Review: Bastion


Developer: Supergiant Games
Genre: Action / Role Playing Game
Platform: Xbox 360 [Xbox Live Arcade]
Release Date: July 20, 2011
Compatability (Xbox 360): HDTV 1080p
Rating: 9.5

Bastion is a game that begs for controversy. A small, whining little beg, one that’s drowned out by a sweeping and emotional soundtrack, but it’s there. It could be the fact that the entire story is actually about, without spoiling anything, a dormant and disturbingly familiar race war. It could also be that it’s an introspective, independent, hand-painted and incredibly well thought-out game that isn’t a 2-D side scrolling puzzle platformer. However, the most controversy I find with this game is that, as a critic, and a particularly harsh one at that, I have very little to say against the game.

It should be noted that I spent hours replaying this game (for the third time, mind) looking for nitpicks and things to complain about, and sure enough, I found a few, but I had to look way too hard. It’s hard to create an unbiased review about a game you already consider to be your game of the year, but let’s play the Critic Integrity game and attempt to give this a plain, non-fanboy review.

The game's color palette is awesome. You will immediately fall in love with Bastion.

Bastion is a game about a lot of things. The story starts out with a white-haired, very anime-esque boy waking up in the morning, no doubt preparing to brush his teeth, comb his weird hair and head off to wherever. Problem is that the draft he had noticed previously was due to the world around him having been destroyed to make way for an empty void in which ground rises up beneath your feet, and from a simplistic premise, a beautifully designed world, interesting characters and most of all, true moral conflict arise as you play through its compelling narrative. If I were to find fault with the narrative, it would be in segments in the challenge rooms, called “Who-Knows-Where” where The Kid as he’s affectionately referred to as by the unfathomably compelling voice of the narrator. The Kid is subjected to an opium trip, food poisoning and a nice nap, respectively. In these segments, we learn the beautiful and tragic history of the characters, information only available to the hardcore, due to the fact that these are notoriously difficult and many won’t be able to see the end of them.

Which brings me to the gameplay. Where one would see a Diablo/Ultima-esque isometric viewpoint, a very specific image of the RPG is brought to mind. However, before considering Bastion, one should dismiss the thoughts immediately. Bastion is an action RPG, with a big glowing neon sign around the word “action”. Where there is a level-up system, it’s not nearly as important as weapon upgrading and what’s more, weapon selection. The perspective can get confusing at times, and in a few of the wider spread levels, it can often be difficult to discern the path. The game can hardly be faulted for this though, as in these parts of the game, it revels in your directionless-ness. However, one should be aware of the fact that there is no traditional last boss. It comes to a thrilling and extremely emotional climax, but those in it solely for the combat and gameplay will be sorely disappointed.

This action role playing game is immersive and hooking. You will come back for more.

The design of the entire game is that of a children’s storybook, if it had a slight case of post-traumatic stress disorder. With a hand-painted look, ultimately fitting to its beautiful, if not somewhat tragic world, it can be jarring to those expecting a straight-faced storybook adventure, and other-worldly enticing to all others. A small-problem though, is that the animation in the character can often change flow, which often broke the immersion for me. A small problem that did manage to continue to occur, but otherwise, a near faultless presentation.

Okay, so I can’t present an unbiased opinion of Bastion. I saw nothing about it, read nothing about it up until the moment of playing, and was blown away in absolutely every aspect. With every fault I find in the game, I felt that I nearly had to forcibly extract it from my throat because I don’t want to fault it. You’ll never play a game like it, a sterling example of the fact that not every work of art has to be a puzzle game, that crazy, arcade fun can still work into a beautiful narrative and most importantly, that a beautiful narrative can still be pulled out of the video game market these days. In a grey-brown shooter world, we should be kissing Supergiant Games’ feet, until their next game that is, which will invariably be a grey-brown shooter.

Reviewed by wilsontaylor – September 22, 2011

Hand-painted, beautiful, colorful, often confusing.
Along with the incomparable soundtrack and beautifully woven-in narrator, sound design is near faultless.
Many may be off-put by it, those who aren’t will have an indescribably wonderful time with it.
Final Score




  1. Bastion is a very addictive game. Pity it’s not available on other consoles like the Playstation 3 or the PC.

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