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Bastion Review (Xbox, PC)

Radford C. Aug 22, 2011 1

Bastion is one of those games that feels like a fan tribute to the retro classics that are still playable today. It’s obvious that the designer has borrowed techniques from notable games of the past and wrapped it up into a pretty meaty RPG you can sink your teeth into. The game does away with the  long winded intros and cinematics and instead goes for the simple novel approach of voiced narration. You begin the game simply as “˜The Kid’, who has awoken to find that his home world of Caelondia has been destroyed by an apocalyptic event known as “˜The Calamity’. Right away, you get right into combat and get acclimated with your controls as you make your way to “˜The Bastion’, a place of refuge and stronghold of last resort for the people of Caelondia. As you proceed from mission to mission, you’ll search for survivors, answers, and ways to rebuild your world – literally. You’ll notice that the game rebuilds around you as you traverse from area to area all because you carry the very core of Bastion in your pocket. The Kid is a silent protagonist, which paves the way for the narrator, Ruks. With his gruff, hypnotic drawl, the narrator not only guides you through the game and tells the story Bastion as it gets rebuilt, but he also makes clever contextual remarks. You get to meet him too which is sort of comical. His voice is omnipresent but never too serious and once in awhile he will surprise with some amusing puns. And if the narration doesn’t fit the bill, you can also turn off the voice in the options menu.

Eventually, you’ll realize that the Bastion is, in essense, a hub.  When you explore areas outside of the Bastion the story branches through one question leading into another as the narration carefully ties areas of interest to Kid’s past. There are several key items found through the game’s levels that help rebuild the Bastion and the Cores are the most important of those items. The Cores allow you to build one of the game’s available buildings all of which are indicated on the overhead map. Shards are found later in the game and are used to upgrade buildings that you have already constructed. Some Mementos also create trinkets and other nifty items that populate the Bastion. It is very enjoyable to watch the Bastion slowly grow and become more lively as you progress through the game. It reminds you of a more simplified version the 16-bit classic Actraiser or even Dark Cloud. Additionally, each building, item, weapon tie to the story in some way.

Areas are categorized into either Proving Grounds and Core Areas. Once you jump into one of the areas, combat happens shortly after you land.

The Proving Grounds are small arenas that are unlocked during the course of your journey. They provide weapon-specific challenges that help test your skill with the assigned weapon and reward you for successful attempts. Proving Grounds are a great way to practice using the game’s weapons and also to gain some valuable items out of it. Cool thing is you’ll find yourself revisiting to acquire higher level items based on experience and equipment rating.

However, there are some exceptional levels outside the norm of Cores and Proving Grounds.

Portals to a strange area known only as “Who Knows Where” become open during your playthrough. Who Knows Where acts as a training ground and a good opportunity to gain Experience. When you enter the area, you are prompted with a challenge featuring 20 waves of enemies, with rewards such as Fragments and Health/Black Tonics between various waves. You can attempt these challenges as many times as you wish, so it is a great way to farm XP.

Irregardless, no matter who and where  you fight, you’ll find the combat breakdown into areas of weapon loadout, defensive positioning and timing. Some attacks will come from a distance while other attacks are front and center. In some cases, the battles can get overwhelming, especially when you’re on areas where you are defending or attacking on the little amount of space you are treading on. And although falling off the edge doesn’t kill you completely, you do lose some health and it can get frustrating when you’re often trying to roll away from a lashing. Fortunately, The Kid has skills and can bring along two weapons and a special technique that ties to one of the weapons. So your choice of weapons will play a major part and the different attack styles can significantly change the way you approach each wave. For instance, some enemies like attacking in swarms, while others lay down constant strings of projectiles that can box you into a corner. So instead of using hammer or sword to attack the swarm, you can use a shotgun instead.

You’ll also find that defense plays as much of a big part as offense once you realize how often you’ll use your shield.

Additionally, new armaments pop up often and you can equip them throughout the areas as long as an Arsenal house is sitting around for you to change your loadouts, upgrade them (Forge) and even gain passive abilities that are incredibly helpful and satisfying when you walk back into the proving ground to pick up.

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