Bastion is a downloadable title for the Xbox Live Arcade, a fantasy effort taking place in the world of Celondia after an event simply known as “The Calamity.” It destroyed everything, all to the point where one of the survivors, known simply as “The Kid,” takes it upon himself to restore it.
In a certain level, The Hanging Gardens, the colorful, completely hand-painted world The Kid is searching through, takes on a new meaning. He finds people, kids even, and they're nothing but dust. The narrator, Bastion's unique and distinctive feature, gives them names, a purpose, and a place - where they were, what they did, something to give them a deeper purpose in the game world.
It's a brilliantly conceived emotional moment, all of the color in this world metaphorically sapped away as this child is forced to trot through the ashy remains of former citizens to continue on his journey. This entire experience is a mere $15, an absolute steal.
That's not out of the ordinary for the game industry, and that's really the problem. Where the film industry lumps all of their products into a singular price range, meaning Citizen Kane is worth just as much as Transformers on DVD or Blu-ray, video games separate themselves, judged solely on what they are. Bastion is as emotionally moving as video games can currently make themselves, a gloriously detailed, experimental narrative structure and truly personal artwork.
There's no reason Bastion shouldn't be $40, $50, or even $60. Keeping it on the Xbox Live Arcade service almost dilutes it, immediately creating a sense that it's a “smaller” experience, and maybe it is from a development standpoint. Publisher Warner Bros. Interactive surely didn't spend as much acquiring Bastion as they did Mortal Kombat, but does that mean they're not equals?
I can say I certainly didn't feel moved playing Mortal Kombat, a game where people are gleefully and sadistically split in half after their equally brutal fights. They both deal with death although on entirely different ends of the entertainment spectrum. They're vastly unique games, and exist for their own purposes. Why then are we separating them in perceived value by $45? How can it be said that one is only worthy of discount digital distribution and the other of starting a retail life at $60?
It's no wonder mainstream media fails to generate coverage of an industry that can't even find its own identity, the best work shoved off in a corner where few will see it, mostly because we're told it's not worth as much. I couldn't disagree more.