Many games strive to become not only impressive in terms of gameplay, but try to push the boundaries of their design to be considered an interactive piece of art. Bastion proves that it can woo players with its gorgeous watercolor visuals and can also be engaging in terms of storytelling and gameplay.
The story of Bastion revolves around a disaster called the Great Calamity, which wipes out nearly all of civilization, tears the world apart, and breaks it up into multiple floating islands. Players assume the role of The Kid, a white haired boy on a quest to restore the hub world of Bastion. To do this, he's tasked with collecting Cores scattered across the floating islands. It's a story of urgency and desperation, but also of hope and salvation. I was thrust into a world I knew nothing about, yet yearned to discover and save.
Looking at Bastion from a strict gameplay point of view, it can best be described as a hack-and-slasher. The B and X button act as your main attack buttons which can have different weapons associated with them, and the A button performs a dodge/roll, or as I like to call it, your saving grace. As you advance, you come across varying weapons, such as the powerful hammer, an extra fast but slightly weaker machete, and a powerful bow. You can mix and match two weapons as you please, as well as a special attack associated with the R Trigger.
Moving through each level is a sight to behold in its own right. The Kid starts off on a small platform. As you move him towards the right path, the game builds out the level right before your eyes. The floor rises from the depths below while the scenery drops from above. From a graphical standpoint, Bastion is absolutely gorgeous with its watercolor visuals and stylish animation. As I previously stated, the Kid's primary goal is to locate Cores that restore Bastion to its original glory. Each Core will let you pick an establishment to build in certain sections of Bastion, which means each player's hub world might look slightly different depending on where they place these buildings. The establishments range from the Armory, which enables the switching of weapons and skills; a Forge, which enables weapon and equipment upgrading; and a Lost and Found, which uses collected currency to buy various beneficial items.
The greatest and most innovative feature is the procedural narrator. Acting as The Kid's mentor and confidante, his voice guides you through the entire game. What makes this feature so innovative is that he not only helps further the story along and guide you through some parts of each level, but he reacts to how you play the game. For instance, running out of health potions, getting smacked around by monsters, destroying various amounts of obstacles, or interacting with items will result in some sort of mention or comment from the narrator. It makes the entire experience extremely personable, and it made me go out of my way on every level to try to get a reaction from him.
Bastion's character development system is also pretty unique and slightly customizable. As you slay monsters, you acquire XP which will raise your level. Instead of learning set skills, the Distillery building has various brews and potions that when equipped give The Kid some sort of bonus, be it for a 10% critical hit chance, +10 max health, or +33% speed while defending. Each level gained enables The Kid to equip a subsequent beverage, which stacks these bonuses to make him that much stronger.
To break up the monotony of going from level to level, certain stages in the game—called Proving Grounds—are mini-games that require you to complete a task with a certain weapon equipped. Not only does this help familiarize you with the assorted weaponry, but depending on how well you do, provides you with items that help upgrade your weapon and unlock a special skill to use with it. A gauntlet mode, which unlocks further in the game, will really put your skills to the test when you're tasked with surviving 20 waves of increasingly hard enemies. This all happens while listening to The Kid's backstory, which is presented by the narrator after each wave is defeated.
Bastion is a true testament to great game design. It's gameplay might not be the most revolutionary, but the entire package with its lush and gorgeous visuals, interesting storyline, and one hell of an awesome narrator make it an absolute must buy for all XBLA enthusiasts. Frankly, anyone who enjoys good, quality games should try this game. Go ahead! Try not to get sucked in.