E3 2011: Bastion Hands-On Preview – Breaking and Building
Written Tuesday, June 28, 2011 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Amid the buzz of the E3 showfloor, it can be all too easy to overlook the smaller games on offer, but we're immensely happy that we took the time to check out Bastion, Supergiant Games' charming retro RPG that's heading to the Xbox Live Arcade as part of the annual 'Summer of Arcade' promotion. We have to admit to knowing almost nothing about Bastion upon seeing it for the first time just on the edge of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment's booth, but from the moment we pick up a controller to try the game out, we're utterly smitten.
What strikes us first are the bold and colourful visuals that take us back to adventure games of old, but Bastion somehow looks simultaneously fresh and new, whereas playing the game feels both refreshing and strangely familiar. too “It's like something you've played before, but you haven't played it before,” the game's voiceover talent, Logan Cunningham tells us. “We're really excited about the game.” Cunningham provides the voice of Bastion's dynamic, adaptive narration, which is brilliantly macho and gravelly, describing almost every action you perform. It should be a big selling point for Bastion.
In Bastion, you play as an anime-style hero simply referred to as 'the kid', who starts our demo waking up to find his world has collapsed around him in the wake of an event called the Calamity. From the moment you begin, the narration kicks in and keeps the pace of the game rolling along at a fair lick. An isometric scrolling brawler at heart, Bastion's first weapon is a chunky Cael Hammer and we immediately set to work smashing up anything and everything in sight. “The kid rages for a while” the narration chimes in as we go on a rampage before deciding to get a move on. As you run through a stage in Bastion, the ground forms beneath your feet creating bridges and platforms as you go.
Soon, we find ourselves in the first open area, where we're attacked by pickaxe-wielding green 'gas fellows' and little black oily 'squirts'. “The kid takes out one squirt, then another...” that fantastic narration manages to keep up with everything that's going on, giving Bastion a magical, interactive storybook feel that we can't say we've really experienced before in this kind of game. It's easy to pick up and play too, with B swinging the hammer and X shooting projectiles like arrows from your Breaker's Bow or fireballs from your Flame Repeater. There'll be a total of ten upgradable weapons in the game, including a War Machete that can be thrown at enemies. All weapons can be upgraded in the Forge, which is one of three buildings you can visit or add to the bastion hub that you're striving to restore to its former glory, before the Calamity struck.
Other buildings include the Distillery, where you can purchase spirits to level up your abilities, granting you bonuses in combat, and the Arsenal, where you can equip your two weapons alongside a secret skill - like the whirlwind spell we acquire - that you can activate with the right trigger. Collecting fragments of the old world are usable at the bastion, which you rebuild by collecting cores. Removing one such core from its plinth causes the environment to collapse and we have to run for dear life, shooting bolt-firing turrets along the way. It's after this escape that we're introduced to 'the stranger', the man behind the drawling narration, who in turn introduces us to the bastion for the first time. We lay our first structure in the bastion and start the rebuilding process, putting down a Forge where we can upgrade our weaponry.
In Bastion, you'll be able to visit saloons, fight enemies and collect items, all while the narration keeps track of what you're doing. “We're not fans of games that interrupt the game experience,” Cunningham adds, explaining Bastion's freewheeling pace, which has you constantly on the move, shifting the 'fog of war' as the platforms form ahead of you. There'll be 40 locations to visit in all, with gorgeous hand-drawn 2D environments to explore that wear their old-school 16-bit influences on their sleeve. Bastion reminds us of Final Fantasy Tactics or Shining Force, and indeed it's a throwback to those classic RPG games of old, but still feels fresh and exciting with its crisp HD visuals and lush fantasy environments. Bastion will also offer between 8-10 hours of gameplay according to indie start-up developer Supergiant Games, with a New Game+ option available should you want to replay the game.
Based upon our hands-on with Bastion's prologue, fans of old-school RPGs will be utterly charmed, while everyone else will undoubtedly find the game effortlessly disarming. If the rest of Bastion measures up to what we've played thus far, then we're in for a real treat when it kicks off the Summer of Arcade on XBLA in style.
Bastion will be opening the Summer of Arcade promotion on the Xbox Live Arcade from July 20th for 1200 Microsoft Points.