hear him comment on my actions in everyday life. Sadly, I never heard his soothing remarks on my amazing ability to play video games longer than any normal human should or my seemingly bottomless appetite for pizza rolls.
Bastion takes place after a disastrous event called the Calamity that broke the world into a bunch of fragments and let loose an infestation of monsters that are more than willing to tear your shit up. It’s all up to a mysterious warrior called the Kid, who awakens in the aftermath of the Calamity before setting off to the Bastion, a safe place should anything happen to the world. From there you’re tasked with rebuilding the world, rescuing survivors, and outfitting your hero and the Bastion with new equipment and upgrades.
Because the world was broken apart by the Calamity, as you walk through the levels they actually build right in front of your eyes. It’s a very cool sight to behold and adds an element of exploration to the mix as hidden pathways can form that lead to hidden items. Since Bastion is a fantasy RPG you can also expect a hefty dose of hack ‘n slash and leveling up. The Kid starts off with a hammer before increasing his arsenal to include a variety of close and long-ranged weapons, like dueling pistols, rocket launchers, a machete, spear, etc. These weapons can also be upgraded multiple times giving them increased damage and special abilities.
On top of that the Kid also has an inventory of tonics that can be equipped giving him special abilities. There’s a myriad of them to be found and purchased in the game, some give you an extra life while others increase your maximum allotment for health and black tonics. The Black tonics can be used to execute your special ability, and there’s also a plethora of these to choose from that can be unique abilities on their own or only available for certain weapons. My favorite was the one that calls an enemy to fight by my side, though I also liked the sentry turret. Anything that can take the focus off me ended up being incredibly useful, especially when you’re fighting dozens of foes at once.
Bastion doesn’t have a multiplayer option but it does include leaderboards so you can show off your score to your friends. The Shrine is a building that can be unlocked in the Bastion that shares essentially the same duty with the skulls in the Halo series; you can turn on different Idols that gives bonuses to the enemies you fight. This is useful for your second playthrough to make the game more challenging but it’s also a great way to climb up the leaderboards.
This is a game that you will definitely have to play through at least twice. For the achievement whores, including myself, there’s an achievement for beating the game twice, but for everyone else it’s the only way you’ll be able to unlock everything this game has to offer. Your first time through will take you roughly halfway up the maximum level cap so you won’t reach your full potential until you reach the maximum level of 10, and that’s only possible on a second playthrough.
Bastion is a fantastic game. It’s fun, replayable, visually stunning, and the music is fantastic. There’s also multiple endings depending on certain decisions you make at the end of the game, so there’s another reason to play through it twice. If you’re a fantasy RPG fan then there’s really no reason not to check this out, but it’s also a great game for any type of gamer. It’s not too complicated or difficult for casual gamers but it’s deep enough to satiate even the most hardcore of RPG nerds.
The Final Word: Buy it. If you’re a fantasy nerd, an RPG enthusiast, or just looking for a game to fill your lonely nights, Bastion will treat you right.
This review is based on a digital copy of the Xbox 360 version of , which was provided by the publisher.