Lindsay Reviews: Bastion

Posted: March 17, 2013 by theelindsayclarke in Games
Tags: , , , , ,

I swear this game wants to get with me. There’s no way a video game would be so perfect for me otherwise. Clearly it’s been stalking me… That should probably creep me out…

ImageAs far as gaming goes, I’m a pretty high-maintenance lady. I can like a game with ease. Falling in love with a game isn’t quite so easy for me. I need full princess treatment. Bastion definitely dishes this out; it’s one of my very favourite video games of all time. Let me explain to you with how Bastion did pretty much everything right. As ever, I’ll show this through my Triforce of Power: plot, gamer-friendliness and style.

I’ll start with the style because I think it’s what most people know about this game. Even if you’ve never played Bastion, you’ve probably seen the lovely picture of the Kid gazing out over the vast horizon. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ve heard the soundtrack. This is by far the best original soundtrack I’ve heard in a game. I love Zelda, and I love much of the music in Final Fantasy. But in my mind, nothing beats Bastion OST’s perfect mix of beats and rock, with a hint of the exotic. And to think this whole splendid soundtrack was recorded all in the artist’s closet! Icing on the cake. The soundtrack leads you through the game. It turns your difficult journey into an emotional one. There’s even an award to listen to your favourite tracks as you complete portions of the game.

Now that I’ve gone on that rant, I’ll explain further what I love about the style. The game’s world is art. As you progress through the levels, the world rebuilds around you like a puzzle, with a colour palette that matches the emotions and atmosphere that come with each environment, whether it’s a dream world, a broken city, or an icy tundra. The game’s style grips you, until you are fully immersed in the world. This is especially notable when it comes to the narration of the game. It is exquisitely written and acted. The surly rasp of the narrator’s voice fits the feel of Bastion to a T. The narration doesn’t simply carry the player from act to act, event to event. Even small things are narrated, to make the story seem more like a real story. Such events include the first time you fall off the world, or when beasts appear, as well as more obvious moments like when you die or during a scene change.

ImageNow I’ll move along to the plot. I love a game with a good, legitimate plot (and now you can see why I’m so high-maintenance by gamer standards). I can only think of a handful of games that deliver in this category: there are certainly fewer games with an outstanding plot than there are games on any top ten list I could try to make. This. Game. Delivers. It’s top-notch. It absolutely blows my mind that this is an original story, that it isn’t borrowed from a book or an old tale. Not only is there a plot with twists and turns, but there are back stories that you get to discover through side-quests throughout the game. That’s adding content (for free *cough, cough*), that’s adding playtime, and that’s showing the writers’ interest and love for this story. As a writer myself, there are much more subtle things I can tell you about that I love as well. For example I’m going to introduce you to the term “en medias res”, which basically means “in the middle”. It’s a term used to explain a plot that starts right in the heart of the action. This is the best, some would say only, way to write a proper short story. And Bastion, despite being long enough when you add all the extra content, the extra challenges, and the difficulty of the game itself, is a short game plot-wise. The fact that it starts en medias res, explaining the plot and filling in the gaps as you play, is perfect for the game type, as well as the story type. In essence, game-fans, I’d say this is the best-written game Tim Schafer didn’t have a hand in.

Finally we come to gamer-friendliness. Before I start this part, I would just like to add that one of the most impressive things about Bastion, in my eyes, is that everything blends so damn well. Like the fact that the art of the game adds to the world as you run along. What was once a barren wasteland becomes a charming environment, blossoming into existence right before your eyes. It is the plot – the protagonist’s restored memories, or his learning of new worlds – unfolding visually as the style.

ImageThis being said, a lot of the gamer-friendliness adds to this as well. If a weapon is difficult to use, it’s usually meant to be. And there are many diverse weapons to choose from, so that the player can feel like they’re making their own experience and their own choices from the game (are you reading this Bioware?). But there was a certain amount of clunkiness that I just could not deal with. Now, I’m not the biggest PC gamer due to some wicked carpal tunnel issues, and I bought this on Steam, so perhaps my theories can be debunked. Still, this is how I felt about the game mechanics. For example, I often found I’d click the wrong key and use up one of my beloved Q’s (a badass attack best saved for emergencies). And at times I’d try to go a certain direction but be unable to turn the Kid that way and fall to my death. It’s things like this.

I’m fairly able to look past this game’s minuscule faults and recommend it to just about any gamer that likes gaming for more than just shooting things. This is a nice, humble game, with a staff of only seven, and it’s a beautiful representation of what gaming companies are still willing to do to actually please their audience. It’s got a lot of heart, and it’s fun for hours. And like a good novel or a good film, I find that I can replay it every couple of months and still enjoy it greatly. Definitely one of the most worth-buying games I know.

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