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CVG
13 Reviews

Bastion

It's you and me, Kid

"A proper story's supposed to start at the beginning. Ain't so simple with this one. Here's a kid whose whole world got all twisted - leaving him stranded on a rock in the sky."

Bastion's gravel-voiced, wizened narrator doesn't do 'Once upon a time'.

Rucks is well-versed in your fate, your foes and your future - and before you've even trodden down a single blade of grass in SuperGiantGames' impressive debut title, he's begun drawling out his all-knowing balladry.

For the next seven hours, he calmly offers cryptic, languid half-riddles about things he's seen that you're yet to encounter; remarking on your mistakes and triumphs as if they were merely part of his forewritten tale.

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His tone is deep and earnest - two parts Jack Daniel's ad voiceover, one part Morgan Freeman - and he confidently matches almost your every move around Bastion's grassy and floral locales.

It's a neat trick that rarely wavers off course; even if you suddenly flee from a scrap, drop off a ledge or meet your demise, there's Rucks, ready with a custom descriptive nugget.

SuperGiant's use of Rucks as a vocal centrepiece isn't just a charming trinket, however. He provides a key and underused gameplay function - the ability to keep the player calm.

Even in Bastion's most frenetic hack'n'slash battles, his touch of knowing tranquillity reminds you not to merely grind on through, but to actually enjoy the world around you.

And Bastion's is certainly a world worth enjoying. An enchanting hand-painted art style combines with imaginatively bizarre enemies and the game's trademark ground formation, which solidifies, rock by rock, underfoot as you canter around.

The overall effect is something akin to an interactive pastel comic, given extra gravitas by some refreshingly sincere folklore, tragic tales and, naturally, Rucks's reassuring timbre.

At the beginning of Bastion's journey, the narrator introduces our protagonist, The Kid, and spins us a little backstory. We learn that an apolocalyptic moment, described as 'The Calamity', has shattered the stunning Caelondia into disparate lands, and filled them with meanies of comic shape and proportion.

Your fateful task is to return six chunks of blue crystal-like 'core' from these areas (collectively dubbed the Wild Unknown) to The Bastion - a lush safe harbour where survivors agreed to gather during The Calamity. Sadly, The Kid appears to be the only one still standing.

The chunks of core help rebuild The Bastion to its former glory, with each erecting buildings that play a key role in levelling up your character. As pieces of the Core are returned, you'll create an armoury (weapon choice), Distillery (potions) and Forge (weapon improvement), as well as a Memorial to remember the Calamity's victims.

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It's at the Bastion that you first meet Rucks, and first stumble onto the SkyWay - a transportation device which flings you towards each new world and, crucially, the next piece of the core.

In an industry where 'indie studio' often automatically equates to 'ropey but fun', SuperGiant has certainly fought against convention with Bastion. The polish and high production easily even puts the likes of Braid to shame. If you're looking for stylised atmosphere and charm, Bastion offers it in spades.

Rucks' deep-throated delivery is brilliantly complemented by the game's music, which blends acoustic blues, trip-hop, choral chanting and even raga to otherworldly effect. Its role shouldn't be dismissed - each time you return to the Bastion, the combination of Ruck's throaty welcome and rootsy, homegrown strumming lend the land a real feeling of home and sanctity.

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