Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Designer: Amir Rao
Platform: Windows, XBLA
In recent times video game narratives have become increasingly complex, crafted not solely by writers, but rather by close collaboration between artists, designers and musicians in harmony with the actions of the player. Experiences like Limbo and Machinarium mirror the style of Pixar’s Luxo, in which a story unravels without uttering a word. Unlike film, however, they embrace the interactive qualities of the medium, allowing the player to control the experience. Yet for all the innovation in interactive story telling, narration, remains for the most part static and predictable. Often times stories are delivered in scripted sequences as control is yanked from the player. While many developers have made efforts to avoid this construct, none have done so in such an enchanting fashion as Bastion.
The player controls the actions of the Kid, a baby faced warrior, uprooted by The Calamity. Before the Kid stirs for the first time a suitably coarse voice begins to speak. The voice, immaculately spoken by Logan Cunningham, then proceeds to punctuate the Kids every move with thoughtful narrative. It’s almost three thousand lines of dialogue, not insignificance for an eight hour experience, speaks for everyone and everything. It speaks the Kids mind, justifies his actions and relays his feelings. The voice weaves history into present actions and embellishes the world with stories of what its mere platforms once represented.
The narration, however, plays just one part of the experience, supported by Jen Zee’s beautifully illustrated world and acoustic frontier trip-hop soundtrack by Darren Korb, Bastion feels complete. In contrast, its regions are fractured, torn apart by the Calamity. As the Kid walks they are rebuilt underfoot one detail at a time from a deep void. The void surrounds the newly formed platforms as the sea surrounds an island, providing a sense of vastness and an inspired alternative to walls. Falling from the platforms costs a little health, but the Kid soon drops back to ground as if in a work by Escher to continue on his adventure. He slashes and plunders his way from region to region, surrounded by gleaming crystals, lush jungles and falling embers. Visiting each only once, which adds gravity to the choices he faces. Periodically he checks into Bastions’ name sake to upgrade weapons and manipulate bonuses. This sanctuary also holds it’s own secrets and some of the most challenging encounters in the game.
For all this, Bastion is at its core a humble action adventure title. A story of distraction and redemption in a post apocalyptic fantasy world. Only that it has been crafted with such care by it’s designer Amir Rao, it’s a joy to experience. It’s innovation deserves praise, but perhaps it is Supergiant’s passion that is most important.
Now available on Steam, with its native 1080p image, improved load times and three customisable control schemes.
– Bjorn Rust Geekzine Game Reviewer