I hope that many years from now Bastion
is remembered as the quintessential retro game of the downloadable era. Too many game developers have settled to plagiarizing outdated game mechanics, putting the end product through a pixelated filter and justify a frustrating experience by calling it "Nintendo hard" to gain that somehow glorified honor of being called "retro". Well I'm old enough to have lived throughout that period and wise enough not to glorify it through rose-tinted glasses. I also remember the sense of discovery that came from trying out new weapons and destroying everything, so I'm glad to say Supergiant Games
has well understood that concept while making Bastion
The setting behind the story could best be described as "Frontier Fantasy" with your analogs to pioneers, marshals, mines full of mystic crystal cores and dispossessed natives undercutting your mission to rebuild the Bastion, aka humanity's last refuge. You'll read a lot about this game's very own narrator whose grizzled voice is there to give your actions a certain gravitas. It works, but having him be the sole
source of exposition makes it near impossible to connect with anything else! You barely interact with anyone and if you do talk to other characters, the narrator
tells you what they say! A whole universe experienced through the pinhole of one old man's words, that's what Bastion
The world itself could best be described as an isometric sky platform badly in need of handrails. Forget pixels, this is all hand-drawn art with individual sprites and the result is a full and vibrant environment with a diverse menagerie of monsters, each with their own characteristics, some even with their own backstory! In an age of heavily processed animations, still having hand drawn
graphics is the most retro thing there is!
The actual fun in the gameplay comes from trying to find the right combination of two weapons with which to face the dangers ahead. You build quite the arsenal throughout your journey and each weapon has its own skill tree in which thankfully, you can change your decisions if you're unhappy or just feeling experimental. This is important because you'll soon come across a variety of binary needs, most of which aren't readily evident. I mean, you can understand quick & short-ranged vs slow & long-ranged but soon comes factors such as spread damage, weapon stun, poison vs direct damage, the issue of armor penetration and so forth. Needless to say, every weapon is unique and it's the combination thereof that makes the gameplay so engaging.
Much appreciated are the training camps for each and every weapon along with the dream sequences which just has the Kid fight wave after wave of enemies. They're supplemental, optional and a great way to acclimate yourself with the new toy you just discovered in that one stage. I also liked the timed shield reflect mechanic which might be overpowered since it also reverses melee attacks. You also have access to about thirty Secret Skills, super moves for all of your weapons; however since they are all activated by collectable Black Tonics these all turn into so many different ways to press an emergency "SAVE ME" button.
There's A LOT of exposition dump concentrated early on but I'd say that the game really picks up after finding your third or fourth Bastion shard and opening the Forge which allows you to start customizing weapons. There's a self-awareness in that the game realizes all that it wants to accomplish but still attempts to be as accessible as possible; heck, even the difficulty system works on an individual monster upgrade system, though one that is non-essential towards the story. Bastion
is this most ambitious of undertakings but still provides gameplay relatable to a child. A rare gem that should truly be enjoyed by all.