E3 2011: Bastion second look preview – a beautiful must-play action RPG

The world has fallen apart and The Kid doesn't even know it. He wakes up in his bed and the floor has literally fallen out from under him. The Calamity has occurred. The only thing separating him from the abyss is the ground that mysteriously appears in front of him as he moves. Where is everyone? Why is the world coming back together in front of him? He's got no idea. He's only really sure of one thing: he needs to get to the Bastion so he can meet his family and figure out why the world is completely demolished. Of course, we know just about as much as The Kid does about what's happening. The story picks up right after the end of the world, and it's all about figuring what happened.

As you guide The Kid through the isometric world on his way to the mysterious Bastion, your travels are narrated by an old man. His speech is dynamic, reacting to what's happening on the screen. Find a weapon, a store, or any number of collectibles, and he tells you all about it and how it relates to the story. Sounding like he's directly out of an old Western, his quips bring a very interesting element to the way that Bastion tells its story. Rather than relying on cutscenes or huge blocks of text, he simply tells you what's going on while it happens. That way, the story remains focused on what's happening to the player, rather than stopping everything just to tell a story. Because the voice over work was recorded as Bastion was being developed, it was constantly iterated upon to match the shifting level design. The result is a style of storytelling that feels very natural and fluid and extremely personal.

The combat is fairly basic action-RPG fare with a slew of weapons to beat down the enemies released by the Calamity. At first, The Kid finds his trusty big ole hammer amongst the rubble, which is great for bashing skulls at close range, but when it's time to take on guys from a distance, the revolver is a necessary addition to his armory. And he has a shield that he can sometimes use to bash an enemy’s projectile attack back at them.

However, rather than the usual looting of tons of different weapons, The Kid opts to hold on to the ones he gets for the whole game, choosing to customize them instead. Occasionally, he'll come across bits and pieces that he can use to upgrade his weapons at a blacksmith's shop, such as a bigger weight to add more power to his hammer. If he hops next door to the distillery, he can pick out tonics to upgrade his abilities. Who knew booze could add 10% to your base damage?

When The Kid finally reaches the Bastion, he finds it destroyed along with the rest of the world and his family nowhere to be found. But then, his strange regenerative powers revive the area, giving him the opportunity to rebuild it for himself. As he continues through the story, The Kid will recreate the world that was lost and figure out what exactly happened to it in the first place. And with all the style that it has, Bastion's definitely going to draw quite a few people into its world.

Jun 15, 2011

Taylor Cocke is a Los Angeles-based writer and producer who spends too much time watching numbers go up in MMOs and ARPGs. You name it, he's written and/or produced for them, which is shocking considering the aforementioned MMO playing.