Bastion Cover
Platforms Windows, XBLA
Genre Chronicled action RPG
MtAMinutes to Action 3
Keep Playing? Yes
Buy from Steam

The Bastion narrator has been everywhere lately. To gamers like me, this reference barely means anything. But like “the cake is a lie!”, it’s beginning to ingrain into gamer culture and being in-the-know in the early stages of fun is the best part.

But that’s not why I’m playing Bastion. I’m playing Bastion because it’s been almost universally heralded as a great game by everyone I pay attention to. From the graphics to the story to the music, Bastion is the indie darling of the year.

Released as one of Xbox Live’s Summer of Arcade premier titles in July, Bastion made an immediate splash. While doing a pretty poor job advertising and selling most indie games on their market, Microsoft seems to do a pretty good job predicting which titles to really push during their summer event. A Steam version came a month later, and just last week the game finally went on sale for half price (I’m one of those obnoxious gamers who will almost never pay full price for a game, whether it’s $15 or $60).

So let’s dive into Bastion’s first hour and see if this darling has legs.

Minute by Minute

00 - I select Story and the first hour of Bastion begins. Loading... A deep voiced narrator begins telling the story of our hero, who I immediately gain control of. He’s off to the Bastion, the place to go when there’s trouble.

01 - As I walk, the stage begins to form in front of me, nice effect. A hammer appears in front of my avatar and the narrator notes our reunion.

02 - The Cael Hammer is effective in destroying the walls around me. “And then, he falls to his death. I’m just fooling.” But yeah, I did fall to my death, haha.

03 - My first bad guy! Some kind of apparition, “kid pops him good.” I get some experience and then my health meter appears also.

04 - I take a moment to explore and find a bit of a secret location with some kind of gems. “Kid just rages for a while.” This narrator is awesome but creepy. Stop watching me.

Bastion Opening Scene

05 - Ooh, now I’ve got a gun! I find a fountain and heal up from falling off the stage. I’m attacked by some baddies and then head into the saloon, The Sole Regret.

06 - The bartender here has been hit by the Calamity, not sure what that is, but he’s basically just frozen. I knock him with my hammer, he disintegrates, and the narrator notes that he always wanted his ashes spread here.

07 - My old trusty shield pops up and I grab it, triggering an alarm. I fight off a swarm of enemies, fighting is frantic but enjoyable.

08 - I’m forced to jump out the window of the bar and land in the wharf. I also land on a box containing a bow which replaces my gun.

10 - Targeting for the bow and gun is automatic, which is helpful considering the fixed-angle view used. Woo! A whirlwind move for my hammer.

Bastion Exploring Creepy

12 - I head into the Arsenal which lets me pick my weapons, including going back to the gun. Think I’ll stick with the bow and hammer for now.

13 - Inside the distillery next door, I’m able to bump up my stats by assigning different tonics to a spot in a cabinet. Hard to explain, but I bump up my health by 10% by equipping a Squirt Cider. Every time I gain a level I unlock another slot. Feels a bit like BioShock’s upgrade system.

14 - I hop on a barge that will take me closer to the Bastion, whatever that may be.

15 - Have I mentioned yet how good the music is in this game?

16 - Just took down my first boss, two giant blueberry fellas and a ghost thinger. Not a tough battle, but entertaining. Also leveled up!

18 - I grab something called a Core and its removal starts destroying the level I’m on! The narrator doesn’t think that was a very good idea.

Bastion Home Area

19 - Falling tiles chase me to my destination: the Skyway. I am now in the Bastion... it’s green.

20 - After a bit of running, I run into Stranger, he’s the narrator. He doesn’t have a lot to say, just points me to a place where I can set the Core I just picked up.

21 - Setting it down triggers parts of the Bastion to grow, unlocking a new level, I’d hazard a guess.

22 - There’s some Foundation that let’s me build either a distillery or arsenal, let’s go with the distillery because I know I can take advantage of the level 2 slot.

23 - I slot up Werewhiskey, which gives me 100% critical damage chance when below 33% health! I enter the Skyway and appear on a world map of sorts, I can go to either The Workmen Ward or Breaker Barracks. Let’s try the Barracks, they’re “Proving Grounds.”

24 - I’m supposed to destroy all the targets in the fewest number of shots. Curious.

Bastion Orange Ground

26 - My first attempt takes 11 shots! I can do much better, second prize at 10 shots or less. Let’s try again.

28 - Nine shots this round, first prize for five shots. I can do it.

30 - Well, I only get down to eight shots, so let’s move on to the Ward.

32 - There’s a few different paths to take at the start of the Ward, I head left and receive a sword I can throw along with some kind of Lure ability to charm baddies.

33 - Next I head south and lure some squirts into helping me fight some mini-boss named Gershel. The narrator has something to say about everything.

34 - No core down this route either. I have to admit, I’m obsessed with destroying every aspect of the destructible environment.

Bastion Circus Ghost Area

36 - Heading north now and caught in the crossfire of a bunch of cannons. Hey, nice! Their cannons hurt each other.

37 - There’s the core, locked down. But a moment later a group of bad guys appear, though I only have to fight the main one. I spam my hammer and he’s dead, the core is mine.

38 - But should I grab it right now? There’s more level to explore.

39 - Definitely worth heading east, found a Forge that let’s my upgrade my weapons. First you need to have the right item to upgrade the “instrument”, and then you need to spend the gems to buy it. 50% more damage from the hammer, that definitely sounds worth it.

41 - I also buy +2 target penetrations for the bow, maybe that will help in the Proving Ground.

43 - Got the core, the stage “groans” but doesn’t collapse.

Bastion Scumbag Battle

44 - I place the core in Bastion and get another Foundation spot, guess I’ll build an arsenal now, want to go back to the bow instead of the sword for a bit.

45 - “Ain’t much Kid can’t handle with hammer and bow in hand.”

46 - I’ve unlocked two more locations: The Sundown Path and The Melting Pot. I secretly want to try the Proving Ground again though.

50 - Ugh, wish I could retry the Proving Grounds instantly. One more try. (there is actually a thing you can smack to restart the challenge, found this out after the game’s first hour, however)

51 - BOOM! First prize! Five shots!

52 - Breaker Volley? I think it’s a special move. Off to the Melting Pot.

Bastion Grim Reaper

53 - There’s all these prickly Stab Weeds with needles on them. Obnoxious crap.

54 - Well, there’s the core already, locked up... but there’s a switch. “What could possibly go wrong? Quite a bit.”

55 - Big battle going on, with quite a few bad guys taking my side in the bout. We’re waiting for the core’s cage to slowly lift off.

58 - The narrator actually counts down to the core being free, and I’ve got it!

59 - I hop on a barge and it brings me back to Bastion, but I barely got to explore that stage!

60 - Well, I build the forge and upgrade my bow again, and that’s the end of the first hour of Bastion!

Bastion Security Cannons

First Hour Summary

Minutes to Action: 3

Bias: Maybe I’m too excited to play what many are calling one of the best games of the year. I try to keep a level head when playing a game’s first hour, but sometimes hype can get the best of me. This can backfire, though, but I think Bastion made it out pretty well.

Would I Keep Playing? Yes.

An all-around incredibly solid first hour. Bastion has the makings for an excellent gaming experience, and it lays down what it has to offer early and often.

First of all, the music is superb. I remember the soundtrack being talked about just as much as the game’s release, and for good reason. The tracks match and enhance the mood of the game perfectly, and lay the groundwork for the other audio standout...

The narrator is... interesting. This isn’t your typical video game narrator like from Fable 3 who repeats epic-fantasy tropes at every turn, but he almost feels like part of the gameplay. Mid-hour I fought Gershal, who in most games would just be some random mini-boss or elite baddie, but in Bastion he’s given a quick backstory by the narrator as we fight him and almost lament his death when it’s over. Even at the half-hour mark it felt natural to hear his voice describing our hero’s onscreen actions. At other times, the narrator simply serves up witty remarks, but he is no doubt as much as a main character as the protagonist. If we hadn’t met The Stranger so early on I would have bet the narrator was a Wonder Years-like future version of the hero (maybe he still is, who knows these days).

I used a gamepad to play Bastion, and while the keyboard and/or mouse is an option, I’m glad I went with the familiar controller. The action can get pretty heavy at times, but it’s a controlled heavy, never too chaotic.

I was surprised by the number of weapons and upgrades unlocked so early on in the game, but it’s an excellent way on hooking you in early. Plus, you’re forced to actually think about things which gets your mind stuck on the game: should I use the bow or the sword? What bonus should I use in slot two?

Finally, the graphics are marvelous in 1080p, tons of little effects to draw your eye such as the level collapsing and building around you. The art style is very attractive, which can do wonders for a fixed-angle view game like Bastion.

All-in-all, looking forward to playing the rest of the game, but first, it’s Skyrim time.