Indie developer Supergiant Games is part of the current trend of industry veterans joining together to form small studios, hoping to create the kinds of games they love without being shackled to the mandates of giant publishers. The Supergiant team's experience shows in the quality and innovation that went into Bastion, the studio's first release. The most talked-about feature in Bastion is the unique narrator, flawlessly voiced by actor Logan Cunningham, who responds to the player's actions and dynamically doles out information about the world and its story. As the game progresses, the player begins to have cause to doubt that the narrator is telling the full story while still relying on him for information and guidance. It makes for a compelling experience that we've never seen before in gaming, and sets the game up for a powerful ending featuring a difficult choice.
Bastion's excellence shows in far more than simply the narrative device, however. Having a beautiful watercolor world form itself around the hero's feet creates an atmosphere of discovery and adventure, while the world's fragile and easily-collapsing nature underlines the fact that the mysterious Calamity has destroyed everything. The action is fluid and responsive, and the game throws varied challenges at the player throughout its levels. Gameplay is surprisingly customizable, from the wide variety of upgradeable weapons available to the temple that allows veteran gamers to challenge themselves by adding various handicaps and enemy buffs. The soundtrack is great and sets the scene for each level perfectly. A great package all around, Bastion has broad appeal, and we strongly recommend that gamers of all types give this downloadable gem a try.
While Bastion is our clear winner, we don't want to ignore two other highlights of the year. Our second place runner up is the tower defense/RPG hybrid Dungeon Defenders. This game might have been lacking in single player content, but worked as a great outlet for those seeking to play in a group. Cross platform play (all but Xbox Live) was also a great addition. Our third place downloadable title, The Baconing, returns us to the absurdly wonderful world of DeathSpank. Those who didn't get enough hack-and-slash with his two releases in 2010 are sure to enjoy another romp like we did. Both are very worthy downloads.
by Becky Cunningham and Michael Cunningham