Wot I Think: Bastion

See, this is just ridiculously pretty.

Action RPG Bastion was released on Steam yesterday. I’ve been weaving my way through its enchantingly morose worlds, and although still a good way from the end, I am absolutely ready to tell you Wot I Think.

Going into a game completely blind is a rare treat. I recommend you don’t read this, but instead just go and buy Bastion and play it. Sure, you don’t know what type of game it is – nor did I when Jim said, “Hey, I think you should review this one.” It’s £11.50, go to it.

Some people remain. Well, I warned you.

The Bastion is a floating land of peace in a broken world, the only safe place left after the Calamity. A bare few people survive, and amongst their thin number is a kid. You don’t know who he is, why he’s there, who he was, or why he persists. The point is not knowing. His only company from the start is the narrator, a deep, throaty voice of a Southern gentleman, discussing the events as you play as a detached third party. He’s your only friend in the Bastion, that hub between the danger of levels.

From the opening seconds it’s obvious this is something special. As you run forward on floating tiles the pathways fall down from the sky to build themselves around you. The world fills itself in as you approach it. The narrator makes a wry comment about the kid’s nonchalance to this. A gorgeous cartoon world, glowing with colour, creating itself as you explore it.

The core of the game itself isn’t enormously original. The closest genre would be an ARPG, the kid equipped with a range of weapons and abilities, collecting drops and fighting many, many enemies. But the environment in which it’s set, the atmosphere created, and the purpose behind your playing is what makes this so compelling. It’s a real case of the important success of style over substance.

That’s not to say the action is a problem at all. It’s really not. As you play you’ll find new weapons, two of which can be equipped at a time. So perhaps you’ll have a giant hammer for one, and a shotgun as the other. Or fast blades and a bow and arrow. Each of these weapons can then be upgraded in the Bastion using items you find on travels, paid for by Fragments, the tokens dropped when enemies are killed or objects smashed to bit. Fragments of the old world, before the Calamity.

Along with the two attacks you also have a shield, which lets things get more tactical. As well as obviously being a block, good timing allows you to deflect attacks back onto the attacker. There’s also a dodge, that lets you roll quickly out of the way. And on top of all this you have special abilities that give you bonus tricks. Perhaps you’ll take with you the ability to raise a friendly Squirt, the strange tadpole-like creatures that would otherwise attack you. Maybe a technique that lets you spin on the spot, attacking many enemies at once. Or have it rain down bullets. You can only carry one of them at a time, so which you take quite significantly defines how you approach a level.

But there’s so much more going on here. Not necessarily in terms of what you do, but rather how you feel as you’re doing it. And that’s not least thanks to the narrator.

Rucks, for it is he, delivers his narration on the fly. It’s responsive, based on your actions. Hang back to smash up all the crates and bottles in an area and he may remark, “Kid hangs back to smash things for a spell.” Fall of the edge of the level and you’ll likely hear, “Doesn’t matter how many times he tries, the kid can’t fall far,” as you’re deposited back on the ground with a small dent in your health.

Alongside that, Rucks also describes what’s coming, and what’s happening when things get weird. Which they often do. New enemies that appear will have stories attached, delivered in the laconic drawl. Newly discovered objects or buildings will be dryly explained. And in particular areas, for particular reasons, greater depth is exposed.

But for me I think the most important role of this narration is to maintain the tone. As your spinning, blasting and chopping, it would be too easy to forget the circumstances, so pretty are even the most degraded and fallen areas. When you encounter the petrified remains of former people it would be too easy to smash them as any other block. But having Rucks tell you who they were, or remark on the kid’s actions, keeps you on the ground. This is a tragic story, within which hope is being reached for.

I have some complaints. While falling of the edge of the game’s floating tiles is only lightly penalised, it’s frustrating when it’s unavoidable due to being attacked from all sides. The game is extremely generous with chances – even if your health runs out you’ll get two chances to carry on before only being sent back to the beginning of that level. But still, stop pushing me off things – it’s not much fun.

A more serious issue comes in the porting to PC. In what is otherwise a perfect port, with elaborate and carefully designed mouse/keyboard controls (especially adding in a cursor that the 360 version did not have), it’s a massive shame that more care wasn’t taken with the application of WASD to the isometric world.

If you pick up a 360 controller then the analogue stick will let you run precisely in any direction. But use what I think are superior mouse/keyboard controls, and running along any of the narrow passages requires an awkward juggling of two directions. W and D together, for instance, do not angle you to move along the isometric plane. It’s a really stupid mistake, and a real shame.

But it’s one you can get over. At least, I have. Because so much about this is genuinely wonderful. My goodness, the music alone earns such a compliment.

I’m deliberately avoiding saying pretty much anything about what actually happens in the game, even including the various buildings you can create in the Bastion and what they do, the mechanics of how you can tweak your play, the ways in which the game so ingeniously lets you set your own extremely particular difficulty levels on the fly, and so on and on, because all of these are things you eventually encounter, rather than have dumped on you at the end of a tutorial. They’re as much a thing to learn for yourself as the plot. And even here it’s hard to tell you quite why the music is so extraordinary. So I’ll be vague.

At one point early in the game there’s a song. A song so beautiful I didn’t finish the area in which it was heard, and instead task-switched from the game’s window and let it loop for an age while I got on with some other work. Later, a good while later, when I was still humming the tune as I played, the narrator started humming it too. Moments like that – those are what make Bastion so different.

As I said, the core of the game, what you actually do, isn’t the most fresh or all-conquering of things. (It even features that most tiresome of action tropes, the enemy that can only be attacked from behind – oh please.) If you play for mechanics there’s a lot on offer here, but you’ll be confused why the game is being celebrated so loudly. But for atmosphere, grace, wit and heart, it’s a remarkable achievement. I’m nowhere near finished – the game appears to be enormous. But as I write this, one of the game’s pieces of music looping endlessly in the background, I know I’m going straight back.


  1. Jams O'Donnell says:

    I read the opening and the conclusion, and am now even more excited to get my grubby paws on it.

  2. ran93r says:

    Downloaded last night and played about 20 mins this morning, with you on the controls. Tempted to plug in my trusty ps2 pad and see how that fares but overall the kb/mouse controls are actually quite decent.

    • Kryopsis says:

      Try the Mason control scheme before using the gamepad!

    • ran93r says:

      I might give that a try, had another play on kb/moose and everything was going swimmingly until I hit a section where you navigate over a very narrow (one small tile wide) bridge to reach an item and that just illustrated how clunky it was using W and D.

      Then fired up the PS3 pad via MotionInJoy 360 emulation and although the sticks made movement a breeze, everything else just felt wrong, blocking, targeting, manual aiming for ranged attacks against non-enemies. Will be going back to KB but will certainly check out the other scheme, thanks.

  3. Hulk Handsome says:

    I agree that it’s definitely style over substance. I played the demo on Xbox and loved the style and all that (especially the narrator), but actually playing the game wasn’t interesting enough for me to purchase it. I’d still recommend other people try the demo, though. And I might get it in a sale.

    • Lobotomist says:

      I have to agree.

      Its a game done with lot of love.
      But I didnt find it too interesting.

    • Jesse L says:

      Yeah, don’t just buy it blindly. When a reviewer says that I think they’ve lost their objectivity. If you can you should really play a demo first, especially if you know you tend to prefer substance over style. Many people will enjoy the mechanics, but not everyone.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Jesse L

      No one here has made any claim of “objectivity,” least of all John. This isn’t even a review, it’s very clearly labelled “Wot I Think,” how much more subjective does it get?

      That said, when the things that recommend a game are “art, narration, and music” my first question is “sure, but what about the game?”

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Same. Played the demo and was a big “meh” for me. Not the worst game in the world, but certainly not that great. One thing I do have to say is that these PC screenshots look a lot more detailed than the Xbox demo. Maybe it’s just the higher resolution.

    • Kryopsis says:

      Review? Objectivity? Bloody hell!

    • povu says:

      Well the PC version is capable of rendering the game in 1080p, whereas the Xbox would render it in 720p and stretch it. Could be that.

    • Daiv says:

      Jesse L: Welcome to RPS, where the writers prize honesty above neutrality. As they should.

    • Xocrates says:

      The Demo sells the game horribly short, since it ends before things start to become truly interesting.

      Granted, the game itself is sort of an ARPG-lite, but it still has some amazing depth regardless, and it’s just plain gorgeous.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The demo seems to include what are being claimed as the game’s strengths—it’s damn pretty, shows how it handles the storytelling alongside the gameplay, and gives you some moderately large fights.

      Unfortunately I don’t care for the latter in the least and am left wishing it was some kind of adventure game rather than an action one. But try falling off the world almost as soon as you get out of bed for a nice touch.

    • Tengil says:

      @ Vinraith

      “Wot I Think” doesn’t qualify as a review? Under most definitions I’d say that’s exactly what a review is.

    • Froibo says:

      You fellas are missing out. Bastion has completely reinvented the way I am going to look at how a story should be told to me in a game. As for the mechanics its the same as everyone said, pretty classic ARPG with some clever twists to it. But they are defiantly not boring; they are well done and have a completely smooth transition through out the entire game. You have not been introduced to every weapon and mechanic until the very last level, which is why you shouldn’t judge the demo based on the bare skeleton they give you. It is probably the most well balanced game in terms of story, music, visuals and mechanics. This game, for me, has pleased me far past many full priced games I have purchased recently.

  4. groovychainsaw says:

    I, being a man of mechanics, found it a bit disappointing. With so much originality in the art and sound, i was hoping from more from the game, but I got quickly bored with the basic hack and slash on offer. Does it get far more complex later on? Because I tired of the combat after just a short while.

    • Taverius says:

      Depends on your choice of weapons and how you upgrade them, but the building blocks are fairly simple there, its mainly about how you finesse them.

    • Merus says:

      There’s a difficulty mechanic introduced a couple of hours in that might cure what ails ya; it adds additional wrinkles to the combat, such as taking damage slowing the Kid down, or revenge attacks from dying enemies. In return, you get additional fragments and XP. It’s an elegant way of handling difficulty.

    • Stuart Walton says:

      Once you take a weapon into the proving grounds, you soon learn that the way you have been using it was far from optimal. It’s a different, and better, game once you have gained that knowledge.

    • ScubaMonster says:

      Well he didn’t say anything about difficulty guys. The gameplay was fairly shallow, and adding a few more odds and ends isn’t going to change that. The combat was simplistic at its core. Adding mechanics like damage that slows you down is not exactly adding depth.

    • Reefpirate says:

      What is depth if not more “odds and ends”?

    • Berzee says:

      Yes, isn’t all combat simplistic at its core? This one feels a bit like Super Smash Brothers or something — “simplistic” in that you don’t have to do complex sequences of button presses, but complex in that a different set of items or choice of special moves significantly changes your approach.

      I would like an example of a game with a complex core combat mechanic, to contrast against this and help me understand. =)

      (All the same I kinda sorta know what you mean by it feeling simplistic…I just don’t know how to define it, hence my playing dumb ;)

    • phort99 says:

      Berzee: Batman Arkham Asylum has a pretty well done hand-to-hand combat mechanic. You can go through just mashing various attack buttons and just scrape by in the harder battles, but when you really begin to study the enemies’ movement you can plan every attack, block, dodge, and special technique and pull off massive combos that flow really well.

      Bastion’s combat is a less deep, but gains something in terms of player freedom by not forcing you to react to every specific situation in the same way. For instance, there are certain enemies in Batman: AA that MUST be cape-stunned, but in Bastion enemies can be attacked with any weapon, just with varying levels of effectiveness.

      Thing is, it took me a long time before I found the depth in Batman’s combo system. I didn’t discover how to get really good at combos until after I’d beaten the whole storyline and was playing the challenges.

  5. Binary77 says:

    I’m almost sold, but i may have to play a demo first. I fear it may be just another popular indie game that i just don’t ‘get’.

    • Xocrates says:

      It’s a very straightforward game in both gameplay and plot. I would be surprised if you don’t “get” it.

  6. icupnimpn2 says:

    izzere free 3rd party key remapping software that ameliorate the control issue?

    • Hidden_7 says:

      The control issue isn’t one that can be alleviated by remapping keys, since the game allows you to remap freely as is. The issue is that the way the levels tend to be aligned is slightly off the eight directions you’ve available to you on a keyboard. That is, if you wish to travel diagonal up and to the right, you’d press W and D, which would have you traveling diagonal up and to the right AT A SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ANGLE than the angle of the level.

  7. Taverius says:

    I preordered it, and spent all last night playing it … the combat may not be revolutionary, but I found it pretty damn engaging.

  8. UncleLou says:

    My post doesn’t appear. :-/

    I agreed that it’s something special, but recommended playing it with a pad.

    Don’t quite agree with the style over substance argument, I am finding the combat mechanics really good. All weapons play differently, then you have the special attacks, the differently acting monsters, the shield – there’s more substance here than in most comparable games, in my opinion.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      great game, beat it in about 8 hours. IT HAS NEW GAME PLUS! Yaytimes.

      As for the style/substance arguement, it may be more correct to say that it has INNOVATIVE STYLE, but subtance that is merely solidly done. Make no mistakes the mechanics are solid, they’re just not anyting particularly new for the genre.

    • UncleLou says:

      You’re right, they’re not new – I am finding them quite satisfying and fun though, and I’ve seen more combat and tactics variety in 2 hours of Bastion than I have in 50 hours of Torchlight. Or in Zelda. :p

  9. thepaleking says:

    The ranged combat is near unbearable; currently the bow is my main weapon, but it is seriously a chore just to aim the thing(I know I could just stop using it, but it’s so cool), and my surprisingly low frame rate isn’t helping, though that’s totally my fault. Everything else though, from the art to the narrator, is sublime.

    • TsunamiWombat says:

      You get used to the ranged combat, I thought it was complete ass at first too but the autolock isn’t that bad. Just kite and shoot. Late game my bow was primary dmg dealer, and I was power shotting pretty fast with upgrades and doing AlOT of dmg + knockback with it.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      Yeah, the bow is an almighty death machine. Fast, long range, accurate, hits multiple enemies, powerful and deals status effects once fully upgraded. Easily my weapon of first choice, ahead of hammer and spear.

      I had no trouble aiming by hand with the mouse, though I can see how it would be a lot harder with a pad. (Of course, that’s why you have the lock on).

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I really don’t like the bow. Three of the four other ranged weapons I have so far are preferable. The aiming is a pain with all of them, though – I keep forgetting to ignore the cursor and only look at the line on the ground instead.

    • Berzee says:

      I thought the same thing, but remember that you can hold “shift” to automatically aim ranged weapons.

  10. Dominic White says:

    They keyboard is not ‘superior’. It is barely evolved from the typewriter. It was never designed for games. It’s a kludge. An approximation. The mouse is a decent pointer device, but the keyboard has barely evolved since the 1800s.

    The keyboard has 0 analogue axes.
    The 360 controller has 5-6 analogue axes.
    The PS3 has 5-6 + another 5-6 motion-sensing ones.

    Get a gamepad, you silly, silly people.

    • skinlo says:

      I don’t need analogue axes??

    • Dominic White says:

      If you want to move in anything other than 8 directions, you do.

    • nootron says:

      I can buy an argument that some games are meant for gamepads. E.g. Spelunky should not be played on a keyboard.

      But I don’t buy the argument that gamepads are better in general simply because they aren’t analog. That’s just faulty logic. Let me know when the first analog video game comes out and i’ll buy that :P More to the point, interacting virtually by using only your thumbs is a limiting experience for me.

      That being said, this game, like Spelunky or Cave Story, is a much better experience with a gamepad :)

    • Kdansky says:

      My keyboard has more than 100 buttons. That is about 10-20 times as much as a pad offers. I am also allowed to use 10 fingers instead of just two (or sometimes four), and my reaction time is not dependent on my boringly slow thumbs. When I switched playing Super Meat Boy to keyboard, I got through another 30 levels in a few hours which were unbeatable before, despite having had to relearn everything first. Anything that does not require analog input is better on a proper keyboard (examples are Spelunky, Jamestown, SMB, VVVVVV) with a decent layout.

      Note that you should really use a decent mechanical n-key rollover keyboard for these games though. Those are pricey, but they also last a few decades, so that’s about fair. The difference in reaction time is staggering.

      That said, Bastion wants an analog stick. Ideally analog stick + mouse + keyboard buttons. Now I need a third hand.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      If you want to move in anything other than 8 directions, you do.

      Well, you can tack, but you’re right; I was definitely feeling the lack of an analog stick.

    • Howl says:

      Amen. The right tool for this job is a 360 controller. I can’t imagine the reasons why someone would not use the most appropriate control method for this genre. It’s not like they are costly and they are the controller of choice for a vast amount of games.

    • Abundant_Suede says:

      They keyboard is not ‘superior’. It is barely evolved from the typewriter. It was never designed for games. It’s a kludge. An approximation. The mouse is a decent pointer device, but the keyboard has barely evolved since the 1800s.

      The keyboard has 0 analogue axes.
      The 360 controller has 5-6 analogue axes.
      The PS3 has 5-6 + another 5-6 motion-sensing ones.

      Get a gamepad, you silly, silly people.

      And yet console FPS still have to build in additional functionality( like an auto-180) to compensate for the inferior range of motion and responsiveness compared to the same game on a mouse and keyboard where such maneuvers would be simple, and trying to play your average strategy game with a controller would see you grinding it into powder inside of 5 minutes.

      Obviously, the right tool for the job varies with the game, and sometimes it’s just a wash, with a gamepad better fitting some parts of a game, and a M&K others.

    • ZamFear says:

      If you want to move in anything other than 8 directions, you do.

      There are only eight directions! Recant this vile heresy!

    • Nick says:

      thats why we have a mouse too.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      A mouse lets you look in any direction, but not move.

      For aiming, a mouse is best. For movevent an analogue thumbstick is best.

      Someone needs to combine the two somehow.

    • Quizboy says:

      I was about to come and say something like this, with one caveat: I might be starting to think the analogue ‘circle pad’ on the 3DS (weirdly, since it’s the offspring of the hell-spawned, physically painful nub on the PSP) is more comfortable and accurate than an actual analogue stick. Or would be if you scaled it up and gave it space on a full-sized pad. We’ll have to see what the two on the WiiU’s frankly mental controller feel like. But either is still a million miles better than a keyboard.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    I’ll grab this later in the year, it looks gorgeous and I’ve not played anything remotely like it in years.

    But I need to clear some space for Human Revolution.

  12. Stuart Walton says:

    Those higher res textures look really nice.


    Listen to/get the soundtrack, it’s self-described as ‘Frontier Trip-hop’. How can you say no to that.

    • Pie21 says:

      * Acoustic frontier trip-hop. I listened to the album after the Sunday Papers and loved it, but I suspect I’ve ruined a good chunk of the wonder of the game for myself.

      I’ll be waiting for a Steam sale that happens at a time I’m not so hopelessly busy.

  13. Wizardry says:

    But is it better than Might and Magic, John?

    • Berzee says:

      More to the point, is it better than bacon sandwiches?
      Or an even more relevant question — is it better than a baby’s first laugh?

  14. nootron says:

    I strongly suggest the demo for those considering this game. I bought it sight unseen (well demo unseen) and ended up not really liking it.

    My two main issues with the game that caused me to turn it off and go play minecraft after about an hour:

    1. I don’t like the narrator’s voice. It grates me. The concept is brilliant and I love it, but the voice annoys me. He kind of sounds like the bayou guy from Starcraft II. Most people won’t mind at all I suspect, but I just couldn’t deal with it.

    2. Most importantly, basic combat is unrewarding. Almost immediately you’re given a giant hammer with which to smash things. Awesome. Except smashing things is about as unrewarding as possible. You swing the hammer, the character makes an awkward swing animation, and the object of smashing simply disappears in a puff of smoke. The same goes for enemies. I don’t need ragdoll physics here, but the combat mechanics lack the visceral feel that most games have nowadays.

    And that’s that. Its beautiful looking. Its original. Its clear that a lot of effort has been spent on this game. I really want to love it and I may end up picking it up again some rainy day. But after an hour’s play, I just wasn’t feeling it.

    • Howl says:

      These were my two issues with the game as well. The voice becomes more annoying and the script more nonsensical the longer you play. The underlying gameplay is unrewarding and repetitive. Also I found the scenery repetitive and the paths through each level quite boring. The levels could have been procedurally generated, they are so uninspiring.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Now that you mention it – the general art style looks pretty good (well, expect the protagonist, who looks a bit dumb) but the level design is really unoriginal. It’s just platforms strapped together without a general sense of coherence. I know, I know, this comes with the whole broken world thing, but I can’t help getting the impression that this is a case of story follows design, if you get what I mean.

    • Jeremy says:

      Oh man, that’s a bummer.. I really love the narrator’s voice. That’s probably the best reason to try the demo in all honesty. Can you tolerate the voice for 12 hours? If you can, buy the game :)

      The art is fantastic, and I really dig the actiony bits. It does a good job making the player feel very capable. Lots of dodging, blocking and general havoc creation is a lot of fun, and I haven’t really played something like that in a while so it feels fresh to me (understandably, not everyone will feel the same). There really is something to feel of the game though, it has this undertone of sadness and tragedy amidst the beauty that really gets to me and keeps me playing more than anything else.

    • GTRichey says:

      It’s unfortunate that you didn’t like the voice for the narration. I imagine that will be what makes/breaks Bastion for most people (I’m in the camp that thought it was fantastic).

      As far as combat… I’m not sure what you’re looking for. Anything that could be accurately described as ‘visceral’ doesn’t belong anywhere near this game. Also the implication that if other games are doing something meaning all games should is why developers/publishers continue to churn out so many samey games. The way combat is in the game fits the art style and mood of the game perfectly to the point that faulting it seems to be just looking for things to hate.

  15. Ergates_Antius says:

    Was playing this for a couple of hours last night.

    It really is quite quite lovely. The incidental commentry on things just doing is brilliant – really sets the atmosphere.

    I’ve been making a point of smashing the petrified remains I find. I was torn between leaving them be as monuments, or properly laying them to rest – I decided on the latter.

  16. Jae Armstrong says:

    Shall we talk… SPOILERS?

    Shall we talk about…




    …the first shard level? You know the one. Swamp, gas, hallucinations. That affected me far more than the usual “THINGS MIGHT NOT BE ALL THE SEEM OOO-EEE-OOO” sort of stuff you see in games. It made me distinctly uncomfortable, and I’m usually extremely blase about these things.

    It also seemed to promise, for a moment or two, that there were strange new dimensions to the story waiting in the wings. The whole section with Pyth. But, alas, it ended and was never mentioned again.

    • Burning Man says:

      Didn’t read a word, but wish to show my appreciation for the extreme SPOILERIZATION!! of the post.

    • LTK says:

      I noticed that as well, it was really unsettling. What immediately jumps out at you is the narrator’s change in tone. In the swamp fever dream, he starts talking a bit like GLaDOS as in general attitude, which really illustrates how much the atmosphere of the game depends on the narration.

  17. limbclock says:

    Tried this today on the Xbox 360.

    Good game, but why’s the narrator pretending to be The Stranger from The Big Lebowski?

    • Wulf says:

      I wouldn’t say pretending as much as doing a damned good job of. And for the humour? I found it entertaining, anyway. The guy cracks puns frequently. It’s just supposed to be in jest, to have that rough, gruff voice in contrast to the pastel visuals.

  18. deadly.by.design says:

    Loving the soundtrack, despite not even having tried the demo yet. Thanks for dropping the link above. This has me wishing it was Steamplay-enabled, since it’s powered by Steamworks for Cloud saving, etc, but whatevs. You can’t hug every cat.

  19. Zakkeh says:

    I don’t buy much music, but I have listened to this game’s soundtrack for the longest time now. I absolutely love it to death.

    • LTK says:

      Still listening to it now. Spike in a Rail is particularly entertaining.

  20. Ultra Superior says:

    I loved the music and art but…. am I really the only one here who dislikes the narration?

    I only finished the demo, but… the narration and the clumsy controls (will try again with gamepad) is what’s keeping me from buying the full version.

    • Jesse L says:

      The narration seems a little forced to me. It’s hard to take that ‘grimly world-weary folksy cowboy’ style seriously for some reason. I guess I feel like that’s an accent you really have to earn. I have a problem watching ‘Firefly’ for the same reason, although I like the show.

    • Wulf says:

      It’s not grim, it’s gruff. :| I think the people who dislike the voice the most are the ones whom understand it the least.

  21. Ezhar says:

    Despite the diagonal walking problem described, I found the controls well designed and very responsive – unlike those of many a crappy console conversion. Also, it’s a really fun game.

  22. MikoSquiz says:

    Between SPAZ and this, my two favourite games of the year so far have come out within the same week. (Despite the annoying unaligned diagonal movement, which makes the repeater trial a huge pain in the arse.) Skyrim and Deus Ex 3 are going to have to break a sweat.

  23. Azradesh says:

    John, and others with control issues, try switching the control scheme to “mason”. It makes it play more like Diablo (click to move), which will give you analog control.

  24. UncleLou says:

    I think the voice works perfectly, exactly because it’s such a contrast to the cartoon world, which makes it work in the end. I guess it might annoy me in a game that has the grim artstyle to match.

    That said, I also always loved the narration in Max Payne as well, which worked in a somewhat similar fashion because of the hilariously over the top noir clichés.

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t see the voice as grim so much really, though. Just gruff. And gruff != grim necessarily.

  25. symuun says:

    I’m a little way in and loving this game so far, but I was slightly disappointed to find out the game doesn’t even detect my non-360 gamepad. It’s not the end of the world – the keyboard controls feel very responsive and well thought out – but the mouse controls feel very slightly awkward to me, and it would have been nice to at least see if a gamepad handles any better. I could use some sort of gamepad-to-keyboard mapping software, I suppose, but it hardly seems worth it, especially if it means I’m missing the analogue controls.

  26. magnus says:

    Man, I can’t even play this until Saturday! :(

  27. bowl of snakes says:

    This game is awesome, music, art, narration. I could nitpick about the last couple of weapons maybe but this game really pulled me in. It really is obvious they put a lot of thought into everything.

  28. leeder krenon says:

    I’ve used a keyboard to move a dude on the screen around since Hungry Horace in 1982. I don’t need no stinking gamepad.

    P.S this game is lovely.

  29. wodin says:

    Getting stoned on the old bong….hehe (in the game)…it is tricky with the keyboard and mouse…but not to bad…
    I gather I’ve still away to go then even though it said only on emore core is needed….

    Very enjoyable game…

  30. Wulf says:

    Yep, I’ve come to love the beauty of this game as much as John. As I mentioned in another thread, I like this. It helps that the narrator is probably the second sexiest male voice I’ve heard in gaming. (The first is still Steve “I am made of vibranium!” Blum, and will likely continue to be, forevermore.)

  31. LGM says:

    “But use what I think are superior mouse/keyboard controls”

    Ok, for RTS and FPS games, I couldn’t agree more. But for a game like this a controller is vastly superior to mouse/keyboard, the game is designed for a controller. Some PC gamers really need to stop being so uptight about controllers. It’s ok if you use them, really! A lot of games will be more enjoyable to you if you can pull yourself out of the delusion that mouse/keyboard is the be all end all of video game control.

  32. alms says:

    This one here is one of the best reviews I’ve read on RPS. You really hit the hammer on the head. And when I say that, let me add that I didn’t like the game, quitted out of boredom after maybe 15 or 20 mins of playing. Yes, a lot of production value, funny ideas and taste although the substance itself feels a bit stale to me. I will give it another try just because you mentioned the music (which didn’t really strike me right off the bat, like it happened e.g. in Braid)

    Kudos to SuperGiant for providing a demo from day 1, this alone is enough to make sure they’ll have my attention for their future works.

  33. wintermute says:

    People here can spend 250+ comments whining on about big developers and publishers shitting on the PC, releasing crap games for much too high prices and generally being douches.

    But when an indie game comes along doing something truly original (hint: narration), made with passion and love and offering a haunting immersive, world, well, it’s too short and boring and way too expensive.

    It’s 12 pounds. That’s 6 pints. Go buy this game. Maybe you can’t focus on one thing for longer than 15 minutes, because you crave instant gratification. Maybe it’s not perfect for you, maybe this and that and whatnot. Sure, 95% people who tell you it’s amazing must be wrong, because you are a unique and beautiful snowflake and the lonely voice of game review truth. Make a statement with your wallet, because we all know you won’t do shit else apart from whining on internet forums.

    Otherwise it will be another decade of ‘popular game [almost double digits]’. Is that what you want? IS IT??

    While you’re at it, go buy Space Pirates and Zombies. And an XBOX controller. And call your grandma, she loves you.

    • Jeremy says:

      I’m not sure what happened here, or who you’re talking to, but I suddenly feel overwhelmingly guilty. And I even bought the game.

    • Gilly says:

      I visit my grandparents every day, so my opinion is worth more than yours! :D

    • Harlander says:

      Every so often I’ll think, “Hey, a lot of games these days would benefit from a gamepad. I should get one. I’m going to get one.”

      But before I can get one, someone’ll come on the RPS comment threads going off on one about the moral calumnity of not having a gamepad, and I go off the idea.

      EDIT: turns out “calumnity” isn’t a word. I’m leaving it, though, because I like the sound.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      @ Wintermute

      Have my babies.

  34. Ruffian says:

    I love that RPS, or maybe it’s just this particular guy, takes the time to tell us to just go play it and forgo reading the review, when it’s something genuinely worth playing. I’ve been taking the advice and I have to say I’ve never been disappointed. For reals.

  35. LintMan says:

    Watching the trailer for this, I got the impression this game is a bit of a platformer in the Super Mario Galaxy mould and lost interest. (I hate platformers).

    Is this game full of jumping puzzles and/or “time your movement between deadly moving obstacles” type stuff?

    The style and story seem really appealing, but I can’t play it if there’s a lot of that stuff.

    • lowprices says:

      There’s no platforming. It’s more in the Diablo mould (albeit simpler). Just you, a hammer, waves of monsters and the lovely, lovely music and narration.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      Actually, there is a little bit of platforming, right at the very end. It sticks around just long enough to make you painfully aware the game is shit as a platformer, then disappears.

    • LintMan says:

      Hmm. I can probably put up with a small dose of platforming if it comes near the end and I know it’s not a whole game full of it.


  36. colinmarc says:

    Absolutely beautiful. Just finished it – I would’ve payed twice as much for it.

    For you doubters out there – dude, buy the game. and an xbox 360 pad. the demo is kinda lame, but the game really opens up and just oozes quality everywhere. support this type of thing!

    My favorite part is how much you can mix and match weapons/strategies/penalties. The later game actually varies a lot, and there’s quite a bit of tactics and strategy.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    I’ll have to join the anti-narrator camp.

    I found it really, really lame.

    And it’s the whole package – the lines the actor’s been given, combined with the delivery, and the context it’s in (i.e. the rest of the game).

  38. Buttless Boy says:

    I played the demo and by the end I wanted to beat the narrator to death with an effigy of Ron Perlman. Beautiful art, nice music, clever concepts, decent gameplay – all ruined by the incredibly annoying jackass spouting condescending pseudo-rural one-liners.

    Seems like a good game if you can get past that. I obviously can’t.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      Seems like a good game if you can “get past” the part everyone likes the most?

      I just don’t get people who don’t like the narrator. It’s the best piece of voice acting I’ve seen in years. Do they just hate anyone who’s voice is a bit gruff? And they’re not “one-liners”. They’re sentences. Sentences used to build a world, to tell a story. You are listening to a tragic tale while experiencing it, and the tale reacts to what you do, as you do it, making you feel part of the tale and giving a unique sense of agency. There’s nothing else like it in games.

      Seriously, if I became vastly wealthy, I’d hire this guy to follow me around and narrate my life. That’s how good he is.

    • whydidyoumakemeregister says:

      “I just don’t get people who don’t like the narrator. It’s the best piece of voice acting I’ve seen in years.”

      Which isn’t saying much, because video games have been moving towards having Hollywood actors do voiceovers rather than professional voice actors that can convey emotions without having their face on screen.

  39. ThatAznGuy says:

    I dig my hole you build a wall
    I dig my hole you build a wall
    One day that wall is gonna fall

    Gon’ build that city on a hill
    Gon’ build that city on a hill
    Some day those tears are gonna spill

    So build that wall and build it strong cause
    We’ll be there before too long

    Gon’ build that wall up to the sky
    Gon’ build that wall up to the sky
    Some day your bird is gonna fly

    Gon’ build that wall until it’s done
    Gon’ build that wall until it’s done
    But now you’ve got nowhere to run

    So build that wall and build it strong cause
    We’ll be there before too long

    That song… Its so beautiful.

    • thebigJ_A says:

      NO! nonono. Don’t do that. Everyone should experience it pure and fresh, for themselves.

      It is beautiful, though.

    • LTK says:

      Beautiful as it is, it’s a bit grim, isn’t it?


      It’s sung really calm and relaxed, but when you listen to what it actually says, the tone is completely different. The Ura are digging holes, and the Caelondians are building walls. Each to his own, but she’s saying that the Caelondians had better build their walls high and strong, because eventually the Ura are going to come and bring them down. It’s a tragic ode to the inevitability of war. It’s strange, because I think the Ura wouldn’t want the Caelondians to think they held these sentiments. However, it’s obvious that the Caelondians did think this way, given the whole cause of the Calamity.

  40. RegisteredUser says:

    Just needed to post that this game is good/well made. Which is rare.
    Buy it.
    It actually deserves it.

  41. eselinks says:

    I can’t wait for the new assasins creed to come out apparently it is going to be the best one yet I am going to buy this and MW3.


  42. JuJuCam says:

    Is it worth digging up this chestnut to note that the latest patch appears to have solved the isometric keyboard control issue? Apparently the fix was previously available via command line switch but now it’s the default option.

  43. Astatine says:

    This game was really lovely. And gone in a weekend… but there’s a New Game +1 feature and a choice at the ending, too keep me entertained some more…


  44. Silver says:

    the narrator’s voice and tone is superb. reminds me a little of movie “300” sytle of narrating. very uberawesomecool :P

  45. TooNu says:

    I don’t know if you see late comments, I guess you do. It really is a great game isn’t it? It should be in the book of games to be kept safe, forever. I played it and went straight to supergiantgames and bought their bundle pack of merch’, I emailed them to let them know how fantastic I thought there game is and I can’t wait to play it through again. My print will be signed by the whole team.
    What will they create next that can top this? I doubt it’s even possible.

  46. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    Bought it on sale, played for an hour and decided to read an RPS review to see what exactly is supposed to be so amazing there. Still not quite sure. It’s a kinda simplistic game with slightly annoying combat and tile-based level design. The main character looks a bit stupid with those gorilla arms and choppy animation. Is it really all about the narration like some of the comments suggest? It’s quite amusing, of course, but hardly mindblowing on its own. I thought Stanley Parable did the same trick more cleverly and originally. I’m gonna stick with it, hoping it will end up being more than the sum of it parts or whatever, but the level with falling tiles is already frustrating the shit out of me.
    Really enjoying the music so far.