It seems rare these days to find games that really focus on narrative, creating a world for the player to invest him or herself in and leave much of this alternate world to be painted in the canvas of our minds. Joe Staten of Bungie (creators of the Halo franchise) recently stated “Your job as a world-builder is to make the audience curious. To give them just enough information and detail so that they can fill in the gaps with their own imaginations”, and I certainly feel as though the game Bastion, a game I completely while writing this blog, does an excellent job with this, not only because of the amount of details they offer the player, but how those details are offered. The game developer, Supergiant, consisted of only seven individuals, and this was their first game to be published (it was also the first game in which the narrator has ever done voice acting, and the first game in which this particular composer developed a complete score).
Bastion is set in a post-apocalyptic world, after an event known as “The Calamity” which shattered the world, in which player takes on the role of a silent protagonist known only as “The Kid”. The game begins with the Kid awakening and making his way to the Bastion, which is essentially a safe haven. Through the journey, a narrator describes and explains the world around the Kid as if he is telling a legend to a future generation, or even directly to the player, and keeps himself as enigmatic as the world the player has been dropped into. As the Kid traverses the floating wasteland, the world assembles itself under his feet, guiding him along his journey to uncover the mystery of the Bastion, the Calamity, and the Old World.
Despite “The Calamity”, the world the developers created still seems to be intact, which begs the question of how the world looked before this event (an image that is left for the player to create for him or herself). With regards to mise en scene color palette of the game world is vibrant and beautiful a soft, hand painted art style in a range of intact environments, which is an interesting juxtaposition to the post-apocalyptic world in which the game takes place, as one would imagine an industrial, Fallout-esque color pattern. Many of the weapons of the game lack modernity to them, with an arsenal of things like revolvers, a bow and arrow, and even an old musket; however, as the game begins to progress and become darker thematically, the weapons become more modern, such a mortar, a carbine, and an energy cannon.
The developers, along with developing this canvas on which you journey, placed an equal emphasis on the sound in the game. The sound track is almost entirely a series of hybrid genres, mostly with the general theme blues and frontier music, and blend with rock, trip hop, and even a far eastern-fusion, making the score as eclectic as the environments, but still establishing many of its pre-apocalyptic, turn of the century roots. The narrator, too, reflects the effort put into this singular vision, speaking with a warm, southern drawl with vernacular to match. He guides the player passively through the journey using commentary on everything that is going on (even in the smallest battles), creating the story along with the player, giving a feeling as though the player is extremely important, and becoming a legend whose story has been passed down for generations.
While the player never gets the opportunity to see the old world, the developers were able to offer some insight as to what the world once was with a very focused vision, by placing the player in an environment which echoes the world that once was. Even things like the game logo itself convey a brighter and more hopeful feeling, with plant life beginning to grow from it. I would highly recommend this game to anyone who appreciates artfulness in a game, a challenge, or just a game they can pick up or put down at any given time, this one is certainly a rare gem.
Interview with the developers:
Full soundtrack (definitely worth a listen):