And in Bastion the atmosphere is everything, because - between you and us - the core gameplay isn’t actually that special. The Kid wanders, fires weapons at the hordes of enemies or engages them in close-up brawls. There are switches to press and areas to explore, but nothing like the sophisticated puzzle-solving of even the old 2D Zelda titles. Even the combat isn’t flawless. While the weapons all have different applications, and some have different fire modes, the movement, the blasting and the bashing isn’t all that fluid or exciting. Monsters grow in number as the game progresses, and new ones with specific vulnerabilities show up, but in terms of the basic action, Bastion isn’t in the same league as a Torchlight, Titan Quest or Diablo.
There are plenty of good things to say about the game’s upgrade systems though. Basic weapons are pretty much dished out, but can be upgraded by collecting basic materials and using them in the Forge you build back in the Bastion. Weapons can only be swapped in Armouries, which you can build in the Bastion and find scattered around the world, and the same goes for the attack and defence-boosting liqueurs, which can be allocated in a Distillery. You’re never rooting around in menus or wrestling with an inventory, and while Bastion never hits the kill-to-loot-to-upgrade-to-kill-some-more mania of classic Diablo, it all feels a lot less ‘geeky‘ as a result.
And while the game is reasonably linear, there’s plenty of replay value. There are specific training areas, achievements and challenge levels, and a special Shrine allows you to fix the difficulty level to a higher point in return for extra loot. Plus, it’s a game with some fantastic moments to discover, where a straightforward level can suddenly morph into something else, or where music can transform a bog-standard section with a sudden jolt of beauty. There’s no getting away from the fact that Bastion doesn’t play quite with quite the same brilliance that it looks or sounds, but it’s how the game feels that counts – and Bastion feels like something very special indeed.
A fascinating take on the action-RPG, even if the gameplay isn’t always as enthralling as the unique presentation.