August 4, 2011 12:00 PM | Michael Rose
This year's Xbox Live Summer of Arcade somehow caught me off guard, and I've just now got around to giving each title in the series a play. Bastion is one of the games featured in this year's lineup, and a title that I'm already quite familiar with, having judged it for the IGF last year. Somehow, however, I'd managed to forget just how brilliant this game actually is.
I always find it interesting when a title that has seemingly average gameplay manages to completely captivate me via multiple other routes. Technically speaking, Bastion is your bog-standard hack-and-slasher in which you run at enemies and hammer the B button, or hammer another button to fire at them from afar. Yet while the game doesn't really feature anything new in terms of basic gameplay, it's everything that it chucks on top which makes this an essential download.
Personality, variety, stunning visuals, story - it has pretty much everything else going for it. You've no doubt watched the videos by now, and know all about the cool-as-fcuk voice-over that commentates on everything you see and do. The underlying story that shrouds the entire game in mystery is sublime, and I found myself unable to stop playing for hours on end, since I just had to unravel each next mystery as it came.
Each level holds a core that you must find, and each core retrieved can then be banged into a pedestal in the Bastion, adding new areas for you to build up and use to your advantages. Level design is varied and always keeps you second-guessing - you'll be holding a point defensive-style one moment, and pelting along a collapsing walkway the next. After hours of play, you'll still be seeing new elements, weapons, enemies, and still be completely enthralled.
There's so much customization too. In the Bastion, you can choose which buildings to construct and in what order, and each allows you to play around with your weapons and abilities, with tons of different combinations and upgrades. You can even add extra difficulty elements to the game, bumping up - for example - the damage enemies give to you, in exchange for extra experience points.
If you own an Xbox and have been considering this one, I'd suggest you go ahead and grab it. If you're on the fence, at least grab the demo. This game alone makes this year's Summer of Arcade a success.