I love it when everything in a game comes together. The gameplay, the story, the graphics, the sound design. It can be rare to see it all just click so well. Bastion does it.
The Kid finds that he’s survived the world-ending Calamity, and heads to the Bastion, a safe haven, to see who else survived. But the only other person he finds is Rucks (Logan Cunningham), who sends him out to find the Cores that will restore the Bastion.
Rucks also acts as the constant narrator for the game, and never has a narrator done so much for a game. Mainly because the narration is entirely dynamic. You have two weapon slots with a bunch of weapons you can switch around, and the narrator has something to say about every one of the 50+ combinations. If you start smashing a bunch of boxes in the first area, he’ll comment “The Kid just rages for a while.” In one point where it’s possible to fall off a moving ship, at the end he’ll say how many times you fell off. This isn’t just a bunch of pre-scripted stuff that’d go off no matter what you did, it’s actually talking about what you’re doing. And he does this while also giving you the backstory of the world as you walk through the areas. He’s the one voice in the game, and so well done that you begin to miss it when he isn’t talking.
The gameplay itself takes elements of top-down action games and perfects them. You’re allowed to choose two weapons and a secret skill, and the customization really seems endless. No matter how you want to play the game, there’s a weapon set that will let you play that way. You can go for the standard melee and long-distance weapon combo, or you can go for two different kinds of guns. Your secret skill can wipe out enemies all around you, or just help you get out of a tough spot. Each weapon has several upgrades, and you can actually switch which upgrades are active inbetween levels. If you’re finding that letting you move faster while firing isn’t really making a big difference, there’s no “Dang, should’ve chosen the other one,” you just switch upgrades. You’re also given various drinks (which give you powers) and idols (that make the game harder, but give you a greater cash reward) that you can swap out. However you want to play the game, the game’s ready to be played that way. It also has a wide range of enemy varieties. There’s little guys that will charge into you, bigger guys spitting acid all over the floor, turrets that will shoot at you. And the enemies you fight change throughout the game so that you get some familiarity while also not feeling like you’re just fighting the same 3 guys over and over.
And this is all presented with some incredible graphics. I don’t know if they’re hand-drawn or just look like they are, but it’s a great game to just look at. It’s like you’re playing an animated movie. The environments pop up in the air as you walk through, “restoring” themselves after the calamity. And they all look different. From the former city to the wilds to snow-covered peaks, you always know where you are, and the narrator lets you know what the place was like before the end.
Bastion really is one of those games that’s near-perfect. Plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to hear. With a New Game Plus mode, it’s tempting to just go right back into it. This is as great as the end of the world gets.