Since we are in the dry summer months where new game releases are a rare sight, I thought I’d do something a bit different. Instead of a normal edition of Games, Games, Games, I’d like to focus on a single standout release from this summer – a “diamond in the rough”, if you will. For those of you who have had an Xbox 360 for the past few years, you are probably familiar with the Summer of Arcade program. Basically Microsoft highlights some promising arcade titles to be released during the summer, filling in those empty months at least somewhat. It’s usually pretty successful, and there are always at least one or two games worth picking up. This year, however, has produced what is probably my favorite arcade game ever, and is quite possibly my favorite game so far this year.
That game is Bastion. This is the first title of a recently formed development team called Supergiant Games, created and led by Greg Kasavin, who some of you may remember from his days as lead editor of Gamespot a while ago, during the glory days of the site. Bastion is a tough game to explain exactly why it is so good, but I’m going to try my hardest.
The basic premise is simple: a world-wide catastrophe referred to as “The Calamity” has ripped this fantasy world apart, leaving chunks of earth floating freely through the air, and the world’s population and city destroyed. You play a character who is only called “The Kid”, trying to find survivors, and put the world back together. The most immediate things you notice from the start of the game are the colorful fantastic art, and the gruff voice of the narrator. The narrator is a character by himself, and makes up the entirety of the voice work throughout the game. He tells the story of the Kid as it unfolds, remarking on what you do as you play, the areas you are exploring, and the characters you meet. He is a constant presence, but he never gets old, and the insight he gives the player into this world is great.
But this isn’t a game that only focuses on art and narrative, it has fast paced action that controls extremely well. As you explore the world’s disembodied remains, you’ll come across multiple different weapons, everything ranging from a hammer, to a shotgun-like musket, to an extremely powerful mortar. There are 11 weapons in all, and they all require vastly different play styles to use effectively. You can carry any 2 of these weapons at a time, and throughout the game you can spend resources you find to upgrade them up to 5 times each. On top of that, each upgrade for each weapon gives a choice between 2 bonuses that can be switched around as you like. For example, one upgrade for a weapon may give you the choice between increasing the weapon’s damage, or decreasing it’s reload time.
The sheer volume of combinations of weapons and upgrades alone gives the game so many options, but then there’s even more. You also find “spirits” (read: booze) as you progress, and as the Kid levels up, you can “equip” more of these at once. They give passive bonuses, such as increasing your defense, increasing your chance for critical hits, or making you heal by doing damage. I think it’s fair to say that this game is very customizable to however you want to play it.
Really though, breaking down Bastion into it’s smaller pieces just doesn’t do it justice. It really is greater than the sum of it’s parts, and you simply just have to play it through to understand how special it is. It’s a combination of solid action, an immersive world, expert storytelling, and so many other good things – I can’t stress enough how good the music in Bastion is. Hopefully if you’ve read this and own a 360, you’ll give it a try – at least get the demo. Also, I believe it is coming to Steam soon, so you all really have no excuse for not looking into this game, I really don’t think you’ll be disappointed.