Bastion is an action adventure game with some light RPG elements as well. The combat, story and presentation all come together to create a well-rounded experience that has no major flaws. The game’s biggest weakness is that it can sometimes feel like a jack of all trades without many exceptional moments.
Immediately after starting the game, Bastion’s unique storytelling style becomes apparent. While many narrative games switch off between story sections and gameplay sections, Bastion doesn’t. Instead, the vast majority of storytelling takes place while you play. There are a handful of short cutscenes but they account for maybe 5-10% of the game’s actual plot. The meat of the story is told through dynamic narration, triggered by actions while playing. If you find a new weapon, the narrator will say something to the effect of “The Kid found a new weapon to try out”. Every line flows naturally and rarely seem forced, even though the entire game is tightly scripted. Falling off a ledge might produce a comment, taking heavy damage from a certain enemy, picking up an item, etc. It culminates in a linear story with a relatively large amount of interactivity.
The game’s writing is usually good and occasionally great, although it’s a step below many fantastic games with a narrative focus. It can be cliche at times, but the western inspired aesthetic is a good change of pace from your typical fantasy RPG setting. I wouldn’t say any characters were particularly well developed, but there isn’t anything in the game that stuck out to me as “bad writing”.
Bastion’s western aesthetic carries over into the visuals, with some great enemy designs and beautiful art direction. It’s polished and clean, but with enough attention to detail to prevent it from having a barren, sanitary look. Being a post-apocalyptic setting, it runs the risk of overusing some genre tropes, but by blending it with elements of fantasy and westerns, it feels completely unique, even if it wears its influences on its sleeve.
Bastion’s gameplay is probably it’s most controversial quality. Even among fans of the game, it’s generally considered the weakest part of the game. For me, I actually enjoyed it a fair amount, even though it’s a bit clunky and repetitive. Every weapon is unique, outside of the melee weapons which feel pretty similar to each other. You can change your character’s loadout to have any 2 weapons, regardless of whether they are both guns, both melee weapons, etc. You also get to choose a special ability, although they have limited uses, so you don’t use them as often as your normal weapons. There are also many different buffs that you can equip, and the total number increases as you progress through the game. Overall, there is a good amount of variety in choosing your combat style, but once you find your favorite weapon, not much will change. Most of the ranged enemies have a lot of overlap in terms of combat mechanics, while melee enemies are equally similar to each other. There are a few standout enemies that bring something new to the table, but they make up a small portion of the game. Still, even with all of these issues, Bastion is short enough that I didn’t really mind the repetitiveness because it didn’t overstay its welcome. There is a New Game Plus option after beating the game that allows you to replay the story with all of your unlocks, but I quickly lost interest. It felt like New Game Plus was an afterthought to add replay value, rather than something that was planned from the beginning. Especially given the storytelling style, playing the game a second time with almost no variation doesn’t work well.
I would recommend Bastion to those looking to see where Supergiant Games started out, but it doesn’t hold up as well as their later work. It’s a fun adventure game with a good story and combat, but it excels at nothing and left me wanting more from almost every aspect. If the game seems interesting to you and you keep your expectations in check, most players should come away from Bastion satisfied, especially when it regularly goes on sale for only a few dollars.