Bastion Review: Caelondian Hustle
Kalvin Martinez / Apr 15th, 2015 No Comments
Narrative and gameplay often fight against each other in video games. Often, one is prioritized over the other without a thought as to how they two elements work together. Favoring one element over the other results in both not reaching their full potential. It is when both work in unison that something truly memorable can happen.
Bastion not only takes into consideration how story and gameplay feed into each other, but also thoughtfully considers how music and visuals work with them. The music compliments the story’s narration, the story reacts to gameplay, and the visuals bring everything together under the game’s frontier theme. As a result Bastion’s world is actualized and feels real. It creates a journey well worth taking.
Something Stranger Still
In Bastion, you become the Kid, a silent, snowy haired brawler. He wakes up to find his world in ruins around him and dangerous creatures running amok. The contingency plan if anything catastrophic happened to Caelondia was to head for the Bastion.
Upon reaching the Bastion, the Kid meets Rucks, an older man with a big bushy mustache, a folksy way of speaking and a thrush of powdery hair. Rucks informs the Kid the Bastion isn’t complete and needs Cores from the ruins of Caelondia to restore it to its full potential. Knowing what needs to be done, the Kid ventures out into certain danger to reclaim the Cores and fix the Bastion.
What makes Bastion’s story compelling isn’t so much the plot (although the plot builds with cool little twists and turns over time), but how the story is told. The entire game is narrated by Rucks reactively and with knowledge of what has happened. If the Kid falls through a whole or smashes stuff without purpose, Rucks comments on it. When the Kid goes out in the ravaged areas of Caelondia or the Wilds, Rucks foreshadows and alludes to information he could only know in the future. There is even a moment when Rucks narrates the exact moment he and the Kid meet for the first time.
This makes Rucks come across as unreliable. Rucks’ unreliability forces you to try to piece together the larger picture of the Kid’s past and Caelondia’s cultural makeup from Rucks’ scattered narration. This method of narrative delivery gives the player a chance to learn and infer larger meanings behind what makes up the world of Bastion, and a good deal of subtext helps.
It isn’t until the final beats of the game that everything about Rucks’ narration clicks. When you learn he is not speaking to you, but to someone else in the game, things begin to add up. It also forces you to re-evaluate the game’s events. This fact adds extra layers of depth to the events of the game and the choice players make at the end.
The Dead Welcome Him with Open Arms
The Kid’s journey to restore the Bastion is not an easy one. It is fraught with peril and creatures both big and small out to get him. Scumbags, Gasfellas, Anklegators and Peckers are out to prevent the Kid from gathering up the Cores necessary to power the Bastion. While the path is full of danger, the Kid isn’t a wilting flower. He’s got some moves and an arsenal of weapons from Caelondia before the Calamity.
To gather up all the Cores he has to travel through the wreckage left by the Calamity and to places untouched by the taint of it. As the Kid ventures into new areas, he must dance with some ornery hombres and they ain’t looking to two step. That’s fine because the Kid has his fancy footwork down, and he doesn’t plan to let anyone get too close. He also isn’t much for speaking, preferring to let his big ol’ hammer do the talking.
When the Kid wakes up on the Rippling Walls to find his world destroyed, he is only armed with his trusty hammer and a Fang Repeater. Meager as his loadout may be, he makes quick work of the Squirts and Gasfellas in his way. Getting what the Bastion needs isn’t always so leisurely for the Kid though; eventually he runs into badder, tougher enemies that don’t care about his hammer and pea shooter.
The good thing about a sudden disaster is plenty of stuff gets left lying around. The Kid is good at improvising and making use of what he finds in his travels. Whether the Breakers leave a bow sitting around, or the Brushers didn’t quite take all their Pikes with them, the Kid has options to choose from when facing down some more fearsome Windbags or beasts of the Wilds. Kid’s lucky too because taking out Queen Anne with a machete is like trying to use a stinkweed as an armchair.
The Bastion may not be up to its full potential, but the more Core the Kid brings back, the more it can help him in his travels. After a while, the Kid is able to choose what tools to pair together and work best when retrieving Cores and pick through powerful secret skills to gain an advantage. As useful as the weapons he finds may be, they can always be improved.
The Kid hasn’t been gathering fragments for nothing. He can put them to good use by improving his gear and buying some fine spirits. Fighting all those Windbags and beasts is hard work, but it makes him stronger. The stronger the Kid gets, the more spirits he can use at the Distillery to give him the edge he needs out in the Wilds. If he is feeling brave or foolish enough, he can invoke the gods to get a little more out of his battles. If he is going to call on Acobi or Micia then he might have a death wise, but hey, we all got to go sometime.
Everyone needs a rest now and again, even someone trying to save a few lost souls. The Calamity didn’t wipe out everything. If the Kid’s skills are sharp enough, he can test them out in the Proving Grounds. Mastering the Calamity Cannon or the Scrap Musket is no small feat, but showing he’s got the goods is worth his time. There wasn’t much time for small talk at the Bastion when we got there, but the Kid can learn a little bit by taking a couple trips to Who Knows Where. There might be some sort of truth in all the haze the Kid needs to know.
Bastion is a game worth every second of your time. All of the elements of Bastion — music, visuals, gameplay and narrative — work seamlessly together to create a feeling of existing within post-Calamity Caelondia. While there is a strong balance between the various components of the game, Bastion is masterful in terms of storytelling and narrative reception. If you haven’t played Bastion yet, now is a perfect time to do it.
Note: Bastion was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a code for the game provided by the publisher.
tags: Bastion , Bastion Review , Bastion Review PS4 , ps4 , review , Supergiant Games