Number 18: Bastion
"Listen, all this takes a lot of getting used to...and you do get used to it, after a while. There's three things I'll always miss though. One, not having to watch my step all the time. Two...ahhh, forget about two. And three, I miss the songs..."
2011 was truly a year of surprises. Games were announced that no one had expected, such as the new Counter-Strike. Games sworn for a 2011 release were pushed back even further. And Indie games, already on the rise, got an even greater boost with the release of Bastion and its subsequent collection of awards, including Game of the Year.
Of course Bastion is on this list for none of those reasons. The only thing that can get a game on this list is it's soundtrack, and Bastion as you can probably tell from the opening narrator's transcript above immediately sets a high standard for itself.
Fortunately, its a standard that the soundtrack quickly lives up to.
Bastion has been described by it's composer as "acoustic frontier hip-hop" and it is an accurate description. Listening to Bastion quickly evokes a 'western' feel. Not the 'east vs west' type of western, the one with cowboys riding across a long desert landscape in the hot sun. With a beat box that occasionally throws in some catchy beats.
This unique fusion of sound is easily Bastions greatest strength. From the moment the narrator starts talking in his dry homesteader voice, the audience is hooked. And once the music starts flowing, the unique fusion of different styles and genres of music we've all heard is served in careful amounts, with just enough familiarity that the listener doesn't feel put off by all the new that composer Darren Korb has injected into it.
Bastion's fusion of styles and sounds also gives it another strength. By blending different familiar styles and new elements together into one song, Korb has given Bastion's soundtrack a great capacity to stir emotion. The familiar elements draw the listener in and serve to engage their emotions, and the newer, less familiar styles feed off of those feelings, easing you into a sound that is completely new and fresh. Take for example this song, which uses familiar sounds and styles at first to gain the listeners attention, after which it engages you further with the new material.
With it's dizzying blend of styles and genres, it's no surprise that Bastion scores incredibly high in both Stand-Alone Quality and Emotional Involvement, scoring a 4.75 and a 4.5 respectively, just shy of a perfect score. In fact, Bastion did incredibly well overall, save one area: Game Representation, where it performed above average (average among giants, just FYI) but not by much. This was primarily due to the fact that while observing the relationship between the game and the music, the music felt as if it should have affected the game more. It was partially because Bastion's ever present narrator tends to downplay the music, his gritty voice more the focus of the sound then what soundtrack lays down.
Stand Alone Quality: 4.75
Emotional Reaction: 4. 5
Game Representation: 3.25
Non-Gamer Enjoyment: 1
Even with that decision, Bastion stands up incredibly well, coming out on top of a three-way tie between itself and two other titles. Bastion is a great example of what happens when a composer looks outside the box for something new and nails it in every aspect. Bastion earns it's place as number 18 with a battered ten gallon hat, a grizzled voice, and quite possibly a sunset ride.
Number 18--Bastion by Darren Korb