Well, here we are again with a new post from the Backlog Killer himself. My recent hiatus has been very good. I have been keeping busy, doing some cool stuff, and playing some really cool games with no anxiety. The no anxiety thing is pretty big because, if you will remember, the main reason I began the blog in the first place was to organize my process and provide a direction. Even though this has led me to play some great games including Gone Home, Crusader Kings 2, and Wizardry 6, it has started to wane and that familiar feeling of restlessness and indecision is starting to sneak back in.
That being said, it should be no surprise that I am back again to continue with Bastion. I was previously a little underwhelmed with the singular focus of Bastion and its linear style, but I have started to yearn for it after pouring myself into huge worlds with hours of game play that may or may not be worth it. To put my finger on it, I am blaming Might & Magic: Book 1. Although it was fun to play for ten to twenty hours during lunch breaks, I did not get enough sense of progression and it began to frustrate me. It actually began to obsess me and make me feel like I was losing control over my play again by focusing so singularly on something that didn’t matter, so I stopped. Note that the internal debate over stopping a dumb game also took way too long. (Note: I have started again since writing this, but I'm enjoying myself again. Maybe not enough sleep that night. -BK)
So, I’m happy to come back and write up my current thoughts about Bastion; at least as far as I have made it.
As with Braid, Bastion is not the type of game I normally play. I am quite vocal about being a huge fan of role playing games, old school first person shooters, and large scale strategy games such as Civilization, Europa Universalis, and Space Empires. Despite this, I am drawn in by the art style and sense of novelty surrounding the game universe. It has a very cool watercolor-esque design that is similar to Braid and quite appealing to the eye. Not to mention that the soundtrack is pleasant and has a sort of Breaking Bad western feel.
But what really interests me is the mechanics of the game and how it feels. Coming back to bastion after playing such open ended and complex games is actually a very good contrast. There is purity to its simplicity that has cleaned up my scrambled brains. I don’t need to worry about ten constantly changing variables or mapping twenty areas down the road. I just need to worry about the here and now. What perks benefit me at this moment? There are no risks to simply trying out different things and having fun, unlike RPGs where you can unwittingly screw yourself twenty or thirty hours into the game based on stats or skills you didn't know were poor or unbalanced in the past. (I’m looking at you Escalon!)
I would also like to apologize for my lack of specificity in this case because I have somehow lost all of my notes for Bastion up to ‘The Hanging Gardens’ area. I still remember a good amount and will talk a little about how I feel about the mechanics, enemy design, and story as I go on. Unfortunately, I will have to pick up that slack rope when playing the next area because, sorry guys, I’m not going to restart and take all those notes again. That would make it more stressful!
One of my favorite parts of Bastion at this point of my life is the simplicity that reminds me of my days of playing Diablo 2. I don’t need to worry about anything more than what is an immediate threat and what I need to do about it. That’s not to say there is no strategy, but it is certainly easier than planning invasions into French territory from the Holy Roman Empire in Europa Universalis or stressing about national foci in Victoria 2. It’s fun just to click on things to watch them die sometimes and I always forget that I need to do that every once in a while.
One of my favorite parts of bastion is the weapon selections available. So far I have the hammer, a rapid fire machine gun style weapon, and a quicker blade that does less damage but hits faster. As a skinny guy who enjoys playing faster characters I have eschewed the hammer in favor of the others. Continued upgrades have kept me in the game, but I am tempted to return to the hammer and see how it compares after a few upgrades. I also enjoy the ability to equip passive spirits (as in liquor) to fit my play style. Right now I am using werewhiskey and fetching fizz, but may switch it up in the future to see if others work any better.
[What I've currently got stocked in my wet bar.]
The really cool thing I enjoy about Bastion is the mysterious visual style that plays into the story which I am, admittedly, still very unfamiliar with. I described in the first entry about the game that it begins when the main character, simply called ‘The Kid’, wakes up in a world that has been destroyed. Knowing only that he must return to a place called the Bastion in a state of emergency, he sets off and fights the corrupt monsters that have awakened following the calamity.
Upon arriving at the Bastion, the Kid finds the mysterious stranger who narrates the game. The Bastion must be rebuilt using cores found in far flung areas of the destroyed city to get the facility working again. When it’s done what will happen is anyone’s guess. I assume that the city will be reconstituted into one integrated area as one of the most striking features of the game is that the ground floats up from the ether around the Kid; rebuilding itself possibly because of some sort of special powers that are yet to be revealed. Hopefully this will all become clear by the end of the game.
My only concern while going through the first several levels is that they do not seem to be too different from each other. One may be called ‘The Wharf District’, indicating it’s a rough area, while another is called ‘Sundown Path’, but I have not seen too much difference between them to show they are very different. The crumbling rocks covered in enemies that rise to meet the Kid all look the same to me. I hope this will change or have some kind of explanation in the future.
No matter what my final opinion is, Bastion is a cool game to just pick up and play in short periods of time available. I look forward to seeing what surprises are in the future because I have to think there are a few, and how the story will wrap up. Also, I will not be writing about the proving ground areas because I’m trying to cut down on chasing content to relieve some of my stress while playing games. I know, I have a problem.
See you next time when I will have my notes ready! I hope I can find that notebook….