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Bastion / 02nd of May 2015

I remember when Bastion emerged back in 2011, the entire gaming community was clamouring over it, yet when I sampled the trial version on the Xbox 360, I came away somewhat unimpressed, and I remained this way until I finally yielded, and eventually bought it. Needless to say, after spending a bit more time with it, Supergiant Games’ debut title rather quickly became a contender for game of the year for me, and I even went so far as to purchase a copy of the soundtrack, signed by composer Darren Korb. To a certain extent then, I’m actually glad that I never had the opportunity to cast my critical eye over the game at launch, but having had enough time to take it all in, the arrival of this new PS4 version has now presented me with an opportunity to finally express my love for this title.

It is perhaps pertinent to point out straight away that there are no differences between this latest release and the 2011 original, it’s obviously running in 1080p now, but that’s it, there is no new content whatsoever; no new enemies, no new areas, nothing. Evidently, for those gamers out there who have yet to experience Bastion, the time really could not be better for you to finally do so, and for those who have already played it, well, they probably enjoyed it enough to warrant an additional purchase regardless of the lack of improvements. But then again, were there room for any anyway?

The game’s narrative centres around the aftermath of a great disaster, a calamity, which has wiped out civilisation, players take control of The Kid, who is tasked with restoring the Bastion (a refuge where the people were supposed to meet should something happen to them), and to do this, he’ll naturally need to work his way through a collection of levels, learning new skills, besting foes in combat and picking up collectibles. Ultimately then, the story is never really the driving force of the game, and the standard action RPG gameplay doesn’t quite set it apart from its contemporaries either, so what’s so special about it? Well, there’s more to this game than that, much more…

From an aesthetic perspective, Bastion is an undeniable work of beauty that utilises a water colour style to display a stunningly varied world, and it is something that simply must be seen to be believed. The visuals, and obviously the player, are accompanied by the Narrator (voiced by Logan Cunningham), a man whose witty observations keep The Kid company as he traverses the world, commentating on each and every action that the player pulls off, and whilst it was this facet that drew in the majority of the plaudits, I think mention must go to the soundtrack. The original score is an irrefutable masterpiece, whilst it may be heavily guitar centric, compositions are fleshed out with some tasteful samples and MIDI work that give tracks clear country, as well as blues influences, and there’s even some vocal work too (the lyrics were penned by the lead writer, Greg Kasavin). Ultimately though, as the rattle of loosened steel strings slowly fade out, it becomes startlingly clear that within the world of videogames, this score is both utterly unique and absolutely brilliant, and it thoroughly warrants the price of admission alone.

As I said earlier, the gameplay would appear to be rather generic, yet it is with extended play that that its true class begins to reveal itself, and the game draws the player further, and further, into its world. Discovering the Bastion is really just the beginning of the game, from then on, it can be brought to life as new parts are added over time, these allow the player to customise their loadout before heading off to tackle a new level, and it is this that represents the real beauty of Bastion; its open-endedness. The game can be played in so many ways, and this, perhaps most of all, is what gives Bastion its remarkable level of replay value. There are multiple weapons to choose from, elixirs that can change various aspects of the character’s attributes, and then there are the Idols - these task the player with completing a variety of challenges which can increase the game’s difficulty substantially, but as one would expect, they also yield greater rewards.

With all of this and a New Game Plus option to enable a second playthrough, Bastion surely ranks as one of the greatest bargains available for purchase, and it may just rank as one of the finest debuts by any development studio in the history of the industry. It’s mesmerizing, delightful, incomprehensibly charming and infinitely playable; there are very few games that I feel obliged to return to upon besting them, but this is certainly one of them. I honestly couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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