This is a series of reviews for generally shorter games that one could find for $15 USD or less on Steam. If you have a recommendation for a game that fits this category, let us know!
With beautiful hand-painted artwork, engrossing soundtrack, and one of the best narrators in my gaming experience, Bastion has much going for it as an Indie title. On top of boasting these features, Bastion also follows through with satisfying and varied game-play mechanics to keep you going through the whole ride.
Everything is over: The Calamity has torn through the world, missing only a few spots. You play as “The Kid:” a young survivor of this world shattering event. Soon after waking up and gathering a few tools, you meet Rucks at a location known as The Bastion. Together you work to collect “cores” to power up The Bastion in order to fix what The Calamity has wrought. To do this, you travel to a multitude of areas, fighting your way through the native wildlife, and other foes, in order to acquire more gear and the core at the end of each “level.” While the narrative takes a few curves, this mostly holds true for the majority of the game.
To mix things up, there are also a variety of “challenge” areas, where you have to complete tasks under certain constraints to get prizes such as upgrade material, more in-game currency, or other items. These challenge areas include a target practice area where you must use your bow to take out all the targets in as few shots as possible, an arena where you must only use your shield to counter enemy attacks and avoid being hit, and so on. There are also a few “survival” areas where you must survive 20 waves of enemies while Rucks narrates a character’s backstory.
While Bastion’s game-play does little to stray from the tried and true formulas of your average action/rpg, it provides enough variety in skill and weapon combinations to allow for many play styles, all of which are completely viable. Blocking with a shield and dodge-rolling are options that are always available, though your two equipped weapons and “Secret Skill” – a special move that is often related to your equipped gear- can be switched out for any other skill or weapon you currently possess. Each weapon also can have a total of 5 upgrades you can obtain with in-game currency and certain materials, with each being a choice between 2 different buffs you can change to better suit your play-style: you can even ignore melee entirely and double up on ranged weapons.
Some of the weapons include a hammer-great for doing heavy damage but is slower than other weapons, a sword-fast weaker attacks but can also be thrown at enemies, a Bow-slow powerful ranged attacks that can pierce through multiple enemies, and a Musket- a short range gun that shoots multiple bullets in a fan. With these equipped you can have a “secret skill” to use the hammer to spin rapidly and deal heavy damage to all you contact, have your bow’s arrows ricochet off multiple enemies, or perhaps have a series of rapid sword slashes. There are also “secret skills” that have no weapon requirement to use – such as throwing a powerful grenade.
By allowing the player to choose and upgrade their weapons and skills as they see fit, Bastion would seem to already have a bit of variety, but it doesn’t end there. The Kid can also drink different spirits to enhance certain abilities, or provide new ones, such as increasing the number of healing potions you can hold, or making all your attacks do critical damage if you are under 33% health. In addition, there is also a shrine you can pray at to make enemies more difficult – perhaps by making them faster, regenerate health, or other enhancements – with the reward of gaining more in-game currency and experience.
The post-apocalyptic setting and story of bastion may seem fairly run-of-the mill at first, but the later areas provide a number of satisfying twists and turns to keep things interesting; and while the narrative may not be the most original in it’s entirety, Rucks’ narration is spectacular and kept me invested. He describes most actions and areas you go to, and the performance of the voice actor is spectacular, I completely understand why there’s a Dota 2 announcer pack featuring him.
All in all, Bastion is a wonderful package of visuals, sound design, game-play, and satisfying narrative. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it handles itself wonderfully. Clocking in at around 8 hours of game-play for a single play-through with all challenge areas cleared, and an unlockable new game plus mode with additional spirits, and a score attack mode, this game has a decent life span for those looking for something a little more meaty to sink their teeth in, but don’t want to drop $60 USD on a AAA title, Bastion is just the ticket.