The proliferation of download-only games, on both PC and games consoles, has allowed developers the freedom to create titles that may not have fared well as fully-priced retail products. Bastion costs just £12 on Steam, but despite its low price, the production values for both graphics and audio are of the highest order.
Essentially an isometric dungeon-crawler, in the vein of Blizzard classic Diablo, this lightweight RPG romp is heavy on combat and light on plot. You play as The Kid, a mute protagonist, who is trying to rebuild his unnamed world after The Calamity, which seems to have wiped out almost every other inhabitant.
Most of Bastion consists of small winding trails that fly together from the depths of the screen as you progress. This lends an uncertainty to your exploration, as you can't tell where the path will lead till you explore it, it also means that such paths are liable to break up and fall away just as quickly. All this is rendered in luscious, hyper-coloured, hand-painted graphics - making it one of the prettiest and charming games we've seen in some time.
This beautiful world is then laden with depth and ambience by The Stranger - whose gravelly voiceover is the perfect counterpoint to the The Kid's silence. Without breaking the flow of the game, he poignantly introduces each new area, expounding on life before The Calamity. Better still, his comments react dynamically to your in-game actions, with a dry wit, yet he never repeats himself. You find yourself trying out things just to see what he says. It's probably the finest piece of audio design we've seen since System Shock 2 first used audio logs to fill out a backstory.
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