Competition Entry: In Case Of Trouble

A review of Bastion, a winning entry for the July 2013 Monaco competition by Sam Hogarth

Once in a while you experience a moment of serendipity while engaging in an activity. Something is so fresh, so novel, that you proclaim (in your head) “YES! This is why I play video games / read books / read comics!” It’s happened twice for me with comics (Watchmen and When the Wind Blows), it happened with Majora’s Mask and Arkham Asylum. Recently, it happened too with Bastion.

In Bastion, you play a “Kid”. Following a cataclysmic event, the land of Caelondia has been ripped apart, its population turned to ash. From a skyway in the Bastion (a hub level), the Kid can travel to these fractured lands to extract a “Core”. These cores power the Bastion, allowing you to travel to far-off lands and also build useful buildings, such as an armory or a distillery.

With an isometric view, level-up and weapons upgrade systems, this game fits squarely into the action/RPG genre. Controlling characters in isometric games can be difficult, but with a simply magical soundtrack and breathtaking graphics, you’re prepared to let that minor irk slide.

What makes this game stand out is Rucks, the narrator. His voice, poetic with a lingering sadness, describes the game’s story, provides history on the lands you visit, the victims of the Calamity you encounter, and the enemies you defeat. This will tug at your heartstrings and you’ll demand more. Ruck’s dialogue is inspired, by the end of the first level you feel like old friends. Maybe that’s because of another stroke of genius; some of his narrations are environmentally controlled. On my first spree with a new hammer weapon, i laughed at loud when I heard “he smashes things for a while.” No amount of ultra-realistic graphics will best that.

The story progresses at a near-perfect pace, with the difficulty balanced nicely such that levels aren’t a breeze, but aren’t too difficult. I don’t want this game to end and neither will you when you pick it up. You’re in for a treat.

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