Bastion – E3 Preview

During the excursion to PAX East earlier this year, fellow GamingLives writer Lee stumbled across a game that captured his imagination. Ever since that fateful day he’s been constantly badgering on about it; at every available moment he’d wax lyrically about ‘this game’ he played at PAX, lavishing it with praise. It was just a matter of luck that the first game of E3 2011 I played would be that very game. Walking through the Warner booth, we spotted a couple of available 360 consoles and I was all but ordered to jump on and try it out for myself, and you know what? Lee may just have been right.

Picking up the controller, I’m immediately asked to stop by one of the developers at Supergiant Games, Darren Korb, who I later find out is responsible for the audio and soundtrack of the game. It’s kind of fitting then that he politely suggests that I use the headphones, as audio is a pivotal mechanic in the game. Fair enough; I’m not one to argue.

My first thoughts were “fucking hell, these headphones are good” as they literally cancel out every piece of audio booming out from the show floor, and then the game begins. It’s not often that a game has you on tenterhooks from the first few seconds, but Bastion has that special something about it. The narrator’s voice kicks in and I’m already fully engrossed; bloody hell I’d only been playing it for approximately five seconds or so by that point.

“Ground forms up under his feet, as if pointing the way”

Bastion slots into the genre of action/role-playing hybrid, and after a cataclysmic event shatters the world, all that’s left is a series of floating islands. It’s therefore your job to rebuild where possible with the aim to create a safe haven. Throughout your journey you’ll encounter savage beasts that have adapted to their new habitat while an array of customisable weapons will be your tools of the trade.

Taking your first step into the world of Bastion is a bit of a surreal experience as the environment seemingly rebuilds itself with every footstep you take, all while the narrator dynamically speaks of your actions. The first thing you notice about the game is the sheer beauty of its art style, which is so full of life and so vibrant that it causes your eyes to become locked to the screen in a mesmerizing gaze.

You can't help but stand and admire the art style

The game controls with the finesse of an exceptionally well done platformer and, despite its simple setup, offers you all the complexity you could need. This isn’t a game where mass multiple button combinations are the theme throughout, instead it’s simply a case of tap button here, tap button there. That’s not to say it’s overly simple either, because it’s not; it doesn’t over complicate things just because it can, it knows what it wants to do and it does it very well. Combat is accomplished with a degree of fluidity where something as natural as a simple button tap causes you to launch attacks with the correspondingly mapped weapon. The hammer I picked up during the preview level became my new favourite friend, dealing with enemies as well as the environment with a rather satisfying audible thud.

For me though, it was all about the narrator and the storytelling experience, which looks set to raise the bar in terms of narrative deliverance. It’s hard to pin point what it is that makes the narrator so successful, be it the quality of the vocals, the script itself, or something else entirely. But what is clear is that the finished package is a game mechanic that is simply sublime. The narrative tone draws you in, and with each resonant line you find yourself wanting to hear more as it develops the story, one word at a time.

If you’ve listened to any of the podcasts we recorded while at E3, you will have heard me sing Bastion’s praises numerous times, but I really can’t stress how good this game is shaping up to be. You can soak in the stunning art style by looking at the screenshots, you can enjoy the narrator by watching the trailer, but the overall package is something you just have to experience for yourself. Think of the game like a jigsaw puzzle where each piece, despite being exceptionally good on their own, comes together to create something rather special, something magical. It’s easy to go to E3, sit through the likes of Mass Effect 3, Bioshock Infinite and Star Wars the Old Republic and get caught up in the hype but it was Bastion that had me thinking “wow”.

"Proper stories are supposed to start at the beginning, ain’t so simple with this one.”

To think that this isn’t your typical AAA title from the mega publisher, that it’s an Xbox Live Arcade game made by a small team, is a fact that makes its brilliance even more impressive. From the moment the narrator first began to speak, the realisation set in – Lee was right all along. Bastion is, in every sense of the world, magical.

Bastion is due to be released sometime during the Xbox Live Summer of Arcade which kicks off on July 20th 2011.

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  1. Furie says:

    This is the one I’m waiting for at the moment, with slightly more anticipation than Skyrim as I know for sure that this wont require a few months worth of patching to be playable. It seems strange that a narrator should be such a decisive feature, and yet it’s something I’m currently more excited by than the end of the Mass Effect saga. Roll on release.

  2. Lorna Lorna says:

    The game looks truly stunning and I can’t wait to get my hands on it. I heard that it will likely cost around 1500 msp, but to be honest, it looks to be more than worth it. I love the idea of having someone narrate MY story. Great touch.

  3. MoltenRog says:

    Looks nice and fantastic colors, although the gameplay kinda looks like Magicka, although if there is going to be a demo for this, I hope to be able to try it out.

  4. Lee says:

    @MoltenRog They’ll be a demo version on XBLA like there always is, best thing that can be said to anybody is “just play it” you’ll see what we mean then.

  5. Samuel Samuel says:

    I was sold on this the moment I finished reading Lee’s PAX preview. I want it now! So jealous of both of you having played it now.

    Want want want. Want. Want want.

  6. Edward Edward says:

    Sold on this so hard.
    Lee’s PAX preview was one thing, but this too?
    I’m going to make sure I have the Xbox points when it’s released and I’m going to play the shit out of this game and I cannot wait.
    Love that you guys are getting behind a title like this. It’s frigging awesome :D

  7. [...] you’d like to know more about some of the games featured, Ben recently previewed Bastion and Lee went hands on with From [...]

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