Daily Rant, Video Games

Day 181: Bastion (the game, not the blizzard character)

Let’s start today’s rant off with something different: a little test of consistency. Here’s what I want you to do: Google Bastion. Nothing else, just that one word. Then, after the page loads, go over to the image tab.

Now, here’s the question: which did you see first? A screenshot from Bastion the game from 2011?

Or the Overwatch character? Y’know, the robot dude that everyone hates?

At least I think they do. I don’t actually play Overwatch; the game doesn’t catch my interest, no matter how much I want it to.

But you know what popular game did manage to catch my interest?

Bastion.

(That was one of the worst transitions I’ve ever done, I’m so sorry.)

For a game that came out seven years ago, this game still holds up really well to this day. The visual style is distinct in all the best ways, the visual story-telling is one point, the story is short and sweet (and also beatable within three hours) and the game is smooth to control and fun.

And yes, I know: the narrator is pretty great too. Overrated, if you ask me, but he still adds a great level of fun and charm to the game.

I’ve known about this game for just about as long as it’s been out, but I had only just gotten around to finishing it today after having bought it last month on a Steam sale (along with Transistor and Pyre, both of which I am super excited to play now). But it never really caught my attention like the other two did.

Much like Overwatch (I made the joke earlier, so I may as use it more) which is also hugely popular, I found Bastion to be really hard to be interested in. I find that the more overwhelmingly popular something is, the harder it is for me to get around to it. And it’s not just games. It took me ages to watch Attack on Titan (and I still beat Season 2), equally long to read the Harry Potter books in my youth (but now I’ve read them all three times, so it’s okay).

But unlike Overwatch, Bastion had one major thing that drew me in: a story.

See, if I haven’t made it clear before, I love nothing more than a well-told story. Interesting characters that grow and learn in ways that develop the plot, a fascinating and sometimes fantastical setting, and good music (when it comes to movies and TV shows at least) are all major factors in grabbing my interest in any product.

Bastion has all three of these things in spades. The game uses the mechanic of the level constructing itself as you go not just for a cool gameplay gimmick: it plays a part in the story. Speaking of which, the story does my favorite thing for any story to do.

See, Bastion doesn’t hold your hand. It drops you straight into this world, where the floor rises to meet your feet and a sassy narrator is the only consistent company you’ll ever get. Right off the bat, you start learning little bits and pieces: something about a Calamity, monsters are everywhere, and all the people you find are stone dead.

Quite literally.

But as it progresses, you start learning more and more. (Spoilers for a seven year old game, by the way. Look for the CAPS LOCK BOLDED message to avoid those if you care). You learn that the Calamity wasn’t a natural event, and that it was brought about as an attempt to wipe out an entire country in order to prevent any further wars with them. You also learn that one of your companions, the first whom you rescue in the game, figured this out way before you did and tried to enact revenge.

This leads to my favorite moment in the game, and one of my new favorite moments in all of video games.

See, in the last ten minutes or so in the game, as you reach the final level, you find the new primary enemy of the game beating down a body on the ground. This body is the man who betrayed you earlier in the game. Now, you have a choice: focus more on the good he did you than the bad and forgive him, or leave him to die and slaughter his clansmen.

As tempting as the latter was, I decided to go with the former.

If you should choose to pick up his body, then you’re left completely defenseless. You drop all your weapons, sling him over your shoulder, and saunter up the stairs towards the exit. But the enemies aren’t done with you; they’ll sit by and shoot you with arrows as you pass, rapidly eating away at your now invisible health bar. But as you move further and further into their ranks, and the number of them only grows, they all take notice of your actions. At this point, you are on the brink of death: the screen is gray, the somber insert song is slow and quiet, and you are moving by so slowly that you feel the pain in the Kid’s body.

It’s here that the enemy finally lays down their weapons and let you pass. Hell, one of them picks up his bow and starts shooting again only to be swiftly struck down by one of the others. Now, as the crowds look on, you limp over to the exit of the level, body over your shoulders, and the screen fades to black.

Then, when the loading screen fades, you return to see what you always see when you load in: the Kid, face down in the dirt. But this time, when he tries to get up, he goes right back down. The narrator pleads, tells him that it’s not funny and to stand, and for a moment you honestly believe the Kid might not do it. But after three attempts, he gets back up and you move on to the end of the game.

Here, your faced with another choice which I love: reverse time and undo the Calamity (a lot happens to make that a thing, don’t worry it doesn’t come completely out of nowhere) or evacuate and leave the world as it is. Simply put: live in the past or live for the future.

I mentioned a few Daily Rants ago that I love ambiguous endings. Endings that ask you ‘which one is the better alternative’ are endlessly fascinating to me. And this one does this spectacularly: either option could be considered good or bad. The pros are just as strong as the cons, so you aren’t wrong in either choice.

So I choose to evacuate and live for the future.

Words cannot express how much I love this ending. The emotion, the choices involved, and all the actions that led the characters here are simply wonderful. It’s honestly one of my favorite endings in the history of video games.

Now…

OKAY GUYS SPOILERS ARE DONE YOU CAN READ AGAIN!!

I’m honestly sad that I got this game done in three hours. But at the same time, I’m glad that it didn’t drag. The story was perfectly paced, everything looked and sounded amazing, and most importantly: it was tons of fun.

Simple, emotional and engaging fun.

Unlike Overwatch. Nothing about that is fun.

And now to watch this little house of cards of mine burn…

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