Review by vyse_1986
"Kicking off 2011's Summer of Arcade with a Supergiant bang"
Bastion. Just by looking at the game's name, you have no idea what to expect. At first glance, Bastion seems like a game that prides itself on its art style, but unlike many other games of this kind it also features very good gameplay and a solid foundation. It's a 2D action game with some RPG elements, outstanding graphics and great atmosphere.
The center of the game is the Bastion, which acts as the hub world. Here, you will eventually have access to six buildings, which allow you to equip perks, change your equipment, upgrade weapons, look at optional side missions, buy items and....nah, I'll leave the last one for you to discover. From here, you will also fly to the game's stages, which consist of normal stages and proving grounds.
Normal stages are just that. They take about five to ten minutes to complete, and your objective is usually to traverse them and collect some key items. Bastion calls itself an Action RPG, but I would rather call it a 2D Action Adventure. If you think about it, it plays a lot like Enslaved or Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, just on a 2D plane. You get different weapons, special attacks, you can lock onto your enemies with ranged weapons, defend and counter with your shield and roll out of danger. The controls are generally very fluid, but sometimes, the auto-targeting for ranged weapons can be a little glitchy. The star of the show are the twelve different weapons (if you count the shield as a weapon, which it is once you learn how to counter) that are all unique, and every weapon is actually useful in certain situations. You can only carry two weapons and your shield with you at a time, but you're encouraged to mix it up and try different things.
One thing I'd like to mention here: The trial may keep some people from buying the game because being able to revive you character on the spot with no penalties may seem like a game-breaking flaw. However, this is only the case in the first level, before you reach the Bastion. From the second level onward, you get one extra live per stage by default, and if you die with no extra chances, it's game over and you return to the Bastion.
The proving grounds are special challenges, one for every weapon, that focus on each weapon's unique abilities. The are three target scores per challenge, and winning first price will actually prove difficult for most of these trials. At the same time, however, the challenge is never too punishing, encouraging you to come back for more once you've upgraded your weapons, or when you think you came up with a good plan. There are also some arena challenges which are basically survival rounds against 20 waves of enemies, but with a great twist. Again, these challenges are pretty difficult, and if you still think the game is too easy, try getting first price in the Bullhead Trial.
Something you just have to discuss with this game is the art style. The graphics are really pretty and give the game a unique look and feel, but they're just icing on the cake compared to the narrator. The narrator comments how you play the game, not unlike the commentators in a sports game, but his lines never repeat. So he won't say stuff like "The Kid smashed the enemy with his hammer and collected the money it left behind" over and over again, which would get annoying really quick. He will, however, tell you about the backstory of the areas you traverse, and document the gameplay to a certain extent. Some lines are in direct response to how you play - for example, when I got the hammer very early in the game and discovered that you can destroy the environment, I smashed some objects and the narrator said "Kid just rages for a while". It's little touches like these that make a great game, and the narrator really enhances the experience with superb voice acting and an outstanding script.
Even Bastion isn't perfect, however, and there are some minor flaws with this game. The difficulty can sometimes be a bit iffy to the point where it feels like it's impossible to get by without taking at least some damage - something the developers seemed to be aware of, so enemies drop health potions on a very regular basis. There's no way to save your game; the game autosaves every time you leave a level, which means that if you spend some time upgrading your weapons and abilities in the Bastion and then shut the game off, these upgrades will be undone. It's no big deal, but a design flaw like this sticks out like a sore thumb in an otherwise very polished game. The last thing I dislike is the amount of hand-holding - if you take enough damage an icon will appear above the character telling you to heal yourself, and bouncing blue arrows sometimes mark points of interest - but things like these will only get more and more common in future games.
With Bastion, developer Supergiant Games has delivered a very impressive debut game, and helped 2011's Summer of Arcade feature to a great start. It takes about six hours to beat if you complete all of the optional challenges, so you'll have to decide if it's worth 1.200 MSP to you, but I can assure you that the amount of work that has been put into this game well justifies the asking price. Bastion is an extremely polished and well-balanced game, featuring not only a great art style, but also very good gameplay and playability. If you're still on the fence, you should at least download the trial, because all the reviews in this world cannot replace experiencing this game for yourself. Buying the full game is highly recommended.
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 07/21/11
Game Release: Bastion (US, 07/20/11)
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