The Kid is a nobody. The Calamity happens, everything he’s ever held dear and everyone he’s ever known are gone, washed away like a memory. He makes his way to the Bastion, where he meets Rucks. As one of only two Caelondian survivors of The Calamity, the Kid is thrust into the unlikely role of hero. The Kid is now a somebody.
By never giving ‘the Kid’ a name, developers Supergiant Games have created a hero that is both no one and everyone; he could be you, he could be me, but what really matters is the determination he exhibits. Unmotivated by the tropes that litter other action/RPG stories, the Kid simply knows that he has to press on, he has to restore the mysterious Bastion, and he has to make a difference in this post-Calamity world, because no one else can.
In a criminally underused delivery method for interactive media, Bastion’s story is simultaneously told as the player creates it. The only other survivor, Rucks, lends his voice, narrating the Kid’s exploits. Trading between a detailed play-by-play and narrative exposition, everything the Kid does is given an increased sense of importance. Small bits of back story and history are peppered throughout, painting a vivid picture of the prosperous floating city of Caelondia; a veritable utopia struck down by The Calamity. Tales of the Brushers and the Marshals create a context, an idea that much has come before you, and that that legacy now rests alone, on your shoulders.
To restore the Bastion, and thus, potentially, save Caelondia’s memory, Rucks needs the energy of the Cores. Scattered throughout the remains of the city and its outskirts, the Cores yielded the power that kept Caelondia afloat. Stripping the defunct neighborhoods of their Core sends the ruins into disarray, literally crumbling away into nothingness. It’s a powerful notion to absorb: to bring about new life you must destroy what remains.
Fittingly, the vast majority of the Kid’s journey is paved with combat. Scumbags, squirts and anklegators remain in the aftermath, a diverse collection of indigenous species that have been thrown into chaos by The Calamity. Like the Kid and Rucks, they’re struggling to find their place in this shattered world, and it’s important to remember that they aren’t really the enemy, but rather obstacles. To hurdle said obstructions, the kid is privy to a vast, steadily growing arsenal of Caelondian weaponry. Broken up into melee weapons and firearms, what’s most impressive about each tool is the lore that accompanies it. Again, Supergiant Games have meticulously crafted a world where everything has an explanation, and those origins remind you of the relevance of your actions.
Combat itself bears more in common with traditional action games than it does other hack ‘n’ slash role-playing efforts. With two weapons equipped at all times, the Kid is an agile fighter adept in either close-quarter or ranged fights – assuming you outfit him properly. A roll and counter-attack provide reliable defensive options, making both evasion and precision necessary tools for the job. Admittedly, combat makes up the overwhelming amount of Bastion. The repetition of the ‘fight and then fight some more’ design makes it difficult early in the journey to care about what you’re doing, where you are, or even who you’re fighting.
What eventually saves combat, and thus Bastion as a whole, is the wide variety of options and weapon combinations that are steadily fed to the Kid. Through the use of weapon upgrades, Idols, the Proving Grounds and Memorials, Supergiant Games knows that combat is their game and provides a host of ways to ensure its enjoyment. However, it’s a subtle improvement in the level variety and enemy design that ultimately pull you in for the second and final act.
Following Rucks’ tale toward its conclusion, Bastion will undoubtedly be remembered for its personality. Caelondia is a beautiful, vibrant locale to behold, punctuated by a fitting soundtrack that will surprise as often as it delights. But, it’s the characters and creatures of this world that make the experience so special and memorable; each is believable, making their motives palpable. Caelondia is a city worth saving, making it that much harder to let die. Don’t let that happen, restore the Bastion.