Bastion is such a danged excellent experience, I recommend you pay more than $7.50 for it. In fact, not only should wait until you have the opportunity to pay $15, you should send Supergiant games an extra $5 to thank them.
Briefly, Bastion is a beautifully rendered dungeon crawl/action-RPG. Less briefly, Bastion tells the story of a young man who wakes up to find the world has shattered around him in the night and sets out to put everything back together. He’s guided… well, you’re guided, by the voice of an old man telling the story of how he does it. The narrative conceit, added late in the development apparently, works amazingly well. You’re gently guided to the right paths, you get commentary on your actions that can be pithy or surprisingly touching. There are also some very well done bits where the old man can only tell you what he thinks may have happened, which is a nice way of turning the previously omniscient narrator into a portion of the story.
Bastion is a triumph of form over function. It’s a game type I’ve played dozens if not hundreds of times before. You walk, you smack, you gather, you build. But with an astoundingly deft touch, the writing and art direction manages to make you care so much more than you expect in a game like this. It comes, appropriately, in both big and little pieces. The beautiful painted landscapes that rise out of nothing to meet you as you run, the spare lines of text that hint at a society you wish you could have seen in full flower, the way the narrator seems ashamed of the fact that he needs to send a kid to do the dirty work, the distant music from a time you’re trying to bring back. All of these pieces of design lift what could have been a standard slogging kill-fest into something simultaeously melancholy and heartening.
This is one of the few games where the compulsion toward completionism that I tend to feel regardless carried some emotional weight. I wasn’t making sure I had all the upgrade structures, I was putting back the pieces of a shattered world so that a hard-working kid could finally rest. I wasn’t getting achievements, I was paying tribute to the people that would be forgotten without me. Its a game with few characters, but it makes you feel for all of them. Including the beasts you need to kill to make your way in the world. It’s not mawkish or sentimental, either. It just presents you with a situation that is unfortunate and too few options to fix it.
Through these touches Bastion achieves one of the best game narratives I’ve seen, using subtle strokes to tell a story bigger than the part you play in it.
The best recommendation I can give is that immediately upon finishing it, I wanted to wipe my memory and start again from the beginning. Hell, it’s got a newgame+, I may do just that.