By Willem Weinstein
In the games market, there are big, heavily financed developers like EA, but there are also small, low-budget developers, akin to the indie films genre.
These small game studios usually don’t have the manpower or monetary worth to craft a widely acclaimed game, but recently something has changed to allow these companies to surpass the big budget games.
To prove this point, Bastion, a hack-and-slash action role playing game comes from independent developer Supergiant Games. Along with an the interesting angle of the isometric viewpoint, the player is given two upgradable weapons and sent out to fight hordes of enemies.
While this is a pretty standard concept, Bastion really shines in its art style and soundtrack.
The theme of the game is that the world has ended and “The Kid” (you) must go out and explore the ruins to gather Cores and Shards to upgrade your hub area home base.
When upgraded, The Bastion allows you to add an assortment of buildings, which in turn contribute a variety of perks and bonuses to your character.
The world you are exploring is made of about twenty linear areas that you can fly to, each with its own theme and music to with them.
Because the earth has exploded, or been “blown upward” as the game says, the world is recreated wherever you walk and the level is created beneath you. However, this opens up to one of my few criticisms for the game: you will fall off the map often.
Since the world is made as you progress, it can be difficult to tell where the next piece will pop up and walking off the edge will become a common annoyance as a result.
Not helping this is the fact that the game’s movement controls are blatantly designed for a console controller. And if you play on the computer like I did, you will fall more often than not.
And yet, the game makes up for this hassle by giving you a perk that causes you to flatten any enemies around when you land back on the path.
Interesting, the game has a hand-drawn/painted background that adds a light and adorably magical note to a game which is really about fighting for survival after the world ends.
Each level has its own distinct music, from smooth jazz to blues to eastern rock, and each song fits perfectly with the setting and mood of the game, immersing you in the experience.
But the crown jewel of the game is the narration.
The Narrator, actually a character in the game with rather impressive eyesight, comments omnisciently about the players’ actions in real time, with each decision you make changing his next statement.
The game treats itself as a story and this narration flows beautifully into its progression, offering encouragement if you fall or are defeated and always moving the mythos and overall game story along.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that he has a honeyed voice that sounds like James Earl Jones mashed with Morgan Freeman.
I’m not kidding; it’s disturbingly sexy.
There are also a few horde mode areas that deeply explore the backstory of each character and serve to flesh out the world. There are also opportunites that train you to fight the multitude of varied enemies.
My only problem with the weapons is that there might be too many of them, and you can feel guilty about not using the new ones.
But I’m not going to complain if a game gives me too much to work with, especially when they are as wonderfully detailed as every other aspect.
Bastion is truly one of the most original and amazing games in a while, giving a good name to independent developers.