Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Quick Hits and LTTP: Bastion

Bastion is a game that most people played when it came out waaaaaay back in July 2011. The game was pretty much universally praised for a variety of reasons: vibrant art style, excellent soundtrack, solid gameplay, and interesting narrator implementation.

For whatever reason, I didn't get around to playing Bastion until a week or so ago. And, just to add one more lump of praises onto the pile: this game is exactly as good as everyone says it is. Which is saying a lot considering how glowing a lot of the praise is.

Part of the reason I never picked the game up was because I thought it would be too simple or easy. I have attention span issues with games, and one of the best ways a game can keep me hooked it to have a compelling difficulty curve; if I feel challenged, I'll keep coming back. Most "action RPG" style games don't do a great job of maintaining that difficulty curve; once the novelty of the systems and setting wear off, the game usually becomes kind of rote.

Bastion circumvents this problem very cleverly by allowing the player to custom tune their difficulty. There are in-game settings (which are much more integrated and "fluffy" than I'm making it sound) that one can toggle to up the game's difficulty in different ways. For every toggle enabled, you get more EXP and "money" (I think in this game it's shards,) but more importantly you can set the difficulty of the game almost exactly where you want it.

So right about when I found myself at the point where I'd have gotten over the initial shock and awe phase of playing a new game, I was able to re-tune the difficulty, and pull myself right back in. Since I can change those setting almost on the fly, I can make sure the difficulty doesn't get too frustrating (so I won't rage quit or stall out,) or too easy. Combine that with a relatively short length (estimates put completing the main game at around 6.5 hours, which is appropriate for a game like this,) and Bastion will probably make it onto the increasingly short list of games I've actually played and completed.

Now that I'm playing the game, I also need to add my own gushing for the art, narrator, and the music. Other people have said plenty about these facets of the game, and I'm sure they're better equipped than I am to describe why they work so well. I'll just add that games usually don't impress me with visuals, narration, or music, and Bastion has absolutely wowed me with all three.

The soundtrack in particular is stunning. It's so fresh, interesting, and listenable, all while capturing the feel of the game and setting. I've had it downloaded since shortly after starting the game, and I can't stop listening to it. Video game soundtracks rarely have this much personality and quality (but I blame that more on the AAA nature of the current industry than any failings on music folks.)

So, if you haven't played Bastion yet, do it. It's one of the most remarkable games released in the past generation, and you can get it on just about anything. The only thing I don't like about Bastion is that it reminds me that Transistor is PS4/PC only (at least for now) and I only own an Xbone.

Also: pick up a copy of the soundtrack. Even if you don't play the game. If "Setting Sail, Coming Home" doesn't do at least a little something to/for you, get your ass to a doctor ASAP. Something is broken inside you.

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