Kid wakes up, finds his world destroyed. Mighty inconvenient. He gets up. Sets off for the Bastion, where everyone agreed to go in case of trouble.
But there's nobody there, no body left, except for an old man called Rucks. He tells the Kid the Calamity destroyed the world and everyone in it. Kid's kinda bummed. But then Rucks says there might just be a chance to save it, if the Bastion can be re-built. Kid wants to be a hero, so he sets off to save what's left of the world. And maybe, just maybe, he can do it...
In typical indie fashion, Bastion takes an innovative idea and serves it up to you delicious and moist -- and here that's a reactive story, read out by a narrator, that changes depending on how you play.
It's voiced by a new actor called Logan Cunningham, whose baritone tones alone could unlatch bra straps. There are some 60,000 spoken words in the game -- which is to say, a small novel. Hearing him chime in with quips like "the Kid just raged awhile" when you first discover you can destroy pretty much anything with your hammer, or "Kid's been down the path enough times it's starting to feel familiar" when you die more than once on a level, is what makes Bastion such a gem to play.
At its core Bastion is a hack'n'slash with RPG elements -- you can level the Kid, find and upgrade all manner of fun and devious weapons, and combine these with Brews that grant passive abilities like extra health or critical hits. Somehow, despite the differences in weapon abilities, the developers have managed to balance it such that any combination can ultimately see you through to the end. And the narrator has a comment for every type of combination you choose.
And then there's idols, which you can activate as you find them to make the game [i]harder[/i], such as making enemies hit and move faster. In return there are small rewards, like an XP bonus, but ultimately this is a brilliant mechanism to allow the player to challenge themselves. A game with all the idols activated is impressively hard.
The art is another feature that sets the game apart, a wonderfully colourful hand-drawn world of hovering platforms that rise to meet your feet as you walk -- the remains of Caelondia after the Cataclysm -- through which you slowly unravel the story behind what happened.
Without giving too much away, the story isn't just a decoration as we're so used to these days. As you discover how the Calamity came about you're hit with a kind poignant moment when you realise who the bad guys really are. And at the end you're asked to make an important decision that can actually fit into a subsequent playthrough if you so choose (called New Game +, adding to the replayability). We don't want to spoil it, but guaranteed you'll sit there scratching your head for a while before you make a decision. And it may haunt you afterwards.
The narrator, the art, the story, the simple but enjoyable gameplay mechanics -- it's a no brainer to grab this at just $15. The PC version supports a higher resolution than the Xbox (1080p vs 720p) and more flexibility for the controls, as well as contains an easter egg that links to Portal 2. There's obviously a lot of love between Valve and Supergiant Games, with a promo featuring the narrator picking a bone with Cave Johnson himself, which you can hear right... here.