Price: £10.20 (1200 MS Points)
Format: Xbox 360 via XBLA
Publisher: Warner Bros.
As the Xbox Live Arcade has become home to larger, more stylish, and outright innovative titles, it’s become a true gamers’ paradise. Now in its fourth year, the annual Summer of Arcade has continuously invoked these exciting ideas, and this year has kicked off in an even more astounding fashion with the action RPG, Bastion.
As ‘The Kid’, one of the few survivors of the Calamity which brought death and destruction to the colourful world of Caelondia, Bastion offers much more than its meagre price point requires. At its base it’s little more than a traditional action RPG in the Diablo and Torchlight mould. Wielding two weapons – one for close up battling, the other for long distance blasts – The Kid obliterates enemies in order to reach a collectable, and so brings a bit of life back to the floating Bastion.
Yet as simplistic and even derivative as this gameplay style is, Bastion brings a whole new life to this archaic genre. Not only does it offer incredibly tight design and constant action, but it introduces enough freedom and customisation to keep you coming back for yet another play through. There’s a wide variety of basic weaponry to wield and upgrade for starters, and that’s not even beginning to take into account the special powers, idols (which make the game tougher for greater reward) and additional tasks to take part in.
But it’s the sense of style that truly takes Bastion to greater heights. The detailed 2D-isometric graphics – think the Disgaea series – create an absolutely beautiful backdrop for The Kid to play around in. Everything from the hugest of enemies to the tiniest of barrels are not only supremely detailed, but absolutely dripping in character.
As The Kid is mute, it’s down to the narrator to lay out the tale, piece by piece, as The Kid traverses the floating Bastion and drops to the depleted world beneath. The narrator constantly spouts dialogue and history to truly give meaning to the actions that you’re enacting. It’s a genius method to bring personality to every character, yet keep the risk – and cost – down to a minimum.
While the story is nothing particularly fresh or exciting, this narrative style means it’s told in a fashion that, just like the gameplay itself, is vastly more than the sum of its parts; removing the need for expensive cut scenes that drag you into a passive role. This method of delivering the story helping create a sense of connection in with the world of Bastion that most games can’t even contemplate forming.
Lasting an acceptably long half dozen hours for the first play through, there’s still plenty of reason to go back upong completion too thanks to the ‘New Game+’ option. If not to live the tale once more, but purely so you’ve a chance to make use of every weapon, try out all the difficult idol tests, and explore every inch of the beautifully created world. Bastion is – just like Braid and Limbo before it – an experience that every gamer simply has to enjoy.