Supergiant Games is a studio that keeps giving me new things to be excited about. I really enjoyed Transistor, and I’m looking forward to the upcoming title Pyre. In that spirit, I decided to give their first game, Bastion, a try and see how it compares.
In short? Pretty good, though I’m glad they’re trying different approaches now
The game begins with your character, a stern young fighter known only as “The Kid,” waking up and dealing with the aftermath of a terrible event known as the Calamity. While exploring the ruins of the city Caelondia, he comes across the Stranger, who provides the entire game’s narration. The Kid encounters new weapons, from hammers to arrows to war machetes, and new enemies, who spawn relentlessly. All this he faces in pursuit of his goal: to retrieve the missing cores of a world-managing hub called the Bastion, where they might be able to restore everything and sort out the ruins.
The Kid is your classic silent video game protagonist, but he has more of a backstory than most. As the adventure progresses, we get more glimpses through the Narrator of what the Kid’s life was like before the Calamity. We get an idea of his childhood, his career prospects, and even his love life. All of which gives him a strong motivation to figure out what went wrong and battle the monsters that the apocalypse keeps spawning.
For all my love of artistry and storytelling in video games, I have another side that Bastion appeals to: namely, my love for smashing things (in a game) with a stick. And there is plenty to smash, from pots containing jewels and arcane artifacts to the endless hordes of monsters and turrets that spawn with every new path you walk. At least the game devs were kind enough to give the player the mechanic of the titular Bastion, where you can come back to upgrade weapons, talk to NPCs, and just take a moment to catch your breath from the hellish battles everywhere else.
One thing that I find lacking in Bastion, however, is the emotional impact. I get a few glimpses of what the Kid once had before the Calamity, but it never quite hit me in the same way that Red and her boyfriend’s relationship did in Transistor. It’s true that both the Man in the Transistor and the Stranger share a voice actor (Logan Cunningham, who also played Horatio in Primordia). But that common voice doesn’t carry the same weight during the Kid’s adventures in Caelondia as it did for Red’s desperate battles across the city of Cloudbank. Of course, Transistor also had a much, much darker payoff than Bastion, so I could be biased on that count.
At the end of the day, while I think Bastion can be a lot of fun for many people, it’s not the fun that I’m looking for. I’ll admit I enjoy a little run-and-smash as much as the next gamer, but when that’s all I’m really doing, and when I literally can’t spend a second standing still, I find I’m less enjoying myself and more giving myself a constant panic attack. Supergiant Games is still creative and a great dev team, but I’m glad that they ended up producing a title like Transistor after this one.
Bibliography: Bastion (video game). Developed by Supergiant Games. Designed by Amir Rao. Written by Greg Kasavin. Art by Jen Zee. Published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Windows; Mac OS X; Linux; Xbox 360, Xbox One; iOS; PlayStation 4, PlayStation Vita. Original release date: July 20, 2011.