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Jonzor's Video Game Reviews (41)

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Batman: Arkham Knight 4.5/5
Magicka 4/5
Bravely Default 4/5
Awesomenauts 4/5
Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon 4/5
Far Cry 3 4/5
Halo: Combat Evolved An... 4/5
Crysis Warhead 4.5/5
Crysis 4.5/5
Final Fantasy: The 4 He... 1.5/5
The Legend of Zelda: A ... 4.5/5
Borderlands 2 4/5
Final Fight 3/5
Command & Conquer 4: Ti... 1.5/5
Resident Evil: Revelati... 3.5/5
Bastion 4/5
Defense Grid: The Awake... 4.5/5
Borderlands 4/5
Mass Effect 3 4.5/5
Mass Effect 2 4.5/5
Mass Effect 4/5
Batman: Arkham Asylum 4.5/5
Ikaruga 4/5
The Legend of Zelda: Oc... 5/5
Mario Kart: Double Dash... 4.5/5

Next 16
 

Bastion   Xbox Live Arcade 

There's a way to put 'er back together...    4/5 stars

Bastion is about watching a story being told. It does this literally, and also metaphorically. The game narrates itself... there’s your literal story-telling. As you walk through a level, the narrator tells the story of the game. It’ll also react to your actions; fall off of a cliff too much and the narrator will mention how clumsy you are, leave town with a certain set of weapons and the narrator will remember a certain group of soldiers that preferred that loadout.

Metaphorically, you watch the story be told as you watch the levels literally build themselves. The game is a top-down action/adventure, but in true Melted Joystick fashion I’ll refrain from calling it an actual action-RPG. Upon entering a level, you find yourself essentially floating above a bottomless pit on a small island suspended in the air. As you move to one side of the floating island, more places to walk appear. This is a fun mechanic to watch, but in a game that penalizes you for falling off the floating islands, sometimes you'll wish it was a little more clear. I can't say it's a big problem however, and it does encourage you to explore, in case more than one path will appear.

The story in the game is a curious one. The recipe for this game's story must’ve looked something like:

One (1) part what’s currently happening in the game

Four (4) parts backstory

Because as detailed and interesting as the character histories are, the actual story of the game is a little lean. This is a $10 game, so I’m not expecting War and Peace, and honestly it wouldn’t stand out to me if so much work hadn’t gone into backstory. The only real problem with this approach is that so much of the backstory is voluntary, so it can be easily missed, and you could mistake this game as having hardly any story at all.

The game’s story opens with your character “the Kid” coming to on a small, floating rock after “the Calamity” - an event that essentially destroyed the entire kingdom of Caelondia (let me save your subconscious some time - it’s pronounced say-LAWN-dee-uh). During times of trouble, the people were told to meet at the Bastion, a place that could protect and shelter them. Upon arriving at the Bastion, you meet an old man (the game’s narrator), who sends you on a journey to re-power the Bastion and find any survivors. The rest of the game’s story is a mix of building the Bastion and the story of the Calamity. You’ll also unlock battle arena-type levels that each tell backstory about characters in the game, if you chose to play them.

You’ll collect a wide variety of weapons to fight off monsters as you journey through what’s left of Caelondia. You can carry two weapons into any level, along with a special ability usually related to one of your weapons. Scattered about the ruins of Caelondia are items you’ll use to power up your weapons (along with a the game’s equivalent of money) to customize your weapons. Each item+cash unlocks a level of upgrades, and you get to pick one of the two options on each of the 5 levels. Once unlocked, these upgrades can be switched at any time, so if you pick the reload speed upgrade instead of the damage upgrade, you can come back and change your mind at any time. The weapons were possibly the best part of the gameplay, because there really is a good variety of useful weapons, and with all the upgrading you can do anyone should be able to find the right fit for themselves. Turns out I’m a “evasive-roll-to-shotgun-blast-and-repeat” guy, and for most of the game I kept a machete on me because the special skill for it was great for quickly doing tons of damage against large, tough enemies.

There’s more to customize than just the weapons in the game. As you level up you earn open slots to put a passive ability on. These are bought, unlocked, or rewarded in the forms of drinks to buy at the tavern, because all final remnants of civilization need a watering hole. These can be anything from extra lives to bonus critical hit damage when your health is full, and can be swapped for different ones whenever you’re at the Bastion. A few other useful buildings become available in the Bastion as you play, be sure to check them all out periodically.

The enemies are mostly wildlife left roaming the... hills? I don't know what the word is for "floating group of rocks". Birds, gators, wild... dog-things. Pepper in a few larger enemies as "bosses" and you've got a pretty good idea what you're getting into.

I haven't mentioned the graphics yet, which is a shame. Bastion has a gorgeous, vivid, hand-drawn look to it. The action can get busy at times, so you won't always get time to appreciate it, but it's worth taking time to stop and stare at the roses. The visual style has a Firefly meets Hobbiton feel to it, and is complimented nicely by the twangy guitar music and folksy voice telling the story.

After beating the game, you'll be given the option of a New Game +. This will let you play again with all your powered up equipment and levels, in case you want to max everything out, but I sense that most people won't get a very different experience out of the second trip.

In the end, I'm torn about I how I feel about Bastion. Torn between "good" and "great" that is... not "good" and "bad". As an indie, the game is excellent. The quality of every aspect is noteworthy, considering the limited resources of your standard indie dev, and the game is a bargain at whatever price you'll find it. But simultaneously, I can't say I was blown away by it. I think the as-you-go storytelling was great, but the story it was telling didn't always have a lot to say. When the story is a constant presence in your time with the game, the times when it frequently shows up and contributes little it reminds you how much of the storytelling is actually just fluff. I’d love to see this team try it again with a stronger story. The combat was fun, but I'd kind of done it before. But maybe a lot of this is due to me having too high of expectations and forgetting what this game really was.

But let's not over-complicate this, Bastion is still a no-brainer. It's wonderfully polished, and a great mix of challenge without being too hard (and has plenty more challenge for anyone who wants it). The game tries a couple small new things here and there, and fills in the meat of the game with some tried-and-true action/adventure gameplay. The quality of game for the money makes this one easy to recommend.

 

 


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