Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: Steam PC (also on Xbox Live Arcade)
Price: $15 (US)
Released: 16th August
Sometimes there’s man – and I’m talking about the Kid here. Sometimes, there’s man, well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. Waking on one of the few piece of world left after the ‘Calamity’, an event which tears the world apart, the Kid heads for the Bastion. Only, this safe haven isn’t as developed or populated as he expected, given all the people displaced by the destruction were supposed to have moved there. Empty lands mean you act as a scavenger, taking drinks from distilleries to keep yourself going and finding weapons on the floor, but after meeting a stranger by the name of Rucks, you agree to help him build up the Bastion by retrieving cores and shards from distant lands to help develop the infrastructure in the order you want to build it.
Less than a month after its release on Xbox Live Arcade as part of the ‘Summer of Arcade’ promotion, Supergiant Games’ Bastion makes its way onto Steam with other PC portals to follow, opening the game up to the PC audience, to those players who don’t necessarily have access to a Xbox 360. How does this PC version of the indie action RPG differ from the console version? Almost not at all. Does this matter? Not by any means.
There are some minor differences; a PC-friendly control scheme was a must, and Supergiant Games seem to have pulled it off, with clicks of the mouse initiating either your long or short range attacks, movement on the isometric plane operated by a WASD layout, and further controls located within reach of these keys. For example, mid-battle you will often need to replenish your health on the fly, making the designated ‘F’ key well thought-out, much like the use of the ‘shift’ key for reachable auto-aim targeting controls. As well as an adjusted control scheme, the graphical superiority of a top of the range PC compared to a Xbox 360 means the already stunning visuals have the potential to come out even crisper, plus the added bonus of a new hidden skill and new achievement tying in with the Steam service help to distinguish it a little more.
Bastion behaves like an interactive storybook, not only through the picturesque range of fairytale environments, but through the unorthodox delivery of the narrative. The stranger has a mysterious air of wisdom about him, like a wise old cowboy sitting with his hat over his eyes. Despite seeing his human form of an old bearded man during face-to-face encounters, his omniscience remains distant and all-knowing in the way his words of guidance stay with you throughout your adventure. Barely half a minute goes by without him chiming in with some comment, usually something related the story triggered by where you’re walking, or an input based on the weapon you’re using. He adds an odd sense of companionship to your lonely travels, to a point where there’s a small adjustment period when playing a different game for the first time where you suddenly seem uninvolved in the world without someone addressing you directly during every free moment.
The sound on the whole is a commendable effort, because as well as the voice acting work on the monologue of the stranger (the game’s protagonist, the Kid, is silent), the music does well at creating an atmosphere. The emotive songs help you to feel how you are supposed to feeling at that time, with the soundtrack being an example to others of the benefits having a great soundtrack in a game.
The game’s levels also contribute to the mood, in that each has a different theme, each more impressively presented than the last. Levels form on the fly, meaning as you are running the ravaged world forms beneath your feet, along different kinds of beasts showing up and trying to hinder your progress. This keeps the levels unpredictable, as you can never clearly see the terrain in front of you. The platform only shapes itself within several steps of the Kid, and to top things off, is a hovering entity in the middle of nothingness. You can even run off the edge and plummet into the nothingness, reappearing on solid ground seconds later, with the vast emptiness giving both a sense of scale and keeping your journey structured with clear aims and directions to go. Bastion is both long enough to please, but short enough to avoid dragging on.
Bastion rests as one of this year’s finest downloadable releases for Xbox Live Arcade, and gladly, the same is true for the PC. The Steam version has minor differences of little importance, but most importantly retains the magic witnessed on Xbox 360, providing a new group of people with the indie gem. The music and visuals are beautiful, and the narrative tool of the stranger is genius.