Saturday, September 20, 2014

Bastion - 6/20 hours

Six hours in and I've reached the point in the story where you collect all the doodads and then the villain swoops in out of nowhere and wrecks your shit so that you have to go through the whole doodad collecting process all over again. I'd be angry, but it's something I saw coming a mile away. This is an rpg. Of course collecting stuff is not going to be the end of it. The reversal at the end of act 1 is a staple of the genre. The first time I recall experiencing it is in Final Fantasy II (IV), but I'm certain that even by then it was a hoary cliche.

Which is Bastion's main weakness. The writing is as by-the-number and perfunctory as it's possible to imagine. It turned out that, come the act break, you were betrayed by someone you thought was an ally, but who was so thinly sketched as a character that you had no particular reason to feel that way. The Calamity is a big mystery, but undoubtedly it was caused by some random omnicidal maniac with an inexplicable grudge against human civilization.

Yet Bastion's writing is not exactly what I'd call a problem. The details of presentation matter, and the colorful, vibrant levels, excellent soundtrack, and top-notch voice work go a long way towards making it something special. And even though the novelty of the narration has worn off, the game's insistence on presenting the story entirely in the third person gives it an interesting and unique voice.

The gameplay remains solid. I wore out my finger trying to finish the shield Proving Ground, but that is just a testament to how engaging the mechanics are. There's nothing particularly revelatory about them, but by the same token, they fail to screw anything up. Each weapon has its unique rhythm and tactics, and (with the possible exception of the rifle and the pistols) they are different enough that different equipment loadouts each have their own unique feel (you also get a unique narration for each weapon pair, which is super cool).

All-in-all, I'd say that Bastion is like gaming comfort food. Virtually everything about it is familiar and comfortable, and yet it has just enough of its own character that it doesn't come across as bland. If I had the time for it (and didn't have to write these blog posts), I could probably do the whole 20 hours in a single sitting.

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