Mechanically Beautiful: “Bastion”

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bastion kidWelcome to Mechanically Beautiful,  where we look into the widely debated topic, “Are Video Games Art?” I am here to say that yes, I do believe video games are a form of art and I’m going to give you readers amazing examples of why I believe this. If you are not a believer of this idea, then maybe these articles will change your mind. But even if they don’t, you will get a chance to hear about and maybe look into some beautiful games in the industry. Today, we are going to look at the amazing piece of work that is “Bastion“.

Bastion is an indie-adventure game made by the company, Supergiant Games, and as the devs themselves said, “The game is (their) take on the fantasy genre.” Bastion takes place is a mystical, post-apocalyptic world, devoid of almost any human life. Now I know what you might be thinking, “Oh great another post apocalyptic setting so interesting…not!” But Bastion isn’t your usual apocalyptic brown and gray death look. The game takes place after an event called, “the Calamity”, and for whatever reason, the world is torn into floating islands and landforms. As you run along the level, the floor flies up from nowhere to form the path in front of you. So, you’re thinking, “Oh, so big brown and gray rocks and crap fly up for you to walk on.” No good sir/ma’am, that is incorrect. The game is unbelievably colorful and alive. There are strange plants and creatures that attack you with weird and interesting moves that add to the vibrancy of the game. The enemies are very whimsical and their color schemes add to the effect. The game seems to have been made with the color pallet of an elementary school student. As an artist, I would normally say that’s a bad idea; you should always have a set color scheme. But this game makes it all work well and it is fantastic.

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Moving on from the amazing use of colors, how is the aesthetic itself? Well, as you can see in the pictures, the aesthetic is equally fantastic. It is very hard to describe with the art vocabulary I have, but I think the best way to put it is that it looks like a professional sculptor took play-doh and made a million dollar piece of work with it. The edges are all very smooth and soft on everything (even the rocks) and it gives me a dreamy kind of feeling. It reminds me of the dream stages in the old PS2 game, “Tak 2: The Staff of Dreams” (if anybody remembers that game). The game has a very modern, fairy-tale look which coincides with the story very well.

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(Spoilers Ahead) The main character who is just called, “The Kid”, is a rather short guy with pure snowy white hair and an interesting outfit. He wears a leather outfit with a large gray gauntlet and shoulder pad on his left arm, blue pants with metal boots and knee pads, a large red scarf, and a large gear tied onto to his back (not sure why the gear is there but I like it). His entire design is very intriguing and a combo look of steampunk and fantasy. The other main characters are Rucks, Zia, and Zulf. Rucks is the narrator for the entire game and he’s packed with an amazing voice and great delivery. He’s an old man who wears an outfit like an old blacksmith. Rucks also has snow white hair with a matching huge full mustache. Zia is from a race of people called, “the Ura”, who have pale skin and jet black hair. Zia wears an outfit that makes her look like a maid for rich people. It’s an interesting looking blue with a matching bandanna and puffy looking pirate pants. Zia sounds very odd, but the whole outfit works very well. Zulf, the final character, is an Ura like Zia, so his clothes are also odd and out there. Zulf wears a long, priest-like robe that is purple and orange with stripes on the bottom. All the characters are very unique and beautifully designed, even if they look a bit out there.

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One of my favorite parts of the art design of Bastion are the enemies. All the enemies are oddly named to match their very odd looks. The first enemies you fight are tiny swirling black and blue upside down raindrops called “Squirts”. They have big cute light blue eyes and little orange spot on their heads. Then, you meet the “Gasfellas”; a blue cowboy version of the grim reaper. They swing big pickaxes and wear orange hoods around their heads. The third major enemies are the “Scumbags”; giant, blue bags of air and goo that float around like “Big Boos” from “Super Mario Bros”. There are many other enemies but these three are from the major race of enemies called “Windbags.”

The composition levels bring out this title’s true beauty. The game’s levels float above a swirling colored background at an isometric angle with the various colors and moving pieces catching your eye, creating a great amount of eye candy . The levels are composed in such a way that you want to watch everything that goes around you but you can’t because the “Windbags” don’t give you the chance. The camera also adds to the composition; keeping the level ahead of  you and never really putting your character in dead center. This is called, “the Rule of Thirds”, and is masterfully implemented.

Bastion in its entirety is an amazing feast for your eyes. From the striking use of colors to the interestingly designed characters and enemies that make you wonder how the devs could gave thought of such great and immersive world. Not only is this game a great example of video games being an art-form, but the actual game is also fantastic. It has a great story, amazing gameplay mechanics, and as previously stated, the graphics make for amazing eye candy. Bastion is an amazing creation all around and as the icing on the cake, the soundtrack is the best I have ever heard. I recommend this game to everybody and even if you don’t try it, the concept art and soundtracks alone they are worth your time.