Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer

2011 in Review, Part 3: Bastion

A special holiday feature, continued from part 1 and part 2.

Bastion is exceptional. That’s all there really is to say about it.

If I were to buckle down and try to pick a game of the year, each would come with a caveat. Portal 2 was too iterative of the original. Skyrim’s combat was a bit bland. Deus Ex had lousy boss fights. While none of these faults stop these titles from excelling, they stick out sorely because they are inconsistent with the quality of the remainder of the game. Bastion lacks such such a caveat. This indie miracle offers one of the most holistically high quality gaming experiences I’ve ever enjoyed.

People have gone on and on about the quality of Bastion’s storytelling to the point where it’s almost moot for me to gush about it. Simply put, the use of narration in Bastion accomplishes more than any pricey cut scene ever could. The simple but soulful commentary of the omnipresent narrator does a beautiful job of gradually introducing new story elements and foreshadowing future ones, all without disrupting or pausing gameplay. Like the original Half Life did over a decade ago, it sets a new standard for how to tell a story in a game.

And the music, my god, the music. When Steam prompted me to shell out an extra few dollars for the soundtrack, I scoffed at the proposition. I am formally rescinding that scoff. Up until this point, there have only been a sparse handful of video game songs that have managed to resonate with me emotionally:

Zia’s theme from Bastion, Build that Wall, is now a part of this exclusive club. It’s a hauntingly beautiful piece of music complemented perfectly by the method by which the game suddenly but gradually introduces the piece to the player.  The rest of the soundtrack is no slouch either, eclectically mixing folk and techno rhythms into a cohesive whole.

The remaining facets of the game are equally robust. The graphics? Gorgeous. Gameplay? Polished and addictive. Replay value? Outstanding. I could go on and on.

Honestly, I just really like this game. This isn’t really a surprise, considering that Bastion is very much a spiritual successor to SNES classics such as Secret of Mana and Soul Blazer – games that I was raised by. It refines the long-neglected fundamentals laid out by these 16 bit adventure titles and elevates them to greatness. The result is a game that is simultaneously innovative and retro, and deserving of consideration on anyone’s list for game of the year.

Just go play it! Watch out for Anklegators though.

Add Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

By Mathew
Michael Iantorno PhD Candidate, Game Designer, and Writer