Platforms: Win, Mac, Linux, iOS, XBox 360, XBox One, PS4, PS Vita
Steam Rating: 97% positive
Bastion is a game that it seems that just about everyone agrees is fantastic. It occupies the space between hack & slash RPGs and more traditional ARPGs, taking a bit of its flavor from each, but not really being either. It lacks the loot-focus of an ARPG and has a slightly more in-depth control system than most hack & slash games, but really, where it shines is in its aesthetic.
I’ve played the first little bit innumerable times before getting frustrated and deciding that the control scheme was too weird for me. However, today, I decided to check out the alternate mouse-style control scheme, which offers a click to move and dear god, it was a game-changer for me. If you prefer classic WASD movement, the option is there, if you prefer click-to-move, the option is there, and if you’d rather tackle the game with a controller, well, that option is there too.
Armed with a shiny new control scheme, I started flying through the game. A big part of Bastion’s charm comes from the ever-present narrator – nothing will make you feel more like a hero than having a booming disembodied voice chronicling your great deeds in real time. Most of the loot comes in the form of an omnipresent undefined currency and multiple kinds of potions, with occasional new unlocks & upgrade materials. Passive abilities are activated at the distillery with new slots opening up as you level.
Noting the lack of traditional ARPG loot or detailed RPG character customization mechanics might make Bastion sound rather dull, but the art and sound design, as well as the slowly unfolding story of the Calamity keep things interesting enough. It’s mechanically sound, but the gameplay is not the main attraction here.
As you gather cores from the different maps, you can return to your home base and build upgrades that allow you to do things like change your weapon loadout and acquire new potions between levels. The one flaw in my mind is the lack of a save anywhere feature, but the individual sections are short enough that even that isn’t too inconvenient. Playing through the story will take about 6 hours, give or take, however, higher difficulties unlock at that point for folks who like a bit of extra challenge.
Since I’ve dealt with my inability to WASD effectively by changing up the controls, I now get why Bastion was such a popular and critical darling. It’s a hero’s journey with heart, and has an irresistible charm. Although I think the base price of $15 is a little steep for such a short title, it’s frequently on sale, or bundled with the developer’s second game, Transistor. It’s currently on sale at GoG.com for under $4, and at that price, is absolutely worth picking up if you don’t already own a copy.