Before I went on a bit of a break, Steam was having a sale (a fact that pretty much everyone on Twitter kept reminding me about so against my better judgement I checked it out). One of the many games I picked up during the sale was Bastion. A game I’d watched many people play through parts of it, read and watched reviews of, and had always been kind of interested in but never gotten around to actually buying and playing. My question going in was whether the game would live up to the hype around it.
The answer is yes and no.
One of the things that was emphasised about this game in a lot of the reviews was the narration and how clever it was, how it responded to what the player was doing, how funny it was, etc. While I will admit I’ve enjoyed the narration, given the story is fairly linear, in even levels don’t offer a lot of choice about where to go or what to do, the narration hasn’t really matched expectations of great game narration set by games like The Stanley Parable that truly managed to make the narrator feel like someone watching the game. At times the narrator in Bastion prompts your actions by telling you what you need to do and this sometimes happens when I’m in the process of wondering what would happen if I did something else (usually something stupid but I like trying things in games just to see what happens). It is like the narrator is drawing me out of the game I want to play and leading me along a prescribed path. Though there are other times where the narrator clearly responded to my actions like when it mocked me for attacking every single plant on the screen like I was going to win a prize (who knows, I might have).
Outside of the narration, Bastion is a pretty straight forward set up for a game. You wake up (an unnamed kid) in a world that has suffered some sort of calamity. As you start to walk, a path appears. Once you get to the end of the first area you go to a hub world where you slowly rebuild the world as you collect various bits and pieces. This sounds like you’d have some freedom of travel but there are seldom many choices of where to travel from the hub world with only one or two new areas opening at any one time.
You also collect a range of weapons and skills which you can try out different combinations on but pretty much once you find a combo that works for your playing style you kind of stick with it for most the levels. Then the game decides it doesn’t want you doing that and some levels you will find new weapons which are then automatically fitted and you can’t change your weapon selection without visiting a specific building either in the hub world or if you are lucky enough to find one in the level. Sometimes this serves a practical purpose as you need that new weapon for an enemy coming up, but other times it leaves you playing awkwardly and stumbling along until you can switch out to your usual gear.
The game is also incredibly easy. Deaths are few and far between and the consequences for death pretty non-existent other than level progress being lost but the levels are so short that isn’t a drama. And it acknowledges that the game is easy by offering the chance to pray to various gods which might make the enemies stronger or more resistant to physical attacks or whatever in exchange for more experience. If you die while the idols are making the game harder, when you restart the level it offers to turn this off or allows you to start with the penalties still in place.
For all that though, the story being woven by the narrator about the world before the calamity is kind of compelling and while the narration may not be mind blowing, it is really easy on the ears while playing and you can kind of get caught up in just listening to the story and forget what you are actually doing. It is also a really pretty game to look at although at times it is difficult to see which direction the path is going (leading to the occasional plummet into thin air – though the consequences of plummeting are pretty low so have at it).
Basically, I’m having a lot of fun working my way through the story and while I might like it to be a bit more challenging and the narration is not as good as my expectations would have led me to believe it should be, I’m really glad I picked this up. Hopefully I’ll finish the story and review the whole game eventually.
Thanks for reading.
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