To mark the end of the 2010s, we’re celebrating 30 games that defined the last 10 years. You can find all the articles as they’re published in the Games of the Decade archive, and read about the thinking behind it in an editor’s blog.
Sometimes you make a connection with a game that’s very enduring. I was introduced to Bastion by my then-flatmate, the same person who introduced me to this very website, while I was thoroughly disenchanted with video games as a whole. It made me want to look deeper into what games could be, what they could become if a team focused on its unique talent and the things that were important to them. A little less than a decade later I’m here doing just that, so it’s safe to say that Bastion is my most personal game of the decade.
Initially I was confused and slightly annoyed by what I now feel is Supergiant’s biggest asset – the narration. It seemed a little creepy to have an omniscient voice follow you around while your own character stayed silent, but I changed my mind as soon as I realised how ingenious it really is. Bastion could have been a simple action game with a silent protagonist, but instead it’s a perfect example of how story matters. With nothing more than a few sentences here and there Supergiant breathed life into its world and told a story of conflict, community and tolerance. It whispered enough of that story to feel real but deliberately left gaps that kindled my imagination. Its refusal to tell you everything felt as unique as the mode by which Bastion told its story, and more importantly, it opened up a world beyond known tropes – no cops and robbers, no cowboys, no knights. Just a boy and his hammer.
Bastion is also a good representation for the eager spirit of the early 2010’s golden age of indie gaming. Plenty of independent game developers were eager to put their own twist on gaming genres you didn’t see much of in blockbusters anymore, whether that be the unsettling horror in Amnesia or a retro challenge like Super Meat Boy. They are games which are all easy to pick up, familiar to most of us, but what really wins you over each time is the sheer love with which they are made. Bastion is a game I stare and stare at. Despite being set in ruins of a world gone by, I can see in every part of the game how beautiful the city of Caelondia must have been when it was whole, and my desire to see more of it and hear more about it drove me to keep discovering. Or take the fantastic soundtrack by Darren Korb: at a time when I thought of lush orchestration as the pinnacle of musical achievement, Bastion came with a soundtrack by a multi-talented band musician who was tinkering in his studio with his many guitars.
Overall, Bastion has the feel of something delightfully handcrafted, and I think this organic feeling was something I had been looking for. This is one pioneering example of what can happen if you look past preconceptions such as “gameplay first”, and even as it’s become more difficult to keep up with all the games made in the same spirit but fighting much more competition, this reminds me how much merit there is in doing your thing if you do it honestly. Sometimes all it takes for someone to discover your game is a recommendation by a friend.