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E3 2011: Bastion Hands-On Impressions - It's As Fun as it is Beautiful

Bastion delivers a new type of nostalgic experience.

By Josh Garwood on 6/11/2011
Leading up to E3 Bastion was legitimately one of the games I was most looking forward to playing.  I sadly missed it at PAX and have since been following the detailed and often hilarious "Building the Bastion" series on GiantBomb.  After finally getting a chance to play the game and hear the deeply baritone yet oddly calming voice that narrates The Kid's adventure, I can definitively say that Bastion was worth waiting for.  I have always been a sucker for hand-painted 2D games though, so I was naturally drawn to the vividly colored and highly detailed world that serves as the backdrop for Bastion.  For the uninitiated, Bastion is an action-RPG that features a dynamic narrator who responds to your actions as you play.  This, coupled with a tight control scheme, varied weapons, and the aforementioned hand-drawn world all combine to create a game that seems to have been missing from the industry for quite some time now.

The demo showcased many of the core elements of the game; from combat and item management to character agility and of course, the reactive narrator. Weapons seem varied and distinct in their function.  From what I could tell from my time with the game, combat was separated into two forms: melee and ranged, each proving to be effective in different situations.  So often in isometric games such as this it can be difficult to get your bearings, and to accurately target your enemies.  Thankfully with Bastion though, I never once felt disoriented or unable to make the character do exactly what I wanted.

Getting acclimated to the control mappings did take me a few moments however, as I accidentally would switch weapons or shoot my bow when meaning to swing my hammer or roll.  This was more from my confusion rather than anything to do with the actual game, and was easily surmountable after a few minutes.  The movement controls though,felt immediately responsive and precise.  Navigating The Kid through the world was a breeze, and when faced with a room full of oncoming enemies, rolling and dodging from these would-be attackers was both intuitive and effective.  After a matter of minutes I found myself bobbing-and-weaving through enemy attacks, making combos with my hammer, blocking with my shield, and shooting with my bow.  It all felt very organic and was quite satisfying to clear a room full of Squirts, the lowliest of Bastion baddies. 

Aside from the combat though, Bastion offers a great deal of depth in other areas as well.  The hub world in the game, conveniently known as "The Bastion," will serve as the area through which The Kid can construct buildings for anything from weapon crafting and drink brewing, to obtaining skill upgrades and abilities.  In the demo I was able to purchase a new attack for my hammer, which could be used rather easily by simply pressing the Right Trigger on the game pad.  Seeing this move in action (which essentially had The Kid hold his hammer outward and spin around like a tornado of white-haired destruction), was both very satisfying and pleasing to the eye.  Furthermore, I was told that there would be NPC's throughout the game that could be interacted with, so while the adventure will certainly focus on The Kid, there will be other characters to interact with along the way.

Another interesting innovation in Bastion is the way in which game difficulty will be handled.  Rather than simply having various difficulty modes to choose from at the beginning of the game, Bastion introduces the "Shrine" system, which will allow players to dynamically adjust the hardness by summoning the anger and or kindness of various Gods.  The more challenging the game is though, the more rewards the player will receive, so there is certainly a balancing act here.

My time with Bastion was exactly as I'd hoped it would be; fun, fluid, and quite pleasing to the eye.  The game manages to strike a balance between old-school nostalgia and next-gen innovation by providing a familiar gameplay experience with a never before heard narration delivery and screen popping visuals.  Look for Bastion to release this summer on XBLA, and later this year for PC; it's certainly worth your time!
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AddRain on July 22, 2011
This game looks sick, Its the only game that caught my attention this year
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hexwar on June 20, 2011
I don't usually play these kinds of games, but this will be an exception. :P
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CRYSTALcastles2909 on June 21, 2011
same with me
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bigdaddygamebot on June 12, 2011
Can't wait for this one.
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