March 6, 2011 10:31 PM | Cassandra Khaw
It is often a single moment that defines a game for its player, one sequence that elevates it above its peers and leaves the game forever etched in the memory of its audience. Bastion has a lot of moments that could possibly fit such a definition, something rather unsurprising given that Bastion plays out like an post-apocalyptic fairy tale. In spite of this, however, it was a rather unexpected episode that truly made the game for me.
For those unfamiliar with the game, Bastion is essentially the story of the Kid, a white-haired adolescent who must survive the aftermath of the Calamity and reach a place called the Bastion, his city's designated meeting place in the event of emergencies. To accomplish this, the Kid will have to cross a strange, volatile world that constructs itself with every step taken and battle against strange, blue-tinted monstrosities.
Unlike most RPGs, Super Giant Games' maiden venture makes use of neither text-based dialogue nor cutscenes. Instead, the developers chose to feature something more unique: a narrator that provides constant, reactive commentary on everything the player does. Initially, I was somewhat skeptical about the execution. I didn't think it was possible to provide something fluid enough to replace conventional storytelling methods but I found myself being proven pleasantly wrong during my hands-on with the game at the recent Game Developers Conference 2011.
The narrator, in his whiskey-scratched voice, had been busy relating the Kid's escape from an unpleasant situation when I fell off a ledge into oblivion. Without missing a beat, his monologue fluidly segued into a rather dry 'And then, he falls to his death.' Before I could even respond to what I had perceived as my death, the protoganist came tumbling through the sky to land face first on the cobbled stones. 'Just kidding', the narrator quipped.
I was floored. The transition had been flawless. It had felt as natural as a conversation with a real human being, something that I wasn't expecting from a hodgepodge of spoken lines. I still have my doubts about how the Supergiant Games will keep the narrator from sounding overtly repetitive as the game progresses but so far, I feel extremely optimistic about the direction the title is taking.
Played from an isometric viewpoint, Bastion doesn't break too many grounds with its gameplay mechanics though ironically, the ground in the game itself is quite literally destructible. As an action-RPG, Bastion frequently calls upon the players' reflexes and wits; combat is often fast and furious, requiring constant usage of the dodge button and the ability to strategize amidst overwhelming odds. It looks like there will also be a few episodes in the game that feel almost arcade-like. During my time in the queue, I saw a few players engaged in a frantic struggle atop a moving platform; they had to dodge projectiles and beat down on enemies simultaneously.
Fortunately, the gamepad controls are easy enough to master and standard to the genre; you'll be mashing buttons to execute actions and holding down others to charge certain abilities. I'm certain that things will grow more complicated as the game progresses but given the extensive amount of people looking to try the game, I didn't really have the opportunity to investigate any further.
The most pleasant thing that I took away from my hands-on demo was Creative Director Greg Kasavin's cheerful affirmation of their February 26th announcement on the official homepage. Bastion is, indeed, playable from end-to-end and while the team is still busy with extensive debugging and fine-tuning, it looks like Bastion will soon hit our figurative shelves.
To keep track of the game, you might want to check out the official website.