There’s a kid.
Kid’s home gets shattered by a catastrophe.
Kid runs to the place where they’d all agreed they’d meet in case of one.
There’s nobody there, Kid’s all alone except for an old man.
The old man explains how the plan didn’t work, and now the emergency place needs to be rebuilt to fix the world.
Kid sets off on his mission to rebuild the place.
Kid sets off to rebuild the Bastion.
Bastion is a semi-indie action/RPG game that plays much in the vein of Torchlight or pretty much any Diablo clone, with most of the gameplay being that of a hack-and-slash. In it, your role is to lead the kid through the different environments of his now shattered world in the search for the pieces required to get the Bastion to work again, so that the mechanisms that were put in place to avoid or undo the effects of a catastrophe can start working as they were originally meant to.
Over the length of the game (Which isn’t too short, yet not too long either), the Kid finds upgrades to the Bastion that allow him to change the way he plays the game ever so slightly, either by allowing him to upgrade the (limited) range of weapons he has access to, making the game harder or allowing him to select bonuses for each level he earns, which gives the game a certain degree of customizability that, although nothing new to the genre, manages to add to the charm of the game because of the way in which it’s presented.
The gameplay itself is simplistic, since in general it plays like your run off the mill hack-and-slash, but the scenarios are well designed and the weapons and way of using them are interesting enough for the gameplay never to become a hindrance – Why, the simplistic gameplay and the ease with which the game can be played in small chunks (I played it in 30 minute intervals) is a good part of its charm, especially since most games nowadays tend to demand that you pay way too much attention to them, which makes it hard to play them while doing something else, or when you know you might get interrupted at any minute.
However, speaking of getting interrupted, the bite-sized gameplay the game presents has a main flaw; which is its autosave system: You can’t save, ever, unless you travel to the bastion (and lose all the progress in your current level). Sure, most levels are short enough, but sometimes we really are forced to stop what we’re doing immediately, and having to stop playing when you’re close to finishing a level can be pretty frustrating.
Other than that, the only thing that could hold up the gameplay for some hack-and-slash fans is the fact that all levels are static, so no random generation here to enhance replayability and the game, unlike most dungeon crawlers, isn’t a lootfest at all – Every single piece of loot, be it a weapon, an upgrade, or a special item is found in a fixed place of each level, so repeating the same level over and over in hopes of better loot isn’t necessary, and in fact, it isn’t even possible.
When it comes to the controls, I found most of the game to be more easily played with an Xbox 360 controller than with a keyboard/mouse combination, though the only part I did play with such combination (One that I found much easier to do with the mouse, where I can aim wherever I want to rather than with the clunky aiming gamepads provide) played simply enough for the game not to become hard at any point, it all was simple and enjoyable enough, so we could consider this a very decent PC port.
As for the story, the game follows a very simple and not too imaginative storyline – One that, oddly enough, seems to fit it perfectly. The story, as described above, tells us about how the Kid attempts to rebuild the Bastion, while finding several companions on the way. That’s about it. There are several twists on the storyline, but nothing too big. Still, Bastion is the kind of game you play just for the fun of hacking and slashing, and therefore it doesn’t really need a very deep story, a simple one works just fine with it.
Graphics-wise, the game is nothing short of beautiful: The whole game contains hand-drawn graphics, which means a vibrant, vivid world unfolds in front of the eyes of the player, a truly beautiful world that due to its mainly 2D graphics experiences absolutely no graphical hiccups or glitches of any kind, making the game experience a very smooth and beautiful one.
When it comes to the sound, it is nearly as good as the graphics – Bastion boasts its own soundtrack consisting mainly of melodies played with a banjo, with the occasional sung melody, all of which manage to help the world unfold around the player. The soundtrack itself is actually being sold separately as a digital download for anyone who could be interested in it and, unlike the game, it can be obtained in several retailers.
In the end, Bastion is an excellent hack-and-slash, one with many limitations on its design but that seems to actually hit the sweet spot with most of its design, making the limitations set by the engine meaningless. It is a short game (I finished my first run of it in 13 hours, while trying to explore every nook and cranny the environment offered), but then again it has a low price and it offers a New Game + mode shall you want to play through it again, along with leaderboards for a couple challenge missions you get through the game.
Bastion is definitely a game I must recommend, and one of the best hack-and-slash games I’ve played in years. If you don’t mind the lack of randomization in levels/loot, it is indeed a game you should check out.
Final review score: 4/5
Availability: Currently available on digital form from Gamersgate.com