Rating: E10+ for Animated Blood, Fantasy Violence, Use of Alcohol and Tobacco
Available for: PC, Mac OS X, Linux, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Playstation 4, Playstation Vita, Nintendo Switch
Bastion (2011) is the last of the Supergiant Games I had left to play, and it was just as beautiful and satisfying as their other titles. Much like the Transistor and Pyre games that came afterwards, Bastion beautifully wove its gameplay into the very motifs and themes it sought to convey.
Bastion’s story focuses on a boy, only referred to as the Kid, in the aftermath of the Calamity that has literally destroyed the world. He encounters Rucks, an elderly man who instructs the Kid to collect Cores in order to rebuild the Bastion and restore the world to its former state. In order to find these Cores, the Kid travels to different parts of the former Caelondia to destroy the destruction with his Hammer and eliminate the hostile creatures that managed to survive the Calamity. Along the way, he encounters Zulf and Zia, both from a race called the Ura. Caelondia had been at constant war with the Ura until the Calamity destroyed them both. As the narrative progresses, the Kid and the player are able to uncover the origin of the Calamity and the other survivors that remain.
One of the first things that struck me about Bastion was entangled motifs of construction and destruction in every part of the game. You begin the game by using your hammer to destroy walls and boxes and just about any part of the world, and by doing so, you can collect currency that will upgrade your weapons and allow you to purchase abilities. All this so that you are able to obtain the Cores and recreate the world once more. At the same time, as you walk around the world, pathways will emerge, falling into place in a very blatant recreation of the places that the Kid once knew. You feel almost hypocritical at the start: why continue to destroy a world that has already been destroyed and how will this help to put it back together? However, most of this mechanic doesn’t feel so much “destruction” as it does cleaning up the aftermath of the Calamity, mostly in the form of removing of rubble and hazards. In that way, you can reconcile the internal conflict when you slam down your hammer on the pathways that have just emerged.
Combat presents another morally conflicting action. Each of the creatures that have survived the Calamity and now attack you in swarms were once considered to be pests and harbingers of chaos. They survived where other creatures didn’t, but now you must attack them in order to collect and bring back the Cores. The game also continuously gives you more weapons in each new level, all the way until the end of the game and each more powerful than the last. With these unique weapons, you are able to cause more powerful and more precise damage, and they each become more effective as you add upgrades and equip abilities. On the other hand, the game presents several unique opportunities to obtain baby creatures and nurture them back at the Bastion. The symbolic significance of the creatures being babies is not lost on the narrative: they are new life brought into the world and hope for a better future than the one the Calamity left behind.
Speaking of which, the game would have you initially believe that when there are so few survivors left, everyone would just put aside the war between the Ura and Caels, right? Wrong. While the Kid makes his trips back and forth to the Bastion, conflicts arise between Zulf and Rucks, causing havoc and eventually revealing the origin of the Calamity. The Bastion had been nearly completed, but now the Kid must collect Shards in order to finish the Bastion. As he continues to travel across Caelondia, the Kid now begins encountering more Ura survivors, who are determined to keep the Bastion from being rebuilt. The Kid presses on and tensions continue to rise until it comes time to face the Ura and settle the dispute. The player is at this point given a choice on how to handle the conflict, based on the player’s sentiments and understanding of the situation. This decision and the final decision of the game are the final demonstrations of duality between construction and destruction. Will you continue to look at the past to define the state of the world? Or will you seek to build a better world after what the Calamity has left behind?
Bastion contains a beautiful story that focuses on the motifs of creation and destruction in order to tell its narrative. As the world recreates itself to make you a pathway, you must break past the destruction in order to repair what the Calamity left behind. The imagery is used literally and symbolically, not only with the set pieces around you, but also with your interactions with other people and creatures. While this was their first game, it still holds true that Supergiant Games continues to create incredible stories that marry gameplay with narrative. If you have not played Bastion, I highly recommend that you do so.