Bastion - Zulf, Rucks, and the Kid

( There are major spoilers regarding the game’s ending in this post. )

I started Bastion in January, and I just finished it last night. It only took me about ten hours to make it to the end with a fairly high level of completion, but I enjoyed the game so much that I didn’t want it to be over, so I took long breaks between sessions.

I’ve been wanting to replay Secret of Mana for months now, but it’s gone from the Nintendo Wii U eShop, and Bastion scratched my adventure game itch. The game has everything that’s good about Secret of Mana. There’s a leveling system that doesn’t require a lot of grinding, a nice selection of fun weapons to play with, a cool leveling system for these weapons, combat that’s challenging without becoming frustrating, and a vibrantly colorful world to explore.

The only thing I disliked about Bastion’s mechanics is that, once an area of the game has been completed, it can’t be re-entered. This is contingent to the story in a few places, as the protagonist destroys several locations through his interactions with them, but in most other cases (including the weapon training areas) it’s completely arbitrary. This element of gameplay means two things: first, all of the collectibles are missable; and second, the player doesn’t get to enjoy the experience of returning to earlier areas at a high level to trounce weak enemies while enjoying the scenery.

Bastion compensates for its linearity both offering two distinct endings, as well as two sub-possibilities within each ending. The “Bastion” of the game’s title is a floating island that the player restores and enhances by collecting power crystal shards from the ruins of a city called Caelondia, which has been destroyed during an event called “the Calamity.” Once all of the crystal shards are collected and the Bastion is at full power, the player learns that the island is a giant machine that can reset time to a point before the Calamity. Since everyone would lose their memories of the events that passed since the restore point, there’s no way to tell if the Calamity wouldn’t just happen again, so the player can choose to burn the Bastion’s energy cores and propel the island away from Caelondia so that the survivors can start a new life elsewhere in the world.

What I’ve learned from my experience with Zelda games is that time travel is always, always a terrible idea, so I chose to let the past stay in the past. According to the PS4 trophy system, this choice was made by 43% of players, while 47% of players chose to turn back time (one assumes the other 10% didn’t make it to the end of the game).

Along with the player character (who is referred to as “the Kid”), there are three additional survivors of the Calamity. The game’s voiceover narrator is an old man named Rucks, who designed the Bastion. The second is a girl named Zia, whose father engineered the Calamity to prevent the genocide of a minority group called the Ura. The third is a man named Zulf, an ambassador to the Ura who attempts to sabotage the Bastion about halfway through the game.

At the end of the game’s final stage, the player can choose to allow the remaining Ura to kill Zulf, or s/he can rescue Zulf and return with him to the Bastion. I decided to save him, which triggers an interesting endgame scenario in which, after an onslaught of attacks against the defenseless Kid as he carries Zulf back to the Bastion, the Ura finally realize that the Kid never intended to hurt anyone, and they bow to him as he passes. It’s really cool.

During the ending I chose, the player gets to see pictures of the four survivors setting out into a new world, taking the final remnants of Caelondia with them. There’s one image of Zulf chopping vegetables with a tame version of one of the game’s monsters that made tears stream down my face, and the gorgeous song that plays during the credits didn’t help. I want to hug everyone in this game.

I definitely want to play Bastion again, so I probably should have chosen what I’m convinced is the bad ending (using the Bastion to reset time) during my first playthrough. There’s a “New Game Plus” option that allows the player to start over from the beginning with all level gains and weapon upgrades achieved during the first playthrough intact, and I plan on taking advantage of that feature in a month or two. I noticed a few interesting parallels between the stories of Bastion and Transistor, and I’m looking forward to returning to Transistor as well.

In conclusion, I love Supergiant Games, and they can have all my money forever.

( Header image from Gamespot )

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