Good Mourning to You: ‘Bastion’ Review

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Most video games have you trying to forestall disaster. Even the ones set in a post-apocalyptic milieus–like Crysis 2 or Fallout: New Vegas, for example–have you trying to prevent an even more awful end-of-days scenario.

Supergiant Games’ Bastion–the first title in Microsoft’s annual Summer of Arcade promotion–puts players in a slightly different position, where you’re mostly concerned with picking up the pieces of a shattered landscape. In fact, the whole affair’s shot through with bereavement, loss and regret.

Published by Warner Brothers Games, the downloadable game tells the story of a hero who’s trying to restore the realm of Caelondia after an incident called the Calamity explodes it into a series of floating archipelagos. Everything in the game gets pulpy narration by a mysterious, gravel-voiced Stranger and his tale-telling is dynamic, meaning that it responds to what you’re doing in the game. Everything from changing a weapon to getting pounded by a level boss gets commented on, creating the effect that someone’s paying attention.


 

You play as a silent character called The Kid. But he’s not naïve: He’s got the white hair of a sage, if not the memory or wisdom, and he knows how to fight. The Kid wakes up to find the rest of the world and makes his way along the narrow strips of earth left standing. Eventually he finds his way to the Bastion, the fail-safe last redoubt that holds the power to rebuild the world. For the Bastion to fulfill that promise, the Kid journeys to the remains of its districts to find the rare energy resource required to power it.

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There’s a big heart beating underneath the gorgeous artwork and finely tuned play mechanics of Bastion. You’ll wield handheld and long-ranged weapons along with special skills that cause big damage over bigger areas. The usual acquire-and-upgrade mechanics that started in the role-playing genre—and have since spread to every type of game imaginable—get implemented in Bastion. Get a gun, upgrade it with various parts and tweaks, paid for with discovery and experience points (XP). But Bastion puts them across with far more charm and humor.

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