Have you ever turned off a game, only to have that last tune follow you around the rest of the day? Christian Glass loves that feeling, and wants to share it with you. Each week he’s highlighting a game soundtrack that sticks out to him. This week is: Bastion.
There’s something impressive about a game that can set a tone with as little dialogue as Bastion has. Originally released July 20, 2011 on Xbox Live Arcade, Bastion is a 3D platformer set in a post apocalyptic, floating fantasy world that players must help to rebuild as “The Kid.”
The game’s few characters have almost no script to speak of, except for “The Stranger,” the game’s rustic narrator whose smoky drawl guides players.
The short supply of spoken word adds to the environment that Darren Korb, producer and composer for Bastion’s soundtrack, matches with the game. The soundtrack feels heavily inspired by wanderlust in a game where the ground ahead of you doesn’t form until you take that next step forward. Starting a new game greets you with The Stranger telling you, “A proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one” before opening with “Twisted Streets.” The eery atmosphere is officially set as you meet your first enemies and begin to understand what the game will become.
Korb has described his score as “acoustic frontier trip-hop,” which admittedly sounds like nonsense words for nonsense noises. Ultimately, it just works. The acoustic guitar feels impromptu and free, like a jam session in a living room (which isn’t far off from the truth: Korb recorded the soundtrack and character dialogue from a closet in his New York City apartment). “Spike in a Rail” is a perfect example of the guitar that sounds very modern and aged at the same time, and gives you a sense of wonder and desire to explore. What sets it apart is the supporting cast: the smacking drums provide a sense of flow that matches perfectly with the attitude of the strings, both acoustic and electric.
The same instruments paired with a violin completely change the environment. “Percy’s Escape,” along with the earlier mentioned “Twisted Streets,” feels unsettling. That previous freedom and yearning for a new path starts to feel claustrophobic as violins kick in, and the drums start to feel like fast approaching footsteps. The uneasiness leads players to look anxiously for the next path to appear.
Jumping to the end, without discussing any spoilers, tragedy strikes The Kid before he makes his final decision about rebuilding the world. Korb is fantastic in using the same track with a different attitude for both events, maybe ten minutes apart in game time. It’s a solid final example for how he managed the vision of his first soundtrack. Hear the parallels in the sorrowful “Mother I’m Here,” and the skeptically positive “Setting Sail, Coming Home.”
The crew at Bastion never intended to release the original soundtrack until fans clamored enough to get not only that, but a few bonus tracks as well. Four years after release, Bastion stands as a fantastic game with a hall of fame score.
Other notable tracks:
Bastion’s Official Soundtrack can be purchased here directly from Supergiant Games.