I don’t know what it is about a shattered, floating world that attracts me, but it’s the way you get about this shattered world that turns simple attraction into an adventure.
The game Bastion, the first release from Supergiant Games, takes place in a beautiful, yet broken fantasy world which has been smashed apart by an apocalyptic event called the “Calamity”, an apocalyptic event that has resulted in shattered landmasses floating through the sky. It starts with you waking up in a room that seems isolated. As you walk towards the edges of your room, tiles appear from other parts of the sky, paving your way from area to area. Sometimes you can just see the next tiny landmass through the gloom, another small segment of the world. If you fall of the side, you are thrown back up onto the area, no handy wings of feather and wax to help you through this game. You’re not quite sure what caused the calamity, and neither is the “Kid”, the protagonist you follow around.
And protagonist is the definitely the word I want to use for the white-haired child you control. He is the main actor in a story which you can project yourself into. You travel to the remnants of your homelands and wilds collecting shards that power a structure called the “Bastion”. Along the way you meet a couple of new friends, as well as finding a lot of old ones that have been reduced to ash by the Calamity. You also discover small items here and there that help define the world you live in. The game constantly and subtly deals with themes of being alone, racism and repercussions of hatred and technologies.
It’s essentially an action-RPG where you have an isometric view of the world. You get different weapons along the way, each with several special attacks. You can choose which weapons to carry around with you and develop your own play-style. There are various enemies to fight, each offering a different challenge, though never one that is too impossible to overcome.
Though what transforms this good game into an amazing game is the aesthetics. The art style is essentially exactly the same as shown in this picture and the soundtrack to accompany it something I could easily listen to being a kind of grass-roots/blues/folk music/electronic which is very relaxing, but at the same time, never lets you leave a tense and mysterious mood. But most of all, there is a voice-over narration that is done right. One of the characters constantly narrates your actions, your travels and even your deaths. His raspy, tabacco-smoking, blues singing, poetic voice fits right at home with the music, the environment and the game as a whole. Probably the time I’ve heard voice-over in a game done right.
Of course, this game isn’t perfect. An isometric top-down view has its disadvantages as this is a diagonal, tile-based landscape while your standard WASD controls move you up, down, left and right. I also found the world map an almost redundant feature since it was hard to read the brown parchment that underlay the places you visited. It would have been just as useful having a list of the places you could go.
This game is a great example of what an Indie game can be. It takes an old style of game, often one that could be seen on the Gameboy Advanced or DS, and adds new dynamics, an original soundtrack and most of all, a mysterious and beautiful setting which creates a desire to find out more.
Actually, speaking of an old style of game, after completing the main story, you can then play a New Game + mode, providing an extra challenge and allowing you to complete all the in-game achievements (which actually have in-game rewards).Cover Image: http://jenzeejunk.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/snowy-bastion-art.html