Bastion – Review

Title   Bastion
Developer  Supergiant Games
Publisher  Warner Bros. Interactive
Platform  Xbox 360
Genre  Action Adventure RPG
Release Date  20th June 2011

“Proper stories are supposed to start at the beginning; ain’t so simple with this one”. The first words you’ll hear from the stranger as Bastion fades in from black, so with those words in mind, I want you all to skip to the end of my review; go on… if you weren’t already considering it, let’s not pretend you haven’t done it before. Here’s the deal though – I’m going to give you this free pass to skip to the end on the conditions that you (A) do as I ask (B) return back here if my final words aren’t enough for you and you want to know more. Ahhh welcome back, I shall continue with my story. A story which started back in March in a sleepy little fishing village on the East coast of America called Boston, where myself, Mark and Lorna were in town for a gathering of gamers known as PAX East, and were invited to speak to a guy called Greg about a game he and his indie studio, Supergiant Games, had created.

The game was a preview build of Bastion, and I boldly proclaimed this as my game of the show, I even went as far as to call it my game of 2011 so early on into the year. I was in love with Bastion right from that very first moment; all those tiny hints of the things to come, and where the story might go, have all had me thinking about this game almost every day since I first played it. Later this year when we met back up with Greg and the team at E3, he told me that he still gets nervous about the game every time somebody picks up a pad and that he likely always will. I’ll be honest; I’m nervous too. “Kid sets off for the Bastion” says the narrator’s gravelly voice; as soon as I hear those words I’m no longer nervous. It all came flooding back to me, and I really hope that it’s at this very same moment that it clicks for everybody else who plays the game.

I’ll avoid spoiling any of Bastion’s story because the game really is all about its story, but I will give you a brief rundown of how your adventure begins. You find yourself lying on the floor of a small room, not as if you were asleep but more as if something or someone had knocked you unconscious and left you there. Outside, the world around you has clearly suffered some kind of disaster, “The Calamity” as the narrator calls it. What caused the calamity is unclear but you need to get to the Bastion, which is where everybody said they would meet at the first sign of trouble. I’m aware that this brief summary makes it sound like there’s not much to it, but I really couldn’t say more about it without spoiling it or giving you just enough of a hint that it would let you guess how events might play out. What I can say that Bastion’s story is incredibly clever and beautifully well written, with layers of depth that even full retail “AAA” titles rarely manage.

Bastion’s narrative is delivered mainly by “the stranger”, who acts as your guide to the world around you, reacting to everything you do as and when you do it. It’s always in the past tense, giving Bastion something of a story book quality. Actually I don’t think that’s a fair description; it has something more personal to it than that. It’s like having your grandfather tell you a story, where you immediately connect with the game and it just grabs you.

While it is the narrator who delivers the story, he’s supported by beautifully hand drawn artwork, from the upgrade screens you’ll gain access to as you progress through the game to the tiles that form up under your feet as if leading the way. The soundtrack also has a level of beauty that really raises Bastion above the crowd and perfectly sets the tone for different sections of the game from fast passed rock during intense battles to the kind of music that just makes you feel cool, with some of my favorite tracks being the ones with that kind of Firefly vibe to them. Combine all of those things with the style in which the stranger talks and the whole game consistently flows to the point where you never want to put it down.

As you progress through the story you’ll gain access to weapon-specific challenges that range from tasks like taking out a field of targets with as few arrows as you can to smashing up one hundred items in a junk yard with a hammer as fast as possible. Depending on how well you do, you’ll be issued with either a gold, silver or bronze award and an item or upgrade that is specific to that weapon for each level of medal. Rather than being a small tacked on mini game, these challenges also serve as another way of deepening the story and while you play them the stranger will tell you a little bit about the people who built your weapon and what happened to them during the calamity. I won’t lie; these challenges can be difficult at times and could have become frustrating pretty quick. Thankfully though, the guys at Supergiant Games have absolutely nailed the difficulty and are on just the right side of being pad twistingly infuriating. My advice for your first attempt is to be happy with your bronze or silver prize and return for the gold once you’ve upgraded you weapon later in the game.

As the game progresses you’ll occasionally be tempted of the straight and narrow by a few tiles that float up from the abyss below. You’ll need to hunt for these little secret areas and they’ll normally start to build up near the path you’re on. Taking the time to head down these paths will often prove fruitful and easily gains you a few fragments or, better yet, an upgrade for one of your weapons. Fragments are essentially Bastion’s currency and allow you to upgrade and customise your weapons when combined with a weapon upgrade, and can also be used to purchase items from the shop. Upgrading isn’t as boring as simply leveling up though, and you’ll be given choice on how you want to customise your weapon. For example, you may have a choice of either dealing 20% more damage or having a 10% higher chance of dealing critical damage, so you’ll need to decide which way you want to go, and some upgrades work better when complimented by others. Don’t worry too much about what you eventually pick as these weapon upgrades you find on your adventure effectively unlock a tier, so there is no reason why you can’t set up your Breaker’s Bow to deal massive damage at the start of the game and change it to being faster firing on a later level.

The gameplay is fairly simple, with you controlling the kid from an old school top down isometric point of view with the weapon buttons mapped to the B and X. Bastion does try and teach you to keep a mêlée weapon on one and a ranged on the other, although there is no reason why you can’t carry two ranged weapons once you have access to the armoury later in the game. I wouldn’t recommend it though, as each level does normally require one of each in order to best make your way through the level. On the right trigger you’ll eventually gain the ability to equip special moves from the distillery, ranging from weapon-specific to the ability to recruit enemies into fighting for you

Whilst not being a competitive or co-op game, Bastion does feature a level of online play through the game’s leaderboards for what is essentially the games version of a survival mode. This is Bastion though, and rather than have it as the sort of thing that would normally be tacked on like pretty much any other game, it opts to add another layer of depth to the story and explores the history of the characters you’ve met along the way. The catch is that, in order to hear each tale completely, you’ll need to survive all the waves. These ‘reflections’ as the game calls them are brilliant, mixing up the gameplay and serving as a great practice arena that you can revisit anytime to hone your skills and try out different weapon combinations and setups against different enemy types.

At around a quarter of your way into the game you’ll open up the Shrine, which almost acts as a cross between Bastion’s difficulty setting and the skulls system from Halo. Activating any number of your collected idols inside the shrine can make your adventure more difficult in any number of ways, from doubling enemy’s strength to having them slow your movement down when they hit you. These added difficulty settings aren’t pointless though, and you’ll be rewarded with things like XP boosts and an increase in the number of fragments dropped. The Memorial you’ll eventually encounter is another example of something which would normally be buried somewhere in the pause menu and serves as a hybrid progression meter and challenge wall. Supergiant have taken great care and gone to great lengths to keep you as immersed in the world as possible so all of the little extras that would normally be found in the pause menu of any other game have been built in to the very fabric of Bastion, giving them a purpose and genuine reason for being there.

  • The story is so brilliantly clever.
  • The Stranger never repeats himself.
  • Tight, responsive combat.
  • Customisable, weapons and character.
  • New game plus mode.
  • Moving audio score that never feels out of place.
  • Immersive.
  • It’s fun.
    I’m sorry; I’ve got nothing. I’ve spent the best part of the last two days trying to pick a fault with even the smallest of things just so I’d have something to list. I really can’t think of anything.

This review has probably been one of the hardest things I've ever written; I want to tell you everything about Bastion, and I will happily rattle on about this game for hours, but at the same time I can't. It will spoil it for you and strip away a layer of that magic. Bastion really is an incredibly unique game and it's hard to compare it to anything else; if anything, future games will be compared to this. For me, Bastion has raised the bar of how immersive a game can be with both its gameplay and storytelling; it’s taken a fresh approach to a lot of things found in pretty much every game you’ve ever played and I hope other developers start taking notes – this is how it should be done. Supergiant Games have lovingly created an amazing title that will make you laugh, will choke you up, and leave you in awe. I’ve just started my second playthrough, and it’s killing me that I need to be writing this up for you rather than playing the game.

A wise man and a stranger once told me that real gamers don't need to be told everything about a great game, they just need to hear three words which sum up just how brilliant a game is. Are you ready for them?

“Just play it”.

Last five articles by Lee



  1. Ste Ste says:

    Woah, no cons? That has to be a first. Nice review mate, this sounds like it might be worth dusting off my Xbox for. That’s unless its due for a PC release also? Does anyone know?

  2. Lee Lee says:

    @Ste Supergiant have said there will be a PC release later in the year but dust off the Xbox anyway.

  3. Knikitta says:

    I wanted to play this before the Review as I had heard how ‘orsum’ it was, but now I really REALLY want it!

    Could this be my second ever game that I purchase for the Xbox?

  4. Samuel Samuel says:

    Want want want want want want want want…

    WANTS NOW PLEASE. Hurry up tomorrow morning, I’m waiting!

    No cons? You best not be fibbing Lee Williams. It’s your fault I’m dancing about in the nip singing “Bastion Bastion Bastion!”

  5. Richie rich says:

    It looks a bit mad visually but I’ll deffo give this a try tomorrow. Nice review, Lee.

  6. Chris Toffer says:

    Top review dude. Not usually my sort of game, but may take a look based on your recommendation!

  7. Edward Edward says:

    I’ve had my eye on it since your PAX East Preview, and I’m glad to hear the game’s still that amazing.
    I can’t wait for my points card to arrive so I can get this darn game and play the crap out of it. It’s going to be amazing and I’m unable to contain my excitement any longer.

    Amazing job, Lee.

  8. Furie says:

    Great review there, Lee.

    I’m sorry; I’ve got nothing. I’ve spent the best part of the last two days trying to pick a fault with even the smallest of things just so I’d have something to list. I really can’t think of anything.

    Having just completed the game, I totally agree with this. This has to be one of the top games of the generation, as everything fits in just so without there being anything extraneous or missing. You know that feeling you get when you finish a meal you’ve been enjoying and the very last bite just leaves you nicely full but not stodged? That’s Bastion if it were a meal and not a surprisingly deep and moving video game. The only real problem I can see people having is that it gets over hyped through word of mouth.

    What I can say that Bastion’s story is incredibly clever and beautifully well written, with layers of depth that even full retail “AAA” titles rarely manage.

    Definitely. This game goes to show that you don’t need sparkly graphics and celebrity voice actors to make art. There were some truly moving moments in the game, and not in the traditional ways either. The feeling of another person’s loss is something that I’ve never had conveyed to me before through a video game, yet Logan Cunningham’s narration really made it hit home with what could have been a throwaway line elsewhere.

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