It's the way the game is presented and the ever present narration that makes Bastion an undeniably cool experience from start to finish. Players take on the role of the Kid as he fights to rebuild a bastion in a post-apocalyptic world. Every move you make, every enemy you fight and every item you find is narrated as part of the constantly changing story of the game.
At first, that sounds like it could be annoying. Were it not for the quality of the narration itself, both in writing and delivery, this game would likely be impossible to play. However, the presence of the voiceover is a welcome treat throughout the entire experience, and it actually works well to bolster the narrative rather than beat it to death.
Mechanically, Bastion falls somewhere between great and mediocre. It's, at its core, a basic hack n' slash dungeon crawler. The levels are inventive as they actually fall into place as you explore them, something explained by the Calamity (the apocalyptic event), but they're often limited to their own dungeon-esque nature. Take away the way levels reveal themselves by falling into place and they go from pleasant to boring immediately.
Weapons and a single special skill slot can be changed from a specific access point in the game. That location, the arsenal, is available in the game's hub world or in certain spots on certain levels. The nice part about Bastion is that each weapon and each special skill can be selected based on specific needs. New weapons and skills are also collected constantly throughout the adventure, and weapons are upgradeable.
However, those two positives don't necessarily mesh with one another. Every time you find a new weapon or skill, it overrides your personal selection. So the things you picked out and buffed up specifically for that level are skipped and ignored. What makes this worse is the fact that some special skills are only associated with some weapons; if you have a bow and a bow skill when you find a new gun, that special skill is yanked automatically with the bow. That means you're left the rest of the level without a special until you find a new arsenal.
While initially fun to fool with, especially given the gives and takes of each weapon, the combat portion of Bastion wears dull over time. That's not necessarily a knock on this game in particular, it's more so a knock on the genre itself. Bastion simply applies the pre-established norms of its genre, but that doesn't mean that old, boring mechanics go unnoticed.
For its style, in visual, aural and narrative senses, Bastion is a fantastic addition to the Xbox LIVE Arcade lineup. The game's length, unlockables, hidden items and challenges make it a solid experience with strong replay value. Plus, like I said, this title feels cool throughout, and there's a lot of charm in that fact that makes Bastion a great game to own.
Bastion is available now on the Xbox LIVE Arcade for 1200 Points. The game will also eventually ship on the PC platform.