Tear down the walls
As much as they’d like to, many gamers weaned on classic fantasy role-playing epics simply don’t have the time to sink into a 40-hour grind like Dragon Age anymore. Well, casual dungeon crawlers finally have a suitable option with the first entry into this year’s Xbox Live Arcade Summer of Arcade.
A real-time action-RPG with a top-down, hack-n-slash flair reminiscent of Gauntlet Legends, Bastion puts you in command of the The Kid, a young adult who’s seen his share of hardship and now finds himself as one of his world’s last living beings after a great calamity wipes out all he’s ever known and loved. Luckily, his people proved prudent and planned for such a disaster when they built the great Bastion, a protective postapocalyptic fortress—but even that’s in shambles and must be rebuilt by The Kid and other survivors.
Bastion not only succeeds in finding a balance between keeping the action quick and simple, but also in providing an engaging story that imparts a vested interest in the characters. The story’s real-time narrator describes every one of your actions “live,” which compels you to continue on even when the game’s dozen or so levels start to feel repetitive. The narrator also helps to set the atmosphere; you feel a real sense of sorrow as you observe less-fortunate citizens who’ve been petrified—akin to real-life victims of ancient Rome’s Mt. Vesuvius in Pompeii millennia ago. As you approach each citizen frozen in charcoal, the narrator tells of who they once were and how they lived—and it’s perhaps the the most haunting graveyard you’ll ever find in a game.
Bastion’s only real drawback lies in the overall lack of choice; many levels are unlocked one right after the other, so with your path already laid out, you don’t really directly influence any story elements beyond your weapon selection and leveling-up bonuses. Despite this, the game remains immensely replayable, as you’ve got weapon challenges, three Horde-like levels with 20 waves of enemies, and several side quests. With a terrific plot, tremendous atmosphere, and solid gameplay, Bastion’s just the latest in the long list of stellar Summer of Arcade downloadable titles.
SUMMARY: Casual dungeon crawlers finally have a suitable option with this gorgeous, immersive downloadable RPG.
- THE GOOD: Old-school dungeon-crawler with fresh, stylized design twists
- THE BAD: Quests can become repetitive
- THE UGLY: More linear than most RPG fans may like