Bastion (2011) Review: Hidden Gem

The Kid Sitting Thinking Bastion

Bastion is a story-driven action adventure game produced by Supergiant Games and published in 2011 by Warner Brothers Interactive Entertainment. 

You control a boy (simply referred to as “The Kid”) who has survived some kind of apocalyptics called the Calamity. The main plot revolves around searching for clues to discover the cause of the disaster and rebuilding the world through the safe haven of the Bastion. 

In short, it’s a beautiful game that’s one of the best single player experiences you can have with the right level of challenges.    

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I haven’t actually played my Xbox 1 in a long time. I’ve hardly played any games. Mostly, I’ve wanted to do more social activities, so I got sucked into Magic the Gathering. It’s a bit pricey to invest and keep up with the standard format and play weekly drafts, but it was something to do. 

Something I’ve had planned for a while is a review of Bastion. I finished the game back in January and I feel like I could play it a dozen more times and pick up some new, subtle aspect each time. 

Similar to watching reruns of The Office with friends… Bastion is great alone, but sharing a replay makes it a fun social activity. You’ll find each other trading off on the more difficult levels, arguing about the best weapons and abilities, and discussing the philosophy of the story.   

It’s frankly the most amazing game I’ve played in a long time. 

Here are just a few reasons I recommend the game: 

(1) – Rich Story

At first, the story of game comes off as very simple. You play a boy trying to rebuild a hidden paradise called the Bastion. You search for core pieces to power the island’s hub device. Each core gives you the choice to restore different little shops that add dynamics to the gameplay and gives life to your little paradise. 

However, the narrative is much deeper than just restoring civilization of Caelondia. It’s about unraveling the mystery of the Calamity. 

The story really takes off when you find other survivors and learn their perspectives. Then, survival takes a backseat to the real drama – the rivalry between the prideful “civilized” Caels and the so-called barbarian Ura. 

The plot delves into topics of xenophobia, poverty, romance, and revenge that resonates with society today. The beauty is the game is written for a child to understand. Adults and kids have an open stage to learn and discuss the merit of the game’s moral. 

You learn to feel for the characters and relate to their suffering, fears, and hope. Several moments in the game should leave you in shock or in tears. 

Bastion game village.

Even nature take on an acting force in the story that alludes to conservation and respect for creation. The Kid has to fight through the savage remains of alligators, birds, wisp spirits, and frog creatures to find the Bastion cores. 

In the beginning, you believe these mindless beasts are just obstacles to an end. Turns out, the animals and plants have their own path; their own story is tied to the central plot. 

At one point, Rucks, the game’s narrator, comments: “They’ve round up their survivors, just like we have… For they, too, have built their own Bastion, just like we have.”  

As the game progresses, you’ll find every level feels like it’s just enough to keep you going. There’s no filler or wasted moments. Each part gives new insight and leaves you hanging for more of the story. 

The burning questions of the game: what exactly is the purpose of the Bastion? What are the intentions of the other survivors? Can the Calamity be undone? 

And most importantly… who’s the real villain? 

Besides the main plot, there’s an incredible amount of backstory for the Caels and Ura that really brings everything full circle. Every line of dialogue has a purpose.The story feels complete in the end.   

(2) – Beautiful Art

The game is a masterpiece in its artistic presentation. 

The theme feels like Steampunk with an eerie dystopian vibe. 

The music and visuals change each set of levels to give the right mood. It’s a diverse world after the Calamity and the artwork showcases the beauty in the ashes. 

Speaking of the music… the soundtrack fits each theme in the story. As the plot rolls through different emotions, the music brings life to it all. You have the banjo jiving funk of The Wild levels, the sombering tones for the Caelondia, and thrilling chase of the Tazal Terminals. 

But the most satisfying songs comes from the dream sequence levels. These optional survival levels offer deeper insight into the backstory of the characters, and they provide the raw emotional connection for the player. 

Bastion is not a very flashy game. The graphics are secondary to the story, but they are sophisticated enough to feel enjoyable. The art has a consistent style and doesn’t appear cheap. 

(3) – Fluid Challenges 

Bastion is not a very challenging game, but it does give you the option scaling difficult to your preference. 

The gameplay is fairly simple. It’s a classic game of timing. You activate your weapons at the right time for a critical hit. Roll away or block at just the right time to avoid an enemy attack. Then, repeat the process until the area is cleared. 

The fun comes in finding the right weapon combo to best complete the levels. Each weapon has a unique playstyle and the game is all about finding synergy to defeat the bosses. 

For example, the War Machete has the most attack speed and a secondary ranged ability, while the Galleon Mortar has the highest range and decent splash damage. 

You can carry two weapons into each level and one special ability. 

As you progress in the game, you’ll collect shard fragments that act like the game’s currency. You’ll eventually be able to purchase upgrade components to each weapon that give you further options to customize your loadout. 

(These weapon components are scattered as pickups across the levels and can be missed!) 

Another set of levels in Bastion are called “Proving Grounds” where The Kid is required to complete some trial with a specific weapon to earn more shards and weapon components. They are, however, completely optional. 

If you ever need to grind for shards, you can play through the dream levels an unlimited number of times…. Which are very difficult levels themselves! It took me hours of playing to learn the spawns and attack patterns for each character’s dream. Knowing the right weapons set is key. 

If you’re still craving a challenge, you’ll also be able to activate these idols from the shrine. Each god you invoke provides some kind of handicap with the tradeoff of earning more shards. 

But overall… Bastion isn’t a game I care too much about being challenged. However, I don’t know your preferences in gaming. It’s challenging if you set the difficulty higher and turn on all the idols. If that’s your thing, then go for it.

For me, I played through it once for the story on easy and then again for the achievements. 

The Negatives… What Negatives?

I cannot honestly think of any negatives worth mentioning.

Yet, if I had to say something, it does feel Bastion’s gameplay is short lived. There are 21 levels, each takes about 15-30 minutes to complete. Barely 10 hours of gaming means you can finish in one weekend. 

Like I said, the game has a lot of replay value. You can play it once for the story and then again for different endings and achievements. Plus, it’s a community game that invites you to share the philosophy and join the discussion. 

However, I feel there was room to expand. Rather than have the backstories told through mere narration in the dream levels, we could have played through those actual memories in a prequel saga of levels.  

For what the game offers, there are just enough characters. Adding a huge open world with dozens of NPCs would be too overwhelming for this gem… yet, it would have been interesting if you could rebuild more than just the Bastion. The urban city of Caelondia could have been tamed and offer more backstory to find after you clean up a section. 

Then, we hardly see any of the Ura homeworld until the very end of the game. 

The game leans on the player to have their own imagination for some details of the plot… which I’ll avoid spoiling ( ͡ᵔ ͜ʖ ͡ᵔ )

Those are just some ideas I had for the game. I welcome any of your own. 

You can find Bastion on Steam usually for $14.99. Personally, I feel that’s a bit pricey for an aged game that doesn’t provide a TON of gameplay. 

If you don’t mind the price or you find a good sale, pick up Bastion. Let me know your thoughts on the game. 

I give Bastion a solid 5/5!

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About the Author: Jonathan Crow

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