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Video Game Cat Review

Date of Review: December 20, 2012
Format Reviewed: PC
Language / Country of Origin: English / United States
Online Capability: Achievements visible to friends through Steam/XBLA
Awards: E3 2011 Game Critics Award for Best Downloadable Game
Equipment Needed: Keyboard and mouse.
Maintenance Required: None required.


Bastion is set in a fantasy world which has suffered a sudden and terrible catastrophe known as the Calamity, fracturing the world and its environment into floating tiles that are slowly breaking apart. Players control the silent protagonist known only as ‘the Kid’, who awakens after the Calamity has taken place, and must make their way to the safe haven, Bastion. Once there he is tasked with collecting the power Cores from his destroyed city, Caelondia, by the games ever present narrator, Rucks. The Kids quest takes him across the shattered but beautiful environs of the world, revealing its past, the mystery of the Calamity and the lives it has touched.

In Bastion, the player controls a character known only as “the Kid” through a series of floating, fantasy environments. It is a single-player role-playing game with the camera locked to the character in a fixed isometric view. Levels take place in a variety of beautifully painted environments of fractured tiles which rise up to meet the player as they explore the world while the game’s narrator provides plot, backstory and dynamic comments based on the player’s actions. The character can carry up to two weapons at one time to defend himself against the creatures and enemies of the world, which can be switched at specific locations, as well as equipping special attacks and tonics which are acquired as they progress through the game. Enemies can damage the Kid’s health bar when attacking him but this can be replenished by using health tonics which can be found throughout the levels.

The initial aim of the game is to rebuild the Bastion by collecting power Cores from each level and using them to construct several useful buildings, each of which serves a unique purpose such as selecting acquired weapons and special attacks or selecting upgrades. The number of selectable upgrades and maximum health is affected by the Kid’s level. Although the story progresses in a linear fashion, the gameplay is not entirely so. The player has a choice of one or two levels to complete in any order before unlocking the next set and is also able to complete various challenge levels that test their skills with specific weapons or fight waves of enemies while the backstory of certain characters is revealed by the narrator.

There is only one level of difficulty which is reasonably forgiving, but there is also the option to play in ‘No-Sweat mode’ where you have an unlimited number of chances to continue when defeated. Completing the game unlocks ‘new game+’ mode which allows you to replay the story with all of your previously unlocked items, buildings and experience.

Cultural / Historical Value:
Bastion is one of the finest examples of games emerging from the Indie market. In an industry driven by expensive, low risk AAA titles, the indie market shows that high quality, innovative games can be produced by small companies and limited budget. Bastion is exceptional in its composition of music, narration and graphic style to create an immensely immersive story. The narration in particular is noteworthy, dynamically describing the player’s actions on screen and revealing plot and backstory in a way that doesn’t interrupt the playing experience, moving away from traditional overuse of cut scenes and walls of text. I think above all else it prioritises story and narrative over all else

Teaching / Learning Characteristics:
Apart from generally showing the benefits of the indie market, much can be learned from its individual parts. The musical composition is sublime, showing how an effective soundtrack can set the pace, tension and atmosphere of a level. The graphic style is equally beautiful and vibrant which is a refreshing change from the often dull colour schemes of mainstream titles demonstrating the range of artistic methods able to be used to construct a believable and vivid environment. The dynamic narration is very clever and while much of its effectiveness is due to the fantastic voice acting of Logan Cunningham, it demonstrates an exploration of new ideas to fit the world they are creating instead of defaulting to pre-established methods.

Replay Value:
Replay value is mostly for 100% completists. The newgame+ mode does unlock two new backstory missions to complete but the main story remains the same though there are small changes to the ending depending on decisions made.

Likely Audiences:
All ages would enjoy something about Bastion, be it just the gameplay or the story which has some considerable depth and multiple layers that would appeal to all. While it is a fighting game it is not particularly violent.

Overall Score:

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About the Author:
Tim Williams
, BArchHons, DipArch is a Part 2 Architectural Assistant living and working in London, England and is both a casual gamer and lover. He enjoys long walks on the beach and the smell of the forest after a summer storm. His turn-offs include bad manners and not following the rules.


Award Giver Category Verdict
Independent Games Festival Awards 2011Excellence In Audio Nominee
Independent Games Festival Awards 2011Excellence In Visual Art Nominee
Spike Video Game Awards 2011Best Downloadable Game Winner
Spike Video Game Awards 2011Best Independent Game Nominee
Spike Video Game Awards 2011Best Original Score Winner
Spike Video Game Awards 2011Best Song in a Game
("Build That Wall (Zia's Theme)" By Darren Korb)
Spike Video Game Awards 2011Best Song in a Game
("Setting Sail, Coming Home (End Theme)" By Darren Korb)
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2012Debut Game Nominee
GAME British Academy Video Game Awards 2012Game Innovation Nominee
International Mobile Gaming Awards 2013Excellence in Storytelling Nominee

Additional Info

ESRB Description:
Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco


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