Have You Played… Bastion?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

After the Calamity, few remain on the floating worlds of Bastion [official site]. You’re one of them. And you love doing roly-polies.

Five years old. I hate writing these things, because it incessantly reminds me of the cruelty of the passage of time. Slow down time, you bastard, I’ve got far too much to do.

SuperGiant Games’ breakthrough title, Bastion is a wonderful piece of world creation, narrative originality, and a gorgeous implementation of ARPG combat in a beautiful, bright land. Just writing sentences about it makes me want to start playing it again. Oh, and that narrator. And the songs! Oh gosh, it’s completely wonderful, £11 on Steam, £11 on Humble, $15 on GOG.

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  1. fauxC says:

    One of the very few games to ever make me cry.

  2. Senethro says:

    Bastion was very good. Still fresh in my memory even after 5 years.

  3. Napalm Sushi says:

    “…a beautiful, bright land…”

    I think one of its greatest achievements is that it really, really isn’t, yet the fact that it consistently looks that way never feels like a contradiction.

  4. Eight Rooks says:

    I liked it, but not as much as everyone said I ought to. I didn’t buy it as a world at all – it was a silly, if very pretty Lego diorama with an awful lot of copy and pasting and a few interesting bits of flavour text – and I didn’t find the combat fulfilling enough to be at all interested in getting good at it (I don’t understand why anyone would want to complete all the trials or turn the difficulty up). Still pretty good, and I’m glad I played it, but it’s no classic – I just don’t have any real urge to play it again. There are other games that cover the same ground (meta-commentary, unified world and production design, deep ARPG combat etc.) much better, which do stand up to repeat playthroughs.

    • Kefren says:

      Same here. I bought it because RPS kept recommending it, and played it through to the end, but I never enjoyed any of it. I couldn’t get into the world, the story or the combat. In fact, for some reason, I’d expected more than the fighting offered. I could see why people might think it was aesthetically-pleasing but it did nothing for me, and I was all too happy when the ending came. I enjoyed the aesthetic and music of Transistor more, though the combat again nearly put me off part-way through. I was glad taht game wasn’t any longer.

      • Halk says:

        >I bought it because RPS kept recommending it

        See, that’s where your mistake is. RPS may be a useful game news (!) source, especially if you are interested in PC indie games and in nothing else, but they have absolutely no taste.

        Rule of thumb: If RPS says a game is good, it is probably bad, and vice versa. Note that this still makes them a useful predictor, you just need to inverse their judgements.

        I know this requires a certain mental discipline, I also sometimes fall into the trap of letting their views shape my perception of a game, and I have to keep reminding myself not to let them.

    • girard says:

      In a similar boat. The game felt very style-over-substance, with its glossy DeviantArt digital painting aesthetic and throaty “Quiet Storm” narrator papering over the fact that the story and gameplay weren’t, you know, all that great.

      And at the ending, where they literally give you a bullshit binary choice in a window, which basically amounts to “Click here to see non-interactive cutscene A, click here to see noninteractive cutscene B, neither of which you care about, and neither of which you’ve had any impact upon over the last 10 hours or so of gameplay. But we heard multiple endings is a good bulletpoint to have for your game, so we’ve tossed them in in the most half-assed way possible.” That’s the point when I went from unimpressed to actually irritated with the game.

      • Geebs says:

        Press ‘X’ to sacrifice yourself for a bunch of self-defeating dicks you never liked

    • Beefenstein says:

      This game was something I find deeply unsatisfactory on so many levels it made me want to kick the world in a bin and set it on fire.

    • mouton says:

      I liked it, but not as much as everyone said I ought to.

      There you go, hype kills everything.

      I am going to play Undertale at some point, but I am constantly mentally preparing myself by lowering my expectations. True for every game, really – they are all flawed and subject to taste, believing they are “teh greatest thing ever” is a recipe for disappointment.

    • Baines says:

      The gameplay itself was pretty underwhelming. It was a title carried by bright graphics, the narration gimmick, and the massive hype/PR that those two elements generated for it.

  5. DarkFenix says:

    Great game, one of a small number of games that’s so good and wraps itself up so well at the end that I never touch that game again. To do so would somehow make it ‘just a video game’ and sour the near-perfect experience I had with it first time round.

  6. Freud says:

    I enjoyed it for the most part. It looks great, the story is interesting, the narration is fantastic and I love how the tiled world spawns when you move around.

    Only thing holding it down is the actual gameplay, where the combat is decidedly average.

    Still worth playing.

  7. FreeTom says:

    Yeah, good game. It doesn’t outstay its welcome, either. You start it, you enjoy it and six hours of play later you’re done with it. More games like that, please.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Agreed. We need more $10 -$15 games that offer a day’s, or at most, a weekend’s, worth of entertainment. Would be great.

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    Risingson says:

    Tried to lije it, many times. My nephews, however, think of it as one of the most beautiful thing they have played. And I obviously trust their opinions (I basically spoiled them culturally speaking)

  9. INCSlayer says:

    I played it on the xbox 360 when it came out since then i have bought it on steam and through 2 humble bundles including the one that had the nice gifts in it. I really like Bastion :D

  10. Chaoslord AJ says:

    Too few good action RPGs like that on PC. Liked the setting, the combat yet it was also short and linear. They should add some zeldalike overworld and dungeon next time around.

  11. ephesus64 says:

    I have time to keep up with the articles that catch my interest on RPS most weeks, and that’s about it. Games like Bastion which RPS steered me toward are how I justify setting time aside from everything else to play games once in a while. Will I ever finish Divinity: Original Sin? Probably not. Am I glad I’ve been places like Bastion and D:OS? Absolutely, because they are “games” in the most cohesive and interesting way possible, and I don’t have to recommend them to friends with a bunch of caveats. Bastion is great, try it if you like the idea of light action RPGs but haven’t found one you like. I introduced this to a friend that way, and Bastion is his favorite game now.

  12. fish99 says:

    Loved Bastion. Beautiful world, great music, fun combat, the narrator was a cool idea too and well executed.

    Hard game to dislike I would think, unless maybe it was because other people praised it so much (which is a weak reason).

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      Risingson says:

      Then I guess you must be great at debating and getting other people’s views, heh.

      It’s just the action rpg mechanics. They did not click for me.

      • fish99 says:

        It plays super good though (on mouse/keyboard at least), maybe you didn’t give it a fair shot. It also plays different depending on which weapon you use, so I don’t see how you could not like all of them.

        • fish99 says:

          Just to follow up on that, if you read the comments here you’ll see some people openly admit they didn’t try or like it purely because other people hyped the game up. That’s a crap reason for not liking something, pure hipster-ism.

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            Risingson says:

            I never do that. What I actually do is play a game usually years after it was released, same with movies and books, with the only recent exception of “Life is Strange”.

            I started to replay Bastion yesterday. Again, the action rpg mechanics are the ones that keep me away. But I will persevere.

          • fish99 says:

            My comment was only aimed at the people listing the fact that other people liked Bastion as a reason for not liking it. If you went in open minded and the gameplay or something else just didn’t click for you, then fair enough.

  13. Urthman says:

    Wow, looking at that screenshot I realize that Bastion is one of the few games that actually looks *worse* in my hazy memories than it did in real life. What a beautiful game.

  14. Laurentius says:

    Of course, played it a couple of times, absolutely love it! Great visuals, fantastic music, I didn’t care that much for a story though, gameplay is super fun, not too hard, exactly aset spot. It’s works well with mouse and kyboard.

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    Bluerps says:

    (Does this game need a spoiler warning? I put one here, just in case)

    Apart from what was written in the article, I particularly remember the ending sequence. I mean when you have reached Zulf, decide not to kill him and carry him back to the Bastion.

  16. Sarfrin says:

    I have and I loved it.

  17. Jovian09 says:

    Brilliant game, which is as fun to play as it is gorgeous and poignant. Definitely check out Supergiant’s more recent offering Transistor as well.

    • Czrly says:

      I pre-ordered Transistor because SuperGiant won my loyalty with Bastion. Sadly, Transistor isn’t great. It might be good – I suspect it is – but it isn’t great.

      I say “suspect” because I *still* can’t get it to work properly, here. I’ve reported bugs to them a thousand times and they keep saying they’re fixed but, here, I have to play it with the most abysmal tearing or not at all. Absolutely nothing I can do will make it run with v-sync or in borderles-windowed mode (where the desktop compositor effectively provides v-sync but without the performance hit) They’ve suggested command-line switches and updates (I use the Steam version which is kept up to date) and none of them fix the tearing.

      • Don Reba says:

        I thought Transistor has polished gameplay, great feel and visual design, but takes itself too seriously. The story is about on par with Sonic games.

  18. Mahti says:

    Bastion is one of the very few games that I regard Perfect. It is also one of my favouritest games (which obviously isn’t true for all perfect games if I don’t happen to like what they are doing).

    I loved the aesthetic, the combat feel, the narration, the narrator, the way how everything you do feels part of the story, the difficulty customization, the weapons, the world, the choises, the ending, the music, the humour, the level sizes, the simplessness of game systems and exploration, the optional challenges and plenty other things.

    Above all, I think the design combine many simple systems to a masterful whole that’s way more than the sum of its parts. No game system or part of the game feels out of place but instead forms a perfect emotional experience. So much so that I don’t dare go back as I fear I’ll brake the beautiful memory I have of my play trough.

    For the record, other perfect games include at least Journey and Portal the first of which is another favourite of mine.

    • mforww says:

      Just curious, but have you played any other classic adventure games?

      Bastion, to me, is a joke compared to virtually everything that would be considered to compete against it. Can you really favorably compare this game to Diablo 2, from a top down RPG perspective? Or any of the Zelda games, from an adventure perspective?

      I actually just don’t understand: what does this game have that you think makes it better than everything else?? The campy narration is ‘unique’ but also very much falls into a ‘who cares’ bucket for me. The art and music is cool, but how is it better than Braid? I kept expecting the game to get better yet I was severely disappointed.

      • Czrly says:

        Quite simply, Bastion brought all the brilliant points together in *one* game and did it with a level of polish that remains peerless, today.

        I wouldn’t call it ‘perfect’, myself, but I would still put Bastion on the very top tier of my collection – along with Antichamber and Portal and a very few others. Braid might just make that tier, too, along with Limbo. Isn’t it nice that we have so *many* good games and don’t have to just pick one?

        Since you mention Diablo 2 and Zelda: I liked Diablo 2 (which also had an excellent narrator) and never really played Zelda but Bastion has one major advantage: it isn’t too long. Its pacing *is* perfect. There is no moment when you’re grinding sets or slogging endlessly through re-spawning, samey mobs – two of Diablo 2’s most prominent failings.

        • Czrly says:

          Oh gosh! I forgot FEZ! There’s a tier above the top tier and it’s the FEZ tier… er… actually, Antichamber is probably on it too. Bastion, Limbo, Braid and probably even Portal just don’t make it. (Portal doesn’t make it because I still feel that Valve is afraid of making a difficult game – quite simply, the setting is brilliant, the quality is brilliant, the mechanics are brilliant but the game is pathetically easy and the ‘puzzles’ just aren’t.)

  19. Mahti says:

    I guess there is no edit button here? Anyway…

    The feels:
    link to open.spotify.com

    That is the “Setting Sale, Coming Home” ending music of the game. Still brings very strong feelings, and I have been listening to it from time to time since I finished the game five years ago.

  20. Emeraude says:

    One of those gamse I personally didn’t like but would certainly recommend, though not to anyone.

  21. Siimon says:

    The Bastion and Zeno Clash articles are what cemented my readership of RPS. And I didn’t even read past the first paragraph of the Bastion post.

    Own the (signed) soundtrack of this game, because it is as amazing as the game.

  22. TechnicalBen says:

    No. I’ve got it. I got it in bundles. I got gifted it. I gifted it to others. I even tried the demo… but, never played it proper. I just don’t go for things that are hyped (unless I want to get it before the hype).

    I’ve got like an anti-hype defence barrier that lets nothing through. It seems a really nice game, but as others have said, if it’s just art and narrative, the gameplay may not captivate me enough to keep me playing.

  23. aoanla says:

    I played it, but didn’t get on with the gameplay at all – I kept falling off walkways a lot, and generally found that combat was super-awkward. (Which is a shame, as what I saw of the narrative design I quite liked, especially the “narrated-gameplay” conceit). So, I think I got less than 3 levels in before giving up on it.

    As such, I much preferred Transistor, which seemed both smarter, and also, via the “pause-and-plan” gameplay, was much nicer to play. (I actually finished Transistor, which is one of the few games to intentionally make me cry, and got halfway through new-game-+ before getting too busy in real life and having to drop it.)

    • LionsPhil says:

      One of my favourite narrator comments is if you start the game then immediately fall off the edge of the world.

      • aoanla says:

        Yeah, I got that one. :) (In fact, I think I got every single “and then the Kid fell off the world” quote that the Narrator has…)

  24. Zekiel says:

    Yes. And I really love it (even though it does have its flaws). Its beautiful, its got fantastic music, the gameplay is fun (not brilliant, but fun) and there’s a ton of variety achieved by trying out different weapons. The story isn’t especially amazing, but the way it is told is.

    I felt there were some really poignent moments [spoilers] – Zia’s song, the Kid’s Dream, carrying Zulf at the end… and a lot of Rucks’ narration of course, like trying to convince his listener (and himself) that the course of action they’re on is best for everyone (even when it involves slaughtering almost everything you come across). One of my favourite lines from the game is in the mandatory dream sequence bit where it reuses his lines from earlier in different contexts: “Kid wakes up. Nah, I’m just kidding.” Chilling.

  25. mforww says:

    One of the most overrated games I’ve ever had the displeasure of purchasing.

    The story, combat, characters, hell… basically everything except the art, was bad. I think I beat the game in a measly handful of hours. The combat was like a worse Diablo. The RPG aspect, if you want to even call it that, was pitiful. You learn very little about the characters and world in comparison to games with fully-fleshed worlds like Pillars of Eternity. The plot is bland as bland could be.

    Quite frankly, I’m not even sure how as many people liked this game as they did.

  26. gpown says:

    Tried twice, got bored within an hour both times. The combat presented itself as shallow and unsatisfying from the very start, using a bow was even worse, and the Southern American tone was annoying, but that’s a matter of taste. The narrator himself annoyed me by trying to sound intriguing about boring things.

    On the other hand, I absolutely LOVED Transistor. It actually put me in the middle of an interesting story, with characters that it made me care about (as opposed to a kid with a hammer, the kid swings the hammer, he swings it a lot, he picks up a shield, the shield is sturdy and rectangular oh won’t you shut up already) For some reason Transistor isn’t so universally loved.

  27. rasko1nikov says:

    I’ve tried to get into this game two or three times but it’s never happened. Which is a shame as I feel like I’m the target audience: I dig good writing and interesting worlds. Not overly bothered about mechanics if I’m invested in the world itself. Each time I load up and start, though, I can’t get past how twee the world is, and how horrid and annoying the narrator is too. Twee about sums it up.

    Ah well.

  28. kevstradamus says:

    If ya’ll like Bastion, check out Transistor, that game grabbed me and held me in place as it proceeded to decimate my innards.

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  30. Thankmar says:

    As these things play out, I finally finished Bastion Friday or Saturday night, after buying it in the Humble Indie Bundle 5, I think. Installed it right away, started to play and it took me till now to finish it, because I just played it a little, bounced off and put it on hold for months, but my OCD got met going on.

    With me its like most people here that didn’t get into it: I liked the art and the narrator (there are just not enough lavishly bright and colorful games out there), not so much the combat. For me it felt kinda soapy, as if you have no real connection to the world around you, theres no feedback when hitting anything, its just the hp going down. Its like hitting air instead of enemies.
    Also, the character progression felt stale since the upgrade materials for the weapons are in fixed places. I honestly cannot say anything about the story since I forgot most it over the time, the ending was kind of meh (partially because I forgot most of the story).
    Really liked the narrator though, I am a sucker for things like that and love Max Payne to bits for this, for instance.

    It does so much things right, concept-wise: the build-your-own-difficulty system, the in-game achievements, the nice challenges for every weapon, the multitude of weapons to freely choose from and so on. It just failed to click with me, and besides the combat, I cannot even say why that is.

    Bastion is clearly “a success of style over substance”, like it is called in the WIT, but for me its not a win high enough to really like it, despite desperately wanting too. But I think I will have go at Transistor at some point, just to check out if the clearly talented supergiant people hit my particular spot with that.