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Bastion review

Great
AT A GLANCE
  • Satisfying hack-and-slash combat
  • Tons of weapons and customization
  • Beautiful art style and soundtrack
  • Falling off ledges
  • So-so story
  • No multiplayer

Bastion's presentation is beautiful. Its vibrant watercolor art style and melodic soundtrack make its appeal immediately apparent. It's not just window dressing either – Bastion has all the trappings of a superb hack-and-slash action game, with just the right amount of RPG-ness to add substance. The combat feels satisfying, each weapon in your arsenal feels distinct, and the customization and upgrade options are meaningful and plentiful without being tedious.


Here's the set-up: As the protagonist simply called "the kid," you wake up in your room to discover that the world you live in has been blown to bits by an event called the calamity. You seem to be the sole survivor, and as you gingerly navigate through the floating pathways of what's left of your people's civilization, you encounter various monsters that want to fight. Along the way, you must collect items called cores that gradually restore the titular Bastion, which functions as a home base and somehow relates to saving the world (no spoilers!).

To survive, the kid wields two weapons and a shield, along with a special attack and a dodge roll. Your arsenal expands as you progress, and experimenting with each new weapon feels rewarding because each weapon feels distinct. From hammer to machete to dual pistols or flamethrower, each has its merits, and for the most part one weapon doesn't feel inherently stronger than another until you start to choose which ones to upgrade (it is possible to upgrade them all eventually too).


 
Enemy variation complements the weapon variation nicely too. Enemy types don’t just vary visually – they each attack differently too, from frontal charges to ranged projectiles and aerial swoops. While in the earlier stages you can get by button-mashing, as the difficulty increases the need for strategy gradually increases too, and we found that it was necessary to make use of all of the kid's abilities during combat – no button was neglected.

The customization goes deeper than choosing weapon loadouts and upgrades though. With each level you gain, you can choose a perk to add on to the kid, like increased health, higher critical hit rates and so on. You can even adjust the difficulty of the enemies in exchange for added bonuses to the percentage of experience points and money you earn. These difficulty options are surprisingly detailed; not only can you make enemies stronger overall, but you can also make them block attacks, retaliate upon KO, regenerate, and so on, and you can stack each of these options until you feel the challenge is just right. Being able to customize the difficulty to this extent made it easy to find a configuration that suited us perfectly, and also allowed us to experiment with ramping it up or down as we grew stronger in our abilities. It may seem like a small thing, but in an almost entirely action-focused game like this, the difficulty level can make or break one's enjoyment of the game (too easy is boring, too hard is frustrating) and so it's a big deal to be able to custom tailor it so thoroughly.

Aside from gameplay, as is the way with some of the more artsy-leaning XBLA games, Bastion's story falls disappointingly flat once you strip away its stylish façade. Yes, it's presented in an engaging way that held our interest to the end, in large part because of the amazing narration that carries through the entirety of the game. The slick presentation though merely masks a story that's a fairly standard dressing up of a typical fetch quest.

As long as you're not expecting a profoundly original artistic vision, Bastion delivers on its gameplay. Bastion's main strengths are twofold – the combat is satisfying and varied, and the customization options are robust. Our only major complaints are fairly nitpicky – it's easy to fall of ledges (especially if you're using the shotgun weapon, which causes significant kickback and often kicks the kid off the edge of the world), and when you find a new weapon you're forced to equip it until you can get to a nearby armory to swap it out, which can be particularly annoying if it de-equips your favorite weapon. These are small issues in the larger picture though, and Bastion is still overwhelmingly well-executed.

Jul 19, 2011

More Info

Release date: Jul 20 2011 - Xbox 360
Aug 16 2011 - PC (US)
Available Platforms: Xbox 360, PC
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developed by: Supergiant Games
ESRB Rating:
Everyone 10+: Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol, Use of Tobacco

We Recommend By ZergNet

22 comments

  • CandiedJester - February 15, 2012 6:01 p.m.

    So, I'm watching my friend play this game. It's looks nice, but what the hell is with the annoying narrator? Does he have to follow you around the entire game?! Jesus, and he thinks he's the sh*t with his raspy voice. >:/ Also, this style really doesn't mesh well with the whole "western" thing, I think. I am probably just picky, but both this and Braid had things I couldn't get over, even though they are so highly rated.
  • Darkhawk - February 6, 2012 3:35 p.m.

    I am about halfway through, and am really enjoying it so far. I do agree: this game would be way fun with single screen co-op.
  • hussam-shaheen - September 18, 2011 1:51 a.m.

    for those who wonders the system requirements are: Minimum system requirements: Ram: 512MB Graphic card: 64MB Operating system(s): xp/Vista Hard disk space: 1000MB Recommended system requirements: Ram: 1024MB Graphic card: 128MB source: http://gamediv.com/game.php?game=Bastion+system+requirements&id=578
  • Y2Ken - July 25, 2011 7:17 p.m.

    @Duffman yeah I've been waiting for this game ever since they started that series. Big Greg Kasavin fan, and he and the rest of the team at SuperGiant games have done a fantastic job with this.
  • Migglez - July 23, 2011 12:17 a.m.

    love it so gorgeous in style and just a blast to play my all time favorit XBLA game
  • philipshaw - July 21, 2011 11:52 a.m.

    Great review, wish I had a 360 to play this on. I will wait a year for the PSN just like Limbo which I got yesterday
  • manateesta - July 20, 2011 5:27 p.m.

    Awesome review, I am looking forward to trying the game out.
  • GamesRadarCarolynGudmundson - July 20, 2011 5:21 p.m.

    @crumbdunky - I agree, I don't think "no multiplayer" should be a complaint when a game wouldn't suit it in the first place. in this case though, Bastion's gameplay is quite well-suited for a co-op mode. this was also a case of really having to reach to think of seriously hate-worthy complaints about the game. @insidiousFox - I feel like 6 hours is a good size for an XBLA game, so I don't think it's too short at all. And yes, it does have a new game+ mode and it's definitely replayable at least twice.
  • Cleanser247 - July 20, 2011 4:48 p.m.

    The art looks great! I'm going to try out this game this weekend!
  • profile0000 - July 20, 2011 3:26 p.m.

    Good review. I was uninterested until now, but this persuaded me to at least take another look at the title and possibly "pick" it up.
  • insidiousFox - July 20, 2011 1:48 p.m.

    I read in other reviews the game is rather short (5 to 6 hours), what is GR's opinion on this (I didn't see it mentioned)? How about repeated play-throughs, re-playability in general? New Game+, etc? Definitely interested but for the price, those factors would help sway my decision. Thanks.
  • Aletheon - July 20, 2011 1:43 p.m.

    I won't hate No Multiplayer. In fact, I will celebrate that. No buy either way, since its not on PSN. Not worth dealing with the 360 for this one.
  • crumbdunky - July 20, 2011 9:41 a.m.

    No MP is a legitimate moan these days then? Christ, what a crappy world we live in when we moan just because someone makes a game that might not even SUIT MP.
  • KidKatana - July 20, 2011 8:39 a.m.

    It'll probably be out on PSN next summer, following the Braid/Limbo pattern.
  • Spybreak8 - July 20, 2011 4:46 a.m.

    Cool bowling, sounds like everyone is enjoying this artistic treasure.
  • WeinerlessSteve - July 20, 2011 3:35 a.m.

    XBLA exclusive for now at least. Looks at least as good as Halo: Reach!
  • Duffman - July 20, 2011 3:25 a.m.

    @Garnsr It's coming out tomorrow to kick off the Summer of Arcade, and it's been confirmed for PC at a later date, but there is no word on a PS3 version.
  • Letter11 - July 20, 2011 3:20 a.m.

    Man I love the artwork, definitely picking this one up.
  • AssBugers - July 20, 2011 3:13 a.m.

    really expected this to be a side scroller and not ISO for some reason. Maybe Sonic 3D blast has just killed this perspective for me in anything but a turn based game (and maybe Snake Rattle and Roll even the controls are also kind of garbage).
  • garnsr - July 20, 2011 3:11 a.m.

    Is this XBLA? Is it on PS3? It sounds interesting, but it's not clear if I can play it or not.

Showing 1-20 of 22 comments

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