Bastion grabbed my heart exactly one minute and 30 seconds after it started, when I found the first weapon, a sledgehammer, and used it to kill a large, bloated Gasfella. Once he was down I went to work smashing every destructible object in the environment – as you typically do in an isometric action-RPG – until the game's gravelly voiced narrator piped up. “The Kid just rages for a while,” he informed the world.
Voiceover might be an overplayed gimmick in the motion picture industry, but in a game, having an omniscient narrator describe what my character does is different... he's actually talking about me .
The narrator continued to fill in the details as I explored the beautiful, watercolored world of Caelondia, adding layers of minutiae to every location, enemy, and item I came across. It's an important service, too, because after a large, world-shattering event called the Calamity, there's really no one else left to tell the story.
In many ways, Bastion reminds me of BioShock: there's some good weapon and power customization, but the real star of the show is the world: a floating city torn apart before I even knew it existed, and one that I'm eager to explore.
That exploration makes up the bulk of the game: travelling through different areas and hacking-and-slashing baddies while gathering the necessary supplies to upgrade and enhance the titular Bastion. A sort of fantasy fallout shelter, the Bastion functions like a hub world between the levels.
Each area is unique – I love running through the heavily fortified Cinderbrick Fort and the Sundown Path, which used to be a romantic getaway of sorts before things went wrong – and there's plenty to smash in the six-hour-long game. Some districts have been overrun by enemies and play out like traditional dungeon delves, while others are on rails. Some just had me running for my life as the terrain crumbles. I never knew what I was getting into until I was in it.(opens in new tab)
When I did have to fight – which was often – it was a fairly straightforward affair. Attacking, rolling, and blocking are simple, but customizing the Kid's abilities drastically changes how Bastion plays. You can equip two of the eleven upgradable weapons at a time, as well as a special ability and a number of passive bonuses that improve as you level. Tinkering with these skills creates several different loadouts, including a mine-laying swordsman and a grizzled sniper who only uses ranged weapons (essential in the post-completion New Game+, which buffs all the foes to godly levels).
Bastion is special. The soundtrack is phenomenal, the world is breathtaking, and the narration is a brilliant new idea for gaming. Finding a new enemy in a normal hack-and-slash is an uneventful affair – you kill it and move on. But in Bastion, the entire battle with Sir Lunky – a giant, colorful frog with a stone-covered head, in case you were wondering – is narrated and given soul. By the time he's dead you know more about him than most game characters, connecting you to the world. Nearly every moment of the game is like this, continuously reinforcing your attachment to the game. You'll be cheating yourself if you skip Bastion