I don’t really understand most Indie games out there nowadays. It seems like most of them care more about how deep they are and how they look rather than actually being a good game or groundbreaking. Bastion games doesn’t just prove me wrong as a one off but makes me wish all games were this good and looked this good and sounded this good and that there was some kind of law making all future games require at least one character with that super sexy rough narrator voice. Bastion was a unique experience in both game play and storytelling. The soundtrack however has raised my own personal expectations for music in games today.
One of Bastions strongest points is its soundtrack. Ever track stands up on its own two feet and they all share a sense of familiarity with one another while remaining completely unique at the same time. The main thing that caught my attention with Bastion however, was how it used the music to illustrate the two cultures in the game’s universe. In game we the player are told that there are two warring nations but that’s all we get, it’s up to the music to fill us in. While not always the case we come to understand through the music that Caelondia (one of the nations) is some kind of Wild West steam powered society whereas Ura (the other nation) is a more exotic almost Middle Eastern country. Caelondia is built up with acoustic guitars, banjos and mechanical sounding loops whereas Ura uses more exotic string instruments and is a touch heavier on cymbals in the drum department. This is probably one of the best uses of music in games to date in my own opinion. Having our own interpretation of the music bridge the gap between what we speculate and what we already know means that each player, while playing the same game will walk away with a slightly different experience than another. The narrator is able to focus completely on the story without having to give too much exposition about the world we know so little about.
The music is also used to give life to the otherwise mute and empty characters. Each character has their own theme in game, while this is nothing new it does add heaps to their development given they don’t talk, or have any value in game play, or. . . do anything really except exist for the sake of the plot. If you were to listen to the character themes outside of gameplay you would be able to build a very good idea about the character just on the music alone. The themes are also used at key plot points to cue the significance of events rather than just being shoehorned in as a quick introductory tune. This is made very apparent with one character, Zulf’s theme which is actually played towards the ending of the game after his character and back story have been fully fleshed out giving the scene a massive amount of depth and impact. Another character, Zia’s theme on the other hand was played before we even got a look at her, gradually becoming louder as we got closer to where she was in the level forcing us to listen closely. This song also had a massive impact as it had lyrics rather than just being a jingle and was a nice surprise for players.
Now given that this is far from a triple A title the music is of an impressive quality throughout however there are times when the music just doesn’t click in game. While playing certain levels I found that the visual and audio aesthetics just didn’t blend well and these times while rare did disrupt flow. This mainly happened during the later levels especially during the mini game stages.
Overall Bastion could do no wrong in the music department and really took me back with its diverse and refreshing soundtrack. The tracks with lyrics while small in numbers make up for it with an amazing amount of depth and impact while the other tracks are engaging and unique, with each having its own little moment in the sun when playing through. I would recommend both the game and soundtrack to anyone regardless if this was their thing or not. Buy the game, listen to the soundtrack, profit.
BEST TRACK: – Setting Sail, Coming Home.
This song acts as the games end theme and is also a mash-up between Zia and Zulf’s themes. The mixture of imagery and having two sets of lyrics overlapping each other creates a satisfying effect that left me wanting to hear the tune again, and again, and again. Regardless have a listen and you’ll understand what I’m talking about here.
WORST TRACK: – Twisted Streets.
For the most part this track while just as unique as the others didn’t leave a lasting impression on me. It was intricate and stylised but I found that while playing it just blended into the background and I forgot it was even there. Not a bad track, just not very big on impact.