Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bastion Review - The Kid is Alright

Score 9.25/10

Xbox Live Arcade
Developer: Super Giant Games
Publisher: Microsoft
Release Date: July 20, 2011
Cost: 1200 MS

  • For an arcade title, it has an impressive presentation
  • Stellar soundtrack
  • Gameplay is fast and easy to pick up
  • Array of weaponry at your disposal allows you to customize to your liking
  • New Game+ gives replay value to the game
  • Targeting can be hectic when multiple enemies are on screen
  • Fixed camera can occasionally make it difficult to determine where a platform ends

Bastion is another title that has received great word of mouth and promotion during the Summer of Arcade. At 1200 MS points, most have been reluctant to purchase the newest title from Super Giant Games. Once you start Bastion it soon becomes obvious that this arcade title is unlike any you have played before, and may be the best Xbox Live Arcade experience you can have.

Welcome to the Bastion
The plot and story telling for Bastion is done through an ominous narrator. His deep, boding voice unfolds the story as you progress with original and fresh dialogue. It gives off the sense of being a recalled tale, rather than one that is playing out in real time. While the voice do not seem to fit at first, you eventually grow to love his commentary on your actions.

You play as The Kid, who awakens to a world destroyed by an event simply known as "The Calamity". Through artifacts and stage progression you slowly peal away the layers to find out what happened and restore your hub world of The Bastion, bringing it back to its glory days.

When firing up Bastion I got the sense of throwing an SNES cartridge in my Xbox, as the shading and style of the game feel like a classic throwback. Though the images by no means contained super detailed textures, it went along with the theme and feel of the game. As you walk the world unfolds before you, giving it a dungeon crawler ambiance and ever present ignorance of what could lay ahead.

Terror of the Tiles

The game at its core functions as an action/adventure RPG. You start in the hubzone of Bastion and from there, shoot off to other areas to explore. Fighting nets you experience,  which you use to level up your weapons and skills.

Combat is simple, and easy to pick up. You get a button to attack, one to block, and one to use a special ability. Though simple in layout, the combat is not a standard hack and slash with waves of enemies. Some take priority in being struck first, some cannot be attacked directly, and some are handled best at melee or ranged. The constant shuffle of enemies keeps thing interesting and challenging enough to keep you from getting bored.

In addition to the main questline there are specific side objectives for each weapon. Tasks such as hitting as many targets with the bow with as few shots as possible, to navigating a maze with the polearm are welcome distractions from the main story. Exploration is also encouraged in each level as artifacts are littered throughout for you to collect.

Only a few minor nuances really get in the way. When mutliple enemies get on screen, it can be tough to target the specific one you really want as you dodge incoming projectiles. Plus, once you are leveled up enough you do seem a bit overpowered, but none of these truly detract from the overall enjoyment.

Level Up!

As stated before, the RPG elements come into play when customizing your loadout at the Bastion. An array of six buildings litter the hub world, each offering something to improve or challenge your character.

Each weapon you get can be customized to perform better with items from the store and exploration. The most interesting part is how the weapons can choose one of two paths, being switched at your convenience. An upgrade could warrant a more powerful shot or a faster shot, depending on personal preference. It's this simple inclusion that really makes it feel like I am tailoring the weapon to fit my play style.

There are also additional "spirits" you can assign to boost personal health or damage with each level, and a room that awards additional experience upon completing certain requirements. The most interesting Bastion addition is the altar, where you can invoke the wrath of the gods to increase the difficulty in certain areas but have enemies yield higher experience.


Something that impressed me the most about Bastion was not the gameplay or the look, but the music. The soundtrack to this game is phenomenal. Each track captures the feel of the moment; be it frantic combat or somber self-reflection.

The most standout tracks at the songs performed by the games' few characters you run into along the way. Their somber melodies combine with original lyrics to really convey the hopelessness and struggle the few surviving citizens are coping with. Even if you never play the game, just listening to the soundtrack can impress the biggest non-gamer.


Bastion is not only one of the most impressive titles this year, but one of the greatest Xbox Live Arcade titles on the market. A compelling story, addictive combat, and incredible sound design combine to create a truly remarkable game. With a New Game+ mode and hours of content, you get plenty of bang for your buck.

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