Bastion: A Refreshingly Unique PC Game
8 min read

Bastion: A Refreshingly Unique PC Game

[Source: Super Giant Games](
There are games which are great for it's production values. There are those whose gameplay has been revolutionary for its time while others have a story that could match a Hollywood blockbuster. Rarely, has a game gotten most of the elements right but even then some games are great for a few months but fades when the next big thing arrives.

Enter Bastion. In this gamer's mind, one of those rare games that gets everything right. I won't make review of the game because I feel that this game is one wherein you need to play it to be able to understand just how good it is. So instead of giving a review, I want to describe a bit about the game then just give some bullet points on why I think this game is excellent.

A Little Background
Bastion  is an action adventure game released by developers Super Giant Games. It was released last July on Xbox Live and several online marketplaces for Windows in August.  Super Giant Games is categorized as an "indie" game. For those unfamiliar, the term "indie" or independent for the video game industry is used for developers working in a relatively small team.

Demystifying Game Development
I would just like to get this out of the way. To those who are not familiar with software development or IT, games (and software) development is huge work. It stuns me that some people think that it can be done by one guy in an afternoon (or something similar). No. Most software especially as big as Microsoft Office, Photoshop or games such as Call of Duty, Mario Nth Version are done by huge number of talented people. Big budget games takes about 2 years to make. So no, not "anyone" can do it.

What Makes Bastion Great
Now that we have that out of the way, I want to present you a list of things that make the game unique and impressive. They are arranged in an order of randomness. By no means is the first one the most important or the last point as the least impressive.

**Unique Narration and Story Telling** I don't think the title justifies how impressive this element was. Narration and story telling may sound like the last thing you'll ever notice while playing a game but this one will make you think otherwise. First, The story goes as you play. Often, games' stories have been told by either pressing a button to read dialogue or watch a cut scene.  The game breaks this tradition. It does not stop to tell you the story. The story unfolds as you go. What it provides is a smooth pacing and introduction to the elements in the games universe. It also adds unique type of immersion.

The feeling of playing the game best described in this scenario. As a kid when you read a good adventure story book, you imagine yourself being that hero saving a world from destruction along with fighting monsters. You don't ever stop in the adventure. The world is created on the spot with the information on whats happening slowly being known as you go (as you become the narrator and hero).

It never becomes a chore to know what you're supposed to do in a particular scenario because it's told by a narrator at just the right time. You understand why you need to do a certain task. Everything is interconnected. It doesn't hurt that the narrators voice is exceptional.

The gameplay video below best describes what I just wrote. It's the first level and part so you get to see what am I talking about.

**Pacing Design** This is one of the parts of games that is hard to get right. It's usually not noticed, too. The game doesn't plunge you into a warzone. You get to fight some small battles while understanding what happened to the world of Bastion. As you discover more things about it, the game ramps up the difficulty by varying the number and types of enemies. Hardly will you be in a scenario where it seems too overwhelming.

If you get a new enemy, you face it one-on-one. This allows you to get to know what it does. As you progress you encounter a larger amount of said enemy but since you know how it performs, you also know how to defeat it by now. In the new scenario, there is a new challenge because this time you're facing mobs of this foe. In later parts, new enemies are mixed with mobs of foes you've faced before which presents new challenges but nothing too difficult in my experience.

Pacing in the game's story is excellent. I didn't have a point where I was bombarded with information about the world (think watching Star Trek as a non-fan). The games design doesn't push you too hard or slow to go through each level.

Short and Sweet
Some people think that you need to spend 10-20+ hours on a game to really get to enjoy it. It's possible but should not be the case every time. Games like Final Fantasy need time for you to be immersed in the full story. Some games "extend" by having non-essential parts drag in between more interesting parts. It should not be this way rather it should be similar to books in that it doesn't need to be long to be good.

Short games are also a blessing in disguise. I'm not a kid in a summer who has the whole day to play. Sometimes you just want to play a bit of the game once you get home from work or similar. If the game is  short, it's also an incentive to finish it. I have this similar reaction to  long books. If I'm in page 23 of 580 and I'm not regularly reading it then it's daunting to finish. If instead I was at page 23 of 130 then I will get a (way) more positive reaction to the task of finishing it.

Bastion has these elements right again. First, it doesn't drag the story. Everything seems in place and you don't face a lot of "chores". The game is also short in that everything in the story is finished in 8 hours or so. There are no loose ends and you get to know what happened to everyone and the world.  I especially like this part. I hate it when Hollywood movies end with something like "Yey we killed mega bad guy... or so we thought credits roll".


There's Always Something New
It's usual in games to start with a few items and get a lot of new items until the middle or so part. You need to master (or level up) a select few to be able to beat the game. I was surprised to play Bastion and find out that nothing in those mechanics are implemented. Without spoiling too much, you will keep discovering things. It's fun that what you discover next is something unique. Most of the items are vastly different from the last one and requires you to play differently. Even with this in mind, it doesn't force you to use something new if you don't feel like it. You can go back to what you feel is best suited for you.

Can be as Difficult or Lengthy as You Prefer
If you ever feel that the game is too easy, you don't go to options and change the difficulty from medium to hard. Bastion employs a unique solution to difficulty. Spoiler A bit into the game you will discover a shrine. In it, you put "idols" and with it you can modify the monsters. You can give them more resistance or faster speed. There are ways to choose how you pump them up. End of Spoiler. The beauty of this design is that you can have it the way you want it to play out. You can choose to turn enemies to ungodly creatures or just give them the slight dose of adrenaline. You also get rewarded for each increased ability of your foes.

In terms of software design, it's also a very interesting concept. Instead of just varying the health of monsters and the player, there are more unique attributes to play around it which in concept is still "easy" since its still toggles. (Of course it isn't easy to do, just the solution is "Why didn't I think of that?" sort).

In terms of length, you can play some levels designed to test your proficiency with some of the items. You can also play some levels where you can earn more experience required to level-up and your character. Nothing is mandatory and you can finish the game without touching these levels.

Gears of War. Copyright Epic Games, image from IGN.
**Art Style and World of Bastion**
Look at the screenshot of Bastion compared to Gears of War. Sadly, a lot of big blockbuster games offer colors that range from brown/gray to.. other shades of brown/gray. Bastion is refreshingly colorful, bright and vivid. Of course, it shouldn't be required to have every game but the art style in Bastion blends well with the other elements.
The world of Bastion has a nice feel to it. Everything in the world works within the theme. Nothing seems to be out of place. Monsters also have a bubbly feel to it. Speaking of monsters, each one has a pretty good character to them. Foes have a nice animations and expressions.
**There's Never Really a Boss**
One of the common elements of games is the boss. Usually, Each end of the level you get to battle this big or unique enemy. To go through, you must defeat this boss. To finish the game, you defeat the smartest or biggest baddie of them all.
What you'll discover about Bastion is that there is none. It is not to say that it's easy but every enemy is not a boss because there doesn't need to be one. The story doesn't revolve around an evil genius stealing something or plotting to destroy the world (or a variation of this theme). The world actually is already destroyed and you're tasked with "resolving" this calamity.
**Audio & Music**
I want to describe this in detail but I'm finding it hard to. In simple terms, the audio and music creates a wonderful "soul" to the world of Bastion. It completes the whole game. Though it sound great on it's own, its even better as you play the game as it builds the atmosphere. A sample from the soundtrack should be better description than my words.
It's already impressive to build a game even with today's tech. It's easy to create a simple game but not one of this scale. From programming something with new elements like the on-going narration or creating the world the builds itself upon your arrival takes a lot of talent. Let's not forget the audio, world and everything else. So it is really astoundingly awesomely impressive (coming from a software development background) to know that the team at Super Giant Games are comprised of 7 people. 7 people. Woah. 
** **
**Final Thoughts**
This has already been a long post. I don't even know if someone made it this long. Anyway, to summarize, I think Bastion is one of those rare games that blends everything right. Technology side and design wise, it employs some new innovations and offers unique twists to the usual mechanics of games. Story and art-wise (and everything else)  it's a game that will be unique and still playable in the future (similar to how you can still enjoy the first Super Mario). It's built by 7 people. Impressive in almost all regards.
**Getting the Game**
The game is available for digital download on Xbox 360 on it's marketplace. On Windows, it's available via Steam [here]( for $15 USD or about 660 Phil Peso. Well worth it (or if you use Steam and encounter a sale, it goes way lower).

Update: You can try Bastion right from your browser! check out the Chrome Store Link: