Xbox LIVE’s Summer of Arcade was a wild success last year, so this year Microsoft is providing us with a great lineup of downloadable games once again. Bastion is the game that starts Summer of Arcade off, and it will be incredibly surprising if any of the other titles manage to top it. Bastion is the perfect way to start the summer off, and easily become the best Xbox LIVE arcade game ever released. Everything that the game does is a huge success and Bastion is one gaming experience you are sure to not forget for a while to come.

Bastion Screenshot

The main character of Bastion is a white haired youth whom you only come to know as “The Kid”. The Kid wakes up on a floating platform in the middle of nowhere with no idea what has happened, but as things progress you come to find out the world has been destroyed by something called The Calamity. The interesting thing about Bastion‘s story though, is in the way it’s told. Everything that happens in the game and that your character does is told to you by a narrator. This gravelly voiced individual narrates every inch of the story and turns out to be one of the prominent characters in the story as well. After the kid makes it out of the area he woke up in, he makes his way to the Bastion. The Bastion is the one area that was agreed upon for everyone in the region of Caelondia to go if there was ever trouble. Upon his arrival, The Kid finds nothing except for an old man who turns out to be our narrator. The old man tells him that together they could build the Bastion into something special and perhaps even rebuild the world.

Story in Bastion is a high point, it’s by far the best story ever seen in a downloadable game and I probably wouldn’t even hesitate to say one of the best stories in a video game in recent memory. What truly makes it so memorable is the presentation; the active narrator is an ingenious way of telling a story and really keeps you engaged the whole way through. Caelondia is also a world that you want to learn more about, and the little tidbits of information about the areas and the main characters are just enough to keep you forging on ahead through the story.

The Kid uses air currents to travel through the broken pieces of the world; this system turns into missions that you undertake on a map with additional missions for proving grounds with each of your weapons. The main story should take you around eight or nine hours to complete. However, the game has two completely different endings that you can get. Add in a new game plus mode and this is a highly replayable downloadable title.

Bastion Screenshot

As good as the story is, without solid game play Bastion wouldn’t be nearly as much fun. Luckily it delivers in this area as well, with a fun Diablo like combat system. The kid can wield two weapons at a time, either ranged or melee. These range from hammers and swords to mortars and rifles.  There are a total of eleven weapons in the game, and each one feels distinct and has its pros and cons. You control the kid from a top down third person perspective, with your two weapons assigned to the X and B buttons. You also have a special move on the right trigger and the ability to dodge with A and guard with left trigger. While the combat is simple enough, it turns out to be very quick and a lot of fun on top of that. Enemies stay varied throughout the game and there is a decent challenge all the way through no matter what weapon you use. The kid has a health bar that you can restore with potions that you carry, and you also have a total of three special moves at a time which can also be restored.

Drawing even more from Diablo like games, Bastion is an RPG at heart. There is experience you pickup throughout the world that lets you do various things in the hub world of the Bastion. You can upgrade your weapons at the forge with it or buy items from the lost and found. You also have access to the distillery where you can assign spirits that will increase the abilities of The Kid. Two other interesting areas of the Bastion are the memorial and shrine. At the memorial you have in game achievements you can view that when completed will grant you large amounts of experience. The Shrine allows you to invoke different gods that will make the game more difficult. These gods function very much like the skulls in Halo 3 did with their various effects.

Bastion Screenshot

Now onto the best part, the presentation of Bastion. Bastion is done in an absolutely stunning watercolor kind of style that is a visual treat to look at. Everything in the game is slick and absolutely beautiful, and the way that the pieces of the world fall in front of you as you move forward is a great effect. Bastion is an incredibly unique looking game and one that you will never ever get tired of looking at. Locations throughout the world show a nice level of variation as well.

The other side of presentation is sound, which is just as top notch as the rest of this great package. There is really only one voice actor through the game, that of the narrator, but he does an outstanding job of conveying the story and putting real emotion into it. Whoever did the voice work here needs to be given an award or something. The soundtrack is just as phenomenal as everything else. I’m not sure quite how to describe it, but I do know that it instantly became my favorite soundtrack of the year so far.  The sound design in Bastion is just as unique as everything else and succeeds in taking it from a great experience to truly one of the best.

Supergiant Games has hit a home run with their first game, and there almost isn’t enough you can say to praise it. Bastion is a polished, fun, absolutely unforgettable experience. Everything about the game sets it apart as the best of the best in the arcade. There couldn’t have been a better way to start Summer of Arcade than with Bastion. If you own an Xbox 360 and have an internet connection, you owe it to yourself to download one of the best short games of this generation. This is 1200 Microsoft points you will not regret spending.

Enjoy the launch trailer below:

Bastion BoxArt

Title : Bastion
Format : XBLA
Developer : Supergiant Games
Publisher : Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Release Date : 07/20/11

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*Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment provided with a promo code for a review copy.