From the beginning, though, you're not told much. When the game's hero, "The Kid," wakes up from a deep sleep, the world around him has already been destroyed -- but you don't know why. That's when the narration starts to kick in. As you take your first steps through Bastion, the gruff voice of an old man details your every action. As you pick up a hammer, the old man notes how this sturdy tool is like your best friend. When you discover a treasure, the old man might recall the history and folklore of its origin. It's clear he's telling this story to someone, but whom that is remains a mystery for a while.
Bastion's artwork is incredible, and the constantly-shifting isometric world is always presenting you with a new challenge.
Piece by piece, as you go through the game, it's through the old man that you learn what's happening. As you slept, the world was destroyed by an event called the Calamity. Everyone you know is dead. All that's left are fractured pieces of the continent, magically floating in the sky. And somehow, you can fix everything, save everyone, and restore everything with the Bastion -- a structure created by the old man that can rebuild the world, if it should ever break apart. Like a box of treasure, the story just gets better the further you delve into it.
At the core, Bastion's main conflict lies between two warring races, but the focus is on the main characters, whose histories are also revealed piece by piece. Overall, the constant narration never gets old (voice actor Logan Cunningham's timing and delivery carry the story incredibly well), and the payoff at the end of the game is memorable, presenting you with choices that are neither good nor bad, but thought-provoking all the same.
Each weapon in Bastion has benefits and drawbacks, but you can customize your own latent abilities and special attacks, plus the strength of the game's enemies.
Since Bastion's story isn't laid out for you all at once, there's constant surprises and plot threads that are strewn throughout the 10-to-15 hour adventure. At least, that's how much time it takes to truly plumb the depths of Bastion. Throughout the game's numerous worlds, the isometric artwork paints a vivid adventure that's equal parts dungeon crawling, level grinding, and treasure hunting. Bastion's world teems with bright colour and dangerous enemies, and if you desire, the difficulty can be either a firm challenge or a taxing struggle. It's your choice.
But while the setting and story are entirely unique experiences, the action-RPG combat should be familiar to any gamer. Enemies will swarm you in groups, and survival largely depends on your reflexes and choice of weapon. Although you can only carry two weapons at the time, bringing things back to the titular Bastion further aids the Kid as you retrieve survivors, collect gear, and build "foundations" that become your home base shops.
As you play, you'll likely start to favour trusty twin pistols over a flamethrower, or perhaps you'll shelve your hammer for a longer-range hunter's pike. All the options you're given are an incredible mix, and that variety contributes to Bastion's addictive appeal.
As you level up throughout Bastion, enemies in the wild will grow in number and size, forcing you to fight smartly instead of using simple hack-and-slash tactics.
Microsoft has always managed to find specific titles that make Xbox Live's Summer of Arcade a worthy line-up of interesting artistic games, and Bastion stands right at the top with LIMBO and Braid. Supergiant Games has created an outstanding experience that arguably raises the visual and narrative bar for downloadable titles, and while it's not the genre-changer that Braid may have been, it's nonetheless a stellar first outing that does everything it attempts with wonderful finesse.