Bastion

Tagged: Game

Videogame (2011). Supergiant. 2011: PC, XB360. 2012: iOS, PS4, PSVita.

Made by independent games company Supergiant, Bastion is an Isometric Adventure puzzle game, one of several independent titles produced in the early 2010s that helped to elevate independent ("indie") videogames (see Independent Games) to a more prominent position in gaming culture. Bastion won several awards; as an independent title, for its engaging soundtrack, and for the complex narrative. These included those from the Game Developer's Conference, Game Informer and IGN. The game is also known for successfully transitioning to a more mainstream audience when it was released via the X-Box's downloadable content section; X-Box Live Arcade (XBLA). Over 200,000 of the game's 500,000 sales are attributed to XBLA sales.

The game takes place in an indeterminate future Dystopia. In the Post-Holocaust aftermath of some Disaster, The Calamity, the city of Caelondia and the surrounding land have fractured into a broken, floating world. The game itself is designed as an isometric grid, which "builds" itself as players approach the edges of each section. Blocks fall from the sky or unwrap from existing ones to create the platforms on which the player stands. This graphical quirk enhances the sense of a fractured world, since the landscape seems to be constantly reconstructing itself a state of near-collapse.

The player takes the role of The Kid, an Amnesiac and silent protagonist who awakes somewhere near Caelondia. He sets off for Bastion, a place where citizens of Caelondia are supposed to go in times of trouble. During The Kid's subsequent adventures, a narrator called Rucks (Logan Cunningham) speaks poetic dialogue which triggers when the player performs certain actions (usually moving forwards in the game or performing a specific event), giving the impression of a rolling narration told from above. This also gives the game an eerie, ethereal undertone; particularly because the voice of the narrator is obviously not that of The Kid. Rucks-as-narrator is a useful gaming device, enabling a detailed plot to evolve without recourse to lengthy cut-scenes or animations, and allowing the player to continue progressing as this occurs. The narration is additionally accompanied by a musical soundtrack described by composer Darren Korb as "acoustic frontier trip hop" and fitting in with the grungy, Steampunk, atmosphere of the game (see SF Music). The combination of these elements gives Bastion a multi-layered narrative considered unusual for an indie title. Finally, gaming elements such as its length – approximately 6-12 hours to play the whole story, depending on the player – and the ability to choose different Weapons during the game also contribute to the relative complexity of the title.

Bastion was an accomplished game for an indie title, and its transition into more commonplace arenas of gaming meant that many players who would not have previously considered such a game bought and played it. Alongside other sf-related indie titles such as Fez (2012), Frozen Synapse (2012) and Minecraft (2011), it helped to demonstrate that indie games could be both complex play experiences as well as containing in-depth, broadly realized narratives. [EMS]

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