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July 25, 2011 5:36 PM   Subscribe

Last week saw the first release of this year's Summer of Arcade, Bastion (Trailer 1, Trailer 2). Reactions have generally been very positive, including from the venerable Tom Chick and Kill Screen. Drawing praise are the art, writing (by game critic turned developer Greg Kasavin) and music (unofficial playlist, somewhat spoilery). But most noted has been the dynamic narration that permeates the game.

Giant Bomb closely followed its development. (GB Quick Look.) Giant Bomb's principals and Kasavin all worked for Gamespot once upon a time. (Previously.)
posted by kmz (44 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Bastion's a great little game. It's simple, being a $15 XBLA title and all. But it's fun and the art direction and music are great. Nice to play something that doesn't look like space marines and busty elves. The narration is a neat gimmick. So is the map reveal; instead of a fog of war disappearing the world actually builds itself as you move through it.
posted by Nelson at 5:40 PM on July 25, 2011


Metafilter: The kid just rages for awhile...
posted by juv3nal at 5:40 PM on July 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


It looks like it's sprite-based instead of 3D... should I be able to play this on a machine with a decent processor and memory capacity, but no GFX card?
posted by codacorolla at 5:42 PM on July 25, 2011


It's an Xbox game.
posted by EmGeeJay at 5:46 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It looks like it's sprite-based instead of 3D... should I be able to play this on a machine with a decent processor and memory capacity, but no GFX card?

Maybe? The pc version isn't due until the end of the year so I don't think they've released any minimum requirement specs.
posted by juv3nal at 5:47 PM on July 25, 2011


I haven't read the reviews yet, but I bought it on a whim a few days ago. The hand-drawn art is total eye-candy. The action is fast and engaging. The narration errs on the side of cheesiness pretty often (is that intentional? I can't tell), but it's a pleasure to hear anyway. I'm pretty happy I picked this one up.
posted by naju at 5:50 PM on July 25, 2011


This looks potentially compelling but my one basic test for narration-heavy but not narrative-based games like this, no matter how amazing the narration is supposed to be, is: Can the player skip all the narration and cut scenes with little or no hassle?.

Otherwise, no dice.
posted by Bwithh at 5:54 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


This is a great game. Even better, XBLA's Summer of Arcade will also be bringing us From Dust tomorrow and Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet a week after that. PC/PS3 versions sure to follow, but I can't wait. It's a good summer for games!!!
posted by PapaLobo at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I tried Bastion out. Then I got to the end of the trial version, and rather than just a screen suggesting I pay for the full version and continue, the narrator who'd been telling the story of my adventures thanked me for my time, and for listening to his yarn. I hit "Buy full game" pretty much reflexively and I have rarely been happier to spend $15. Is it perfect? Well, I guess not quite. But rarely have I had to think so hard about what's not right about a game; all my attention, all my memory, is about how delightful an experience I had. The narration, the dynamic difficulty system (there's no Easy vs Hard mode; you can choose to invoke various gods, who will make the game harder in various ways while compensating you with more XP), the carefully implied rich background history...

If you have an XBox, go play it and love it. If you have a PC, wait a bit for it to come out, and play it and love it. Basically, I advise you to go and love it ASAP.
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:56 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just played the demo, but I'm not sure about the full game. I like action RPGs, but I've got a bunch of free iPhone games that have great sprite art and 'kill things, roll, kill other things' mechanics. I like the graphics and the narration, but the view seems a bit too zoomed out and I'm not sure if the combat will have enough crunch.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:58 PM on July 25, 2011


This looks potentially compelling but my one basic test for narration-heavy but not narrative-based games like this, no matter how amazing the narration is supposed to be, is: Can the player skip all the narration and cut scenes with little or no hassle?.

There are basically no cut scenes.

I don't know what you mean by skipping the narration. The narration is the story. And it plays as you experience the game. As in, you're marching around and killing things and picking up items, and a guy's describing your activities. What's there to skip? It's not like it's pausing the action to talk at you. Plus, some of it is intended to guide you - to tell you how an item works, or how to fight a new enemy. This is, in fact, a narrative-based game.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:00 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish they would release this, From Dust, and ITSP for PC already so I can throw my money at them.
posted by JauntyFedora at 6:01 PM on July 25, 2011


I don't know what you mean by skipping the narration. The narration is the story.

Some of us like games without any story, though. I can see the narration getting annoying, like Navi's 'hey listen!' in Ocarina of Time.

OTOH, maybe the narration will mitigate the 'lonely game' effect I get when playing a game too long?

Plus, some of it is intended to guide you - to tell you how an item works, or how to fight a new enemy.

Can't we figure that out ourselves?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:01 PM on July 25, 2011


Lovecraft, it seems as though playing this game without narration would be like playing spoons (the card game) without spoons. Yes, there are card games that do not require spoons. But spoons... does. And yes, there are games where narration/cut scenes are not integral components. But in this game, the narration is central.

It's okay that some people won't like this and some people will. It's not an existential crisis. It's just the particular set of weaknesses and strengths that make the game what it is.
posted by jsturgill at 6:06 PM on July 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm generally against narrative as a focus in games, but that's an entirely different thing from 'narration'. It sounds like these guys didn't just tack on a story with cut scenes, or write the story first and then build a game around it. It sounds like they designed a game with the narration as a cohesive part of the experience from the beginning, which I'm 100% okay with. I'll probably pick it up this weekend.
posted by empath at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2011


Some of us like games without any story, though.

Then Bastion is not a game that's really made for you. There are lots of other fun games out there without live narration; you'd probably be better off playing one of them.

I can see the narration getting annoying, like Navi's 'hey listen!' in Ocarina of Time.

yeah, but that's the thing - it doesn't. Crucially, it's not repetitious, which is the main quality that makes you want to throw things through the TV when games try to have characters say things at you a lot.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2011


Some of us like games without any story, though. I can see the narration getting annoying, like Navi's 'hey listen!' in Ocarina of Time.

To me, what matters is the quality of the narration, and the quality of writing in the trailers at least is pretty entertaining. What makes Navi annoying is that she just repeats the same things over and over, and never has anything truly useful or interesting to say. What makes the majority of game cutscenes bad is the fact that the majority of game cutscenes are really poorly written and really poorly directed. They're not bad because "CUTSCENES ARE BAD GRAR." They're just bad.

Of course, if you really, really just don't want story elements at all, there are a million games already catering to you, so. Yeah.

This looks wonderful and gorgeous, though, so I'm happy for the FPP. I'll probably forget about it entirely by the time it gets a release I can play, so then I can get pleasantly surprised all over again. Yay!

It's kind of funny, though; I remember someone describing more or less this exact concept on a game design forum a long, long time ago... I have to wonder...
posted by byanyothername at 6:18 PM on July 25, 2011



Of course, if you really, really just don't want story elements at all, there are a million games already catering to you, so. Yeah.


There really aren't, not these days.
Let me rephrase the question: putting aside the story, does the game hold up mechanically throughout its length?
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 6:20 PM on July 25, 2011


Does anybody know where to find the track used in the launch trailer? I emailed the guy who compiled the unofficial playlist in the post, but he said he didn't have it and couldn't even remember it being used in the game. For anyone who's been following the game's development, is the full track available somewhere without the narration (gorgeous as it is)? Or is there anybody who knows somebody on the team who can try to get it released?

I know they're considering making an official soundtrack, but it sounds like far from a done deal.
posted by Rhaomi at 6:35 PM on July 25, 2011


Let me rephrase the question: putting aside the story, does the game hold up mechanically throughout its length?

Yeah, I think so. But again, this is kind of beside the point. Yes, games need a fairly strident set of criteria to be "games" as opposed to "interactive art", but part of Bastion's triumph is it's ability to successfully integrate narrative into the play-process, as opposed to just kind of laying it on top of a finished game.

Point being: The story, the narration, is part of the experience and it is, essentially, an incomplete experience without. Just as much as if you removed the gameplay
posted by GilloD at 6:37 PM on July 25, 2011


I hate annoying narrative in games too. I've literally never been able to play a Final Fantasy game, despite trying multiple times, because the 20 minutes of cut scene at the start of each game defeated me. Bastion's not like that. There's some narrative, and you can't turn it off or skip it, but it's also not getting in the way. And the other parts of the game are fun and beautiful.
posted by Nelson at 7:09 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Finished it, or at least the central story, this weekend. The narrative conceit is fun an fits the gameplay perfectly. I laughed out loud at the narrator's first few words, merely because they reminded me of a Randy Newman gag in an episode of Family Guy.

The story itself is intriguing at first, but didn't really doesn't hold together at the end.

Gameplay is pretty solid. As a whole it's a well thought out game with some original elements wrapped around a fun, if way easy in the default configuration, action RPG.

I had a lot of fun with it.
posted by eyeballkid at 7:48 PM on July 25, 2011


I watched Bastion being played this weekend. It was extremely beautiful, but god, the narration grated on me. It was, well, cheesy isn't the word, because apparently the guy actually does talk like that and his inflection was always very even-handed... It was more like, I didn't find the deliberately paced, mysterious sort of "let me tell you a story" attitude bearable for more than ten minutes of my undivided attention. I'm sure it would have been different had I been playing the game at the same time - I plan on trying it out soon - but I really dislike gameplay that depends on button pressing speed in any respect.

Hopefully the people that make Bastion will continue making more games, because I think the elements for something much larger and less twitch-dependent, and even more dynamically balanced, are all there in Bastion. And that they never fire a single person who worked on the visuals.
posted by Mizu at 7:54 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


like Navi's 'hey listen!' in Ocarina of Time.

You really shouldn't use phrases like that without a trigger warning.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 9:53 PM on July 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Bastion" is the Polish title of "The Stand", so at first I felt like I was transported to a slightly alternate reality. Then, whew!
posted by hat_eater at 1:14 AM on July 26, 2011


"Bastion" is the Polish title of "The Stand", so at first I felt like I was transported to a slightly alternate reality. Then, whew!

If the narrator starts singing 'Baby Can You Dig Your Man?' at the end, I'll, er, eat my hat.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 1:27 AM on July 26, 2011


Gee, X-boxes. Hm. Maybe MeFi needs software reviews for Linux next. Might as well, since it's probably about twice as common.
posted by markkraft at 3:47 AM on July 26, 2011


If the narrator starts singing 'Baby Can You Dig Your Man?' at the end, I'll, er, eat my hat.
If at first you don't succeed, soak it in dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane. I read somewhere it's absolutely safe.
posted by hat_eater at 4:11 AM on July 26, 2011


I guess I'll have to try it again - I couldn't even make it though the demo without being bored.
posted by synthetik at 7:24 AM on July 26, 2011


I found the narration annoying and quit the demo before finishing. I recognize and appreciate the attempt to do some interesting things in a game, but personally I want those things to be gameplay-related, not story- or art design-related. The gameplay in Bastion is basically a typical dungeon crawl, at least in what I played.

For example, the gameplay in Braid is the kind of innovation I like... I have hopes that From Dust will deliver in the interesting gameplay department.
posted by Huck500 at 8:17 AM on July 26, 2011


The narration thing was done first in this Lovecraftian indie game, btw.
posted by empath at 8:31 AM on July 26, 2011


It's called Bastion and it features a world that has fallen apart into Nothing. Are there other Neverending Story nods, or is that the extent of it right there?
posted by gurple at 8:59 AM on July 26, 2011


The storytelling in Bastion is quite superb. The story itself is just another videogame plotline, (this-weird-race-that-weird-race-there-was-a-war), and lacks characterisation, dynamism and tension--mostly because it uses the old device of filling in the backstory instead of making us interested in what's happening in the game-narrative *now*. As someone who's spent the last twenty years banging the drum for story in game, I am depressed that this thing is going to win awards for this cobbled-together nonsense.
posted by Hogshead at 12:34 AM on July 27, 2011


Tom Chick interviews Greg Kasavin. Best appreciated after playing the game.
posted by Drastic at 5:45 AM on July 27, 2011


Soundtrack on youtube
Rucks outtakes (?)
posted by juv3nal at 1:01 AM on July 28, 2011


Ah nevermind about the soundtrack then, I see it was in the OP.
posted by juv3nal at 1:37 AM on July 28, 2011


Of course, after all my bitching I just bought the game... sounds like what I need right now.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:25 AM on August 5, 2011


Official soundtrack is out!
posted by kmz at 7:41 AM on August 5, 2011


Wow... narration isn't obnoxious, and it actually is difficult. The shield feels really crunchy, and the flamethrower is a joy. My words have been eaten.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:20 AM on August 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


And the PC version will be coming out August 16 on Steam, already available for pre-order.
posted by kmz at 8:36 AM on August 5, 2011


Holy cats, the whole soundtrack is officially available for free streaming here and is amazing. Here's the piece from the trailer I was looking for earlier.

I might have to buy this for the music alone.
posted by Rhaomi at 9:17 AM on August 5, 2011


bastion in real life
posted by juv3nal at 3:46 PM on August 5, 2011


I just beat this. Really enjoyable, and I love the weapons.
Popmatters has two reviews. The older one had what I thought was a spoiler, but it turned out to be unintentional.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:00 AM on August 6, 2011


Just realized that the top down action RPG gameplay themed around rebuilding a world connects this to Soul Blazer and Terrenigma.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 12:51 AM on August 7, 2011


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