Well, that was amazing. And I have a feeling it's not done showing me cool stuff yet. Bastion, according to many, was one of the two best indie games of 2011. The other was Orcs Must Die (spoiler: guess what's going to be one of the short games for February?) anyway, it's an action RPG with fairly basic, simple (though not easy!) gameplay, but with one truly amazing twist: a reactive narrator that narrates your actions in the context of the larger story. Just hearing that description makes it sound like it could be obnoxious if it were poorly implemented. It's not. The narrator never repeats himself, doesn't babble incessantly, and speaks with a great economy of words. It also helps that the voice actor portraying the narrator is great at what he does, the story he's telling is fascinating, and the narrator never, ever repeats the same lines as you're working through an area. If you get stuck in an area, or take too long to do something, instead of jabbering away with the same old dialog, the narrator actually shuts up and lets you focus. It's wonderful, it's polished, and it adds more to the experience than I could ever have imagined it would before I played the game. The music is almost as important to the total experience as the narration is, and I'm very glad I have the version of the game with the soundtrack bundled in. I'm listening to the soundtrack as I type this out. Some great acoustic guitar music - it sort of reminds me of Firefly at times. And anything that reminds me of Firefly is great. The art direction is similarly excellent, and also unique - I don't think I've ever seen anything that feels quite like Bastion. It's got a little bit of a JRPG style to the art, but the story and characters, and world, really, are all very Western feeling. And it bears mentioning that while it's a post-apocalyptic story, the color palette is not just gray and brown. It's colorful, vividly and beautifully so. The game itself is interesting, too - it keeps unlocking new stuff all the way up to the end, which I thought was really cool. While it's doesn't have the smoothest control or the most in-depth combat system I've ever seen, both are well within the range of playably good. And once you finish the game, it opens up a "new game+" mode where you can start again with all of your XP and weapons. And while I won't get into spoilers, the game really makes you want to do that. This is an excellent argument for the case of video games as art, and not in a pretentious way. Highly recommended, and I'd even recommend paying full price. It really is quite amazing.
RPG notes: If you play video games, are reading this, and haven't played the game - GET OUT OF HERE. Why? Because the RPG notes are also the spoiler section, that's why! This is one story you don't want spoiled at all. So just to be clear: if you haven't finished Bastion, go play the game and come back. These posts are stored in the cloud by Google forever. My "brilliant" thoughts on the game's spoil-able elements will still be here when you get back. TL;DR: SPOILER WARNING. Anyway, the game's world is unique and interesting. It's a fantasy setting, certainly, but there's no direct mention of magic. Technology is high enough for some fairly advanced firearms, but bows and melee weapons are still in use. I'd really like to see a prequel set in pre-Calamity Caelondia. Then there's the monsters: windbags, gasfellas, squirts, lunkheads, ankle gators, the list goes on. Nowhere is there a plain ol' dragon, or even something as easy to take for granted as a horse. There's also the Calamity itself, the Bastion, and all the space-time warping inferred therein. But all that aside, there's still some great inspiration to be had. Rucks, The Kid, and Zulf are all deep, nuanced characters that would make fantastic NPCs. The post-Calamity world with its floating sky-islands is almost a character unto itself, and the plot of the endgame, with Rucks trying to fix the Calamity and Zulf trying to hold him to account over it could easily be used as the basis for an entire campaign.