The Backlog: Bastion

Welcome back to The Backlog. The Backlog is space where we talk about games from our piles of shame: the game we've had for some time and are just now playing. This week, it's Bastion. You can also checkout last month's Backlog here and last week's inaugural edition of Early Access Showcase here.

I completely missed the boat with former Gamespot editor Greg Kasavin’s video game debut. I distinctly remember Bastion coming out and its subsequent praise, though its fate in my Steam library ended up like so many others: pushed to the wayside in order to make way to play something else. On the plus side, situations such as this help to fuel Darkstation’s Backlog feature and gives me a reason to play the games I purchase.

Bastion reminded me of old isometric PC games like Fallout and Diablo. Unlike these role playing or loot driven games, Bastion operates largely as a hack-and-slash adventure with some light character and item management thrown into the mix. Combat is pretty straightforward, with two buttons functioning as weapon slots and a super attack command useful for clearing out pesky enemy swarms. With lots of weapons available, I fell victim to a familiar problem that arises in games that boast a large arsenal: I chose to stick with the same combination of weapons throughout the entire game because the combination was comfortable and worked better than any other. This left most of the equipment, and their upgrades, largely ignored.

The central issue I have with Bastion is that I thought it to be rather repetitive. Each level has the same goal: kill enemies and collect a crystal for the Bastion. The story twist doesn’t do any favors and makes the game feel an hour or two too long. Combat is also rather one-note, and a malaise washed over me during the first half of the game. If it weren’t for suffering a health penalty for falling off the edge of the path, I’m sure I could have played most of it with my eyes closed. The second half fares much better, introducing variants and new enemy types that are noticeably more difficult. Having to account for new and complex attack patterns and foes that properly defend themselves made me perk up.

As a game, Bastion is pretty okay. Its presentation, however, makes for a wonderful gaming experience. The game’s narrator earned a great deal of attention and to be honest, I didn’t think I would care for it so much at first. Over time, however, my opinion changed. Logan Cunningham’s hip, cool and bourbon smooth voice lends a great deal of substance and works perfectly against the moodiness of the adventure. As good as it is, it grew to be a minor distraction during portions of the game that command attention, like the proving grounds or certain bosses. I lost focus on what the narrator was trying to tell me while dealing with enemies attacking me in great force. Despite this, Cunningham is easily the best part of the game. The soundtrack deserves mention as well. In short, its damn fine.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Supergiant Games plans to do with Transistor. Based on appearance, it looks to carry over Bastion’s smart and slick sense of style. I just hope there will be a little bit more substance to the gameplay.

Well, that does it for this edition of The Backlog. Join us next week set forth once more Into the Red. Until then, let us know what you thought of Bastion.

Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.