Review: Bastion (PS4)
Bastion originally released a whopping four years ago. I remember playing it at PAX or PAX East and thinking, “holy crap this is cool.” The issue then was that the game was releasing for Xbox Live and I would be fired from this site if I were to boot up an Xbox360 (jokes). In reality, I just never got around to playing Bastion, even when it released on Steam and my buddies extolled it left and right. When it dropped into the PSNStores review well a month ago, I figured it was finally time to trek through its ever-forming, hand-painted environs.
Since Bastion is a rerelease of a years-old game, I’ll try to strip this review of extraneous commentary and just get right to it. The narration is excellent. It’s the main draw of the game. If you’ve never heard of Bastion or seen gameplay videos of it, lucky you. Buy it and play it to truly experience it the way I did back in 2011. When you start the game, all is quiet until you move an analogue stick to nudge The Kid out of bed.
“The boy gets up,” a gruff voice grumbles.
“The ground forms beneath his feet as if showin’ him the way.”
If you’re testing the waters like I was, you might roll off the side of the map.
“…and then he falls to his death,” the narrator spits with a sarcastic twinge.
As The Kid flops face-first back onto the ground, the voice says “I’m just foolin’,” as if authorizing the maneuver. It becomes clear off the bat that you’re playing as The Kid, a character in someone’s story. The story itself has its interesting points, but it doesn’t stand up to the stellar sound design and gameplay mechanics of the game.
There’s a cool world pieced together as you play through Bastion. When you get to the bastion – the physical location in the game – you’re informed that nobody else showed up. You meet the narrator (initially dubbed “The Stranger”, then “Rucks”) and he brings you up to speed. The first half of the game features constant talk about The Calamity, an apocalyptic event that turned all of the people in the world to ash. The pieces of the world were actually flung about in a way that the only means of transportation between them is the Skybridge, a combination of dirigible travel and the tubes system from Futurama. A bit of humor comes in the fact that every time you enter a level or use a Skybridge within a level, The Kid falls flat on his face. The story contains a few twists later on, but nothing too intriguing in its own right. The narrator even feels a bit over the top at some points. What will keep you trucking through Bastion is the music and the gameplay.
At first, Bastion feels like a run-of-the-mill hack and slash game. The enemies’ attack patterns aren’t too complex, and there’s a whole lot of smashing with a hammer early on. When you find the Breaker’s Bow, the combat gets a bit more interesting. First off, you’re introduced to dual wielding, which is sweet. The Square button will attack with one of your weapons while the Circle button attacks with the other. Another nifty thing is that the Breaker’s Bow has a “Power Shot” that goes off if you let go of the button at the right time (as a visual cue, The Kid will flash momentarily). Okay, now I’m interested. It turns out that each of the nine or so additional weapons has its own unique attribute that makes it fun to play with. To boot, if you get tired with story levels, there’s a “Proving Ground” for each weapon that tests your skills and teaches you useful techniques. The ability to tote two weapons at a time means that all types of players will be able to find a set of weapons that fit their playstyles. By the end of the game, I was using the Galleon Mortar and the Army Carbine to deal some serious damage from afar.
There’s a town building aspect to the game, too. At the end of story levels, you’ll find shard that will first construct then enhance buildings around the bastion. Each building has a practical purpose. The Distillery allows you to equip passive buffs, for example, while The Lost and Found acts as a shop of sorts. Perhaps my favorite building is The Shrine, which allows you to “invoke Gods” aka change different aspects of difficulty. For example, if you invoke Pyth, enemies will attack faster. Each invoked God acts as a modifier that changes gameplay while granting extra experience/currency gain. I really enjoyed playing around with combinations of Gods and getting rocked by enemies as a result. Without Gods, the game is relatively easy to get through, which is fine.
In all, if you haven’t played Bastion yet, now is probably the time to. The move to PS4 doesn’t boast many extra features, but the game itself is worth a playthrough (or two, if you’re into New Game Plus modes). The real-time narration is great. It works best when it feels personal, like when Rucks mentions the specific weapons you have equipped or when he makes mention of your “just raging around for a while.” Besides for the narration, the weapon system and The Shrine stick out as meaningful modifications on the genre as a whole. The soundtrack, with its wide-ranging instruments and its on-point vocals, is worth owning. It might have been four years since I last played the game, but it sure hasn’t aged a bit.
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes. For more info on our review policy click here.
What I Like:
- Sound design
- The Shrine
What I Dislike:
- Story goes off the rails toward the end