Bastion in the test - big mouth, a lot behind it

Author: Sebastian Klix
Date: 2011-08-30 18:55:00
A small, silent hero with a penchant for alcohol, a constantly chattering old man and eaten crocodiles. Sounds crazy, it is. Our test shows that the action adventure bastion should still be taken seriously.

Supergiant games. In German, for example: super-giant games. This is how a small independent smithy from California baptized itself. Her first work Bastion is not overly gigantic, but that's why it's no less ambitious. About Ambitious?

Xbox 360 owners have been able to play Bastion since June, and recently it has also been available for home PC via Steam. Bastion has not become an action role-playing game, as the developers themselves claim - character development in particular is more jewelry than an important game element. Bastion's strengths lie elsewhere.

About hyperactive children ...

A little boy, just called "kid", wakes up in his bed one morning and sees that his world is in ruins. Without further ado, he makes his way to the eponymous bastion, one of the last remaining refuge for mankind. The crux of the matter: The floating island was also badly affected in the wake of the destructive event. Parts of the former metropolis are scattered everywhere.

In order to have safe accommodation for the future, the old, wise man Backpack - (for the time being the only other survivor) sends the little boy on a journey to find the missing fragments of the city in order to rebuild the bastion.

... and old, wise men

Where other games such as limbo use silence as a stylistic device, Bastion shines through the opposite. There's a lot to listen to here: The plot is conveyed to us neither by simple dialogs between the characters, nor by clumsy text overlays - but solely by the calm voice of rucks. This always accompanies us off-screen on our trip and reveals parts of the plot as well as the background of the past catastrophe from a retrospective perspective. He even comments on everything we do, be it the smashing of boxes standing around, our choice of weapons or just our plunge into death.

Where, for example, permanent comments from other viewers on the plot can quickly get annoying in a film, Backpack's comments turn out to be one of the greatest features of Bastion and a real asset. This is not least due to the excellent, sometimes cynical, sometimes discouraging, then hopeful English speaker. Unfortunately, there is no German voice output, even if the German subtitles are well translated.

The route is the goal

Our search for the lost fragments leads us to different parts of the torn world. The over 20 main levels have one thing in common: They consist of very narrow, floating paths that build up stone by stone at our feet as if by magic. The paths branch out again and again and lead to all kinds of objects on alternative routes (which we can later put in weapon upgrades), but the structure is basically quite straightforward.

Otherwise, the areas could hardly be more different: On our adventure we visit ice deserts, jungles, cities and old fortresses. However, we do not run stubbornly from A to B - almost every stage of the game offers a special challenge. Be it the ground that is slowly but steadily falling behind us, a monstrous crocodile that digs through the rubble and chases us through the level or the densely overgrown jungle that obscures the view of Kid. Only the opponents who jump towards our little heroes appear briefly from the dense sea of leaves. In short: Each stage of the game in the course of a good ten hours is unique and thus ensures a good dose of variety and different challenges.

My house, my bastion ...

With the help of the fragments found in the course of the game, we erect a total of six different buildings in the bastion, such as the gun shop, where we choose our equipment. Or the forge where we improve our equipment. In the lost property office, we acquire numerous skills, weapon upgrades or spirits against crystals (the currency within the bastion). Moment. Spirits?

We get experience points from defeated opponents - if we have enough, we climb up to the tenth level: per level, in addition to a small increase in our maximum vitality, there is also another special slot. In this we can place another alcoholic drink in our distillery, which grants us a special bonus as long as we carry it around with us.

In our shrine, where we can pay homage to certain idols, we control the difficulty of the game according to our preferences. If we choose the goddess Micia, for example, opponents will regenerate from their injuries. But there are also more experience points and crystals from defeated monsters.

Because we only reach level 5 by the end of the game, the game in the so-called »New Game Plus« invites you to play through it again. Among other things, we also take on our weapons, upgrades and skills and unlock new ones that we couldn't afford in the first round. However, nothing changes in terms of play.

... my double-barreled

At first we chop through less refined cannon fodder, which simply rushes towards us, as more challenging opponents join in the further course of the game, who like to dodge, run away from us or get caught in their hard shell when suffering damage.

To compete against the enemy masses, we have a rich arsenal of twelve melee weapons and shooting beating at our disposal. Once we have found them, we can upgrade them up to five times in our forge, where we have to choose between two advantages. More base damage or a higher chance of critical hits? Dizziness or greater range? Assuming, of course, we've found the necessary upgrades and enough crystals in the account.

The individual weapons differ greatly in their advantages and disadvantages. The war hammer, for example, has a good skin, but is also quite sluggish. The machete, on the other hand, offers a fast attack speed, but at the expense of damage. The same applies to firearms: two pistols, the wide-spreading shotgun or rather the effective but slowly reloading sniper rifle? We definitely have to make a decision because we can only carry two of the combat devices with us. On the other hand, there is always our shield, which we can always protect against us in order to ward off any physical damage. However, we cannot attack that way either. If we block at the right moment, shortly before the opposing attack lands, we trigger a counterattack. Attackers suffer damage and are thrown back, we send enemy projectiles back to the sender.

Unfortunately, blocking doesn't always work reliably. If we wanted to fend off an energy projectile from a gun, we sometimes turn in the opposite direction without our intervention to "fend off" another approaching, lazy enemy. So the bullet lands directly in our back. The control via mouse and keyboard is also not very precise, but with a gamepad the whole thing runs noticeably smoother.

In order to train the handling of the individual weapons, a separate training level is available for each. There we have to fulfill certain goals with the respective combat equipment under time pressure or with a limited number of allowed attacks. Weapon upgrades and skills are a reward.

The station wagon does it

Bastion cannot come up with polygon-intensive character models and architectures or razor-sharp textures - because the entire content is drawn by hand in a very atmospheric and detailed way. If you have no aversion to the implied anime style and the rather unusual art design, you will quickly fall in love with the look of Bastion. The developers have succeeded in creating a great mix of a colorful, inviting-looking backdrop and a melancholic mood.

The rest of the outstanding and dynamic background music contributes to the atmosphere. The sounds range from quieter western pieces (which Joss Whedon could also have used one-to-one in his Spacewestern series Firefly), to more powerful guitar sounds in combat, to melancholic ballads in oppressive moments. In general, optics, background music and the narrator's calm words form a wonderful combination.