Bastion Xbox 360 Review

Bastion is a game of surprising beauty, magical narration and excellently crafted gameplay. After hearing about it on the grapevine, it would easy to cast it aside as being just another XBLA action/adventure; however, doing so would be a horrific mistake. Costing around a tenner, it may appear a little pricey, yet, upon booting the game up for the first time, it becomes apparent just why it deserves such a hefty pricetag.

Based around an event known as ‘The Calamity’, which has torn the world to pieces, Bastion’s story does little in the way of driving the action – that job has instead been given to a mysterious Stranger. His narration occurs in the form of a voice-over, with The Stranger’s sultry tones talking the player through the action on-screen. Whether the player is smashing crates or battling enemies, The Stranger is sure to remark upon your actions, and – with little to no speech repetition – you may find that the narration is what brings you back to Bastion. It combines brilliant script and voice-acting in an almost unique manner and is definitely one of the game’s highlights. Despite being a single player game, The Stranger is a fantastic companion, giving you all the reasons and explanations you could possibly need to achieve your in-game goals. Slap down an excellent soundtrack of ‘East meets West’ inspired vocal and instrumental tunes and Bastion becomes an absolute pleasure to experience.

Aesthetically, Bastion is breathtaking. The game is entirely hand-drawn, and it remains obvious throughout that there was a strong focus on art design. The world is a bold lined, water-coloured affair which really adds to the game’s strengths, and levels consist of floating blocks, rising up to meet the feet of the player as you explore. It’s an interesting inclusion which certainly puts a stamp of personality on Bastion.

The gameplay is simple, yet effective. You’re given two weapon slots, a shield and a dodge button, then sent out into the world to retrieve ‘cores’, which in turn help to rebuild the broken Bastion. Each area is accessible via a level select feature, with the Bastion itself acting as a central hub. Upon collection of a core, the player then has the option of creating a new building to enjoy, ranging from distilleries to temples, each with their own use. It is therefore the job of the player to prioritize his building such that you’re not left needing supplies or upgrades. Within the mixture of levels are weapon-testing minigames that reward the player with new attacks for a particularly impressive display of skill. Each level is brilliantly drawn, the characters/enemies superbly animated and the fights suitably varied, finding that happy-medium between difficulty and chaos. If you do so fancy an extra challenge, there are a range of offered modifiers, reaping extra EXP rewards if you manage to complete levels using them. 

Being a mini-RPG, Bastion has its own upgrade system. Fighting enemies reaps EXP rewards and cash, which can be used to level up and buy new gear. Leveling up grants an extra ‘spirit’ slot, with spirits acting as ‘perks’ (improving maximum health, attack power at low health, etc.). Weapons can be improved individually through an assortment of two customisation options offered per stage, but only one can be selected. For example, this means that depending on your preference, you could transform a gun’s bullets into a ricocheting mess or homing projectiles. It’s a system that works well, which just goes to show that sometimes it’s more interesting to have limitations. Combat makes up a large proportion of Bastion; fortunately, it’s a polished experience that remains entertaining thanks to a diverse collection of enemies and weapon combos. Attacks can be blocked and countered using the player’s shield, whilst costly special attacks can be unleashed for devastating effect. In a similar manner to the weaponry, special attacks can be unlocked or purchased and must be replenished through collectible potions. Bastion also has plenty of reply value, offering alternative endings and a New Game + mode. Alongside these options, the modifiers, upgrade system, and DLC almost guaranteed that you would return for a second playthrough.

Bastion should be considered a true diamond in the rough, let down only by the length of the story mode which clocks in at around 6 hours. Given that, it does more than enough to make up for it. Despite having simple roots, Bastion’s touches are what make it flourish.

9 out of 10