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Note: The following contains a spoiler 3-4 hours into Bastion.
Perched on my tower of critical analysis, I knew that Bastion was a great game. There's an enticing relationship between your actions and the story that I've rarely seen before, and the delicate artistic style presented a serene landscape that was easy to get lost in. Fast combat kept diverse by new weapons and varied enemies demanded focus. But if you've played any of Bastion, you already know the intricacies that make it tick.
Even though I was fully aware of all the things Bastion was doing really well, I didn't ultimately care. I can point to the extremely linear level design or iffy long-range aiming as slight problems distracting me from the tasty goodness everyone seems to have been devouring, but I know that would be disingenuous. There aren't any tangible problems in Bastion that could leave me with a feeling of indifference; I just didn't have any emotional connection. It happens in every art form. No matter how impressive the craftsmanship is, it won't resonate with everyone. I resolved to keep playing, because it was still fun and I wanted to see what lay ahead, but it felt more like a duty than a passion.
And then I reached The Singer.
When the level began, the narrator started talking about something I couldn't quite understand. "There the kid hears something he ain't heard in a long while. How's it go again?" Up to this point, the narrator talked about your story and actions, things The Kid had experienced or was doing first hand. I could hear, faintly in the background, an acoustic guitar start up. Quietly at first, and then louder, with vocals slowly coming in. A woman's voice, beautiful, sad. The narrator continued, after a short pause, "That's the one.... timeless."
And I was finally invested in the world. The structure of this level is the same as the previous ones – switches, enemies, rising pieces of land forming a path – but it was much easier. Enemies were less prevalent than before. The narrator quieter. It was about the music, and it was mesmerizing. "Some day your bird is gonna fly."
It's not often that I play a game that fully realizes the emotionally potential of a masterful piece of music presented in just the right way. Whereas the visuals and combat moved me on an intellectual level, it wasn't until I was struck by the melancholy beauty of this song that my emotional side was piqued. I stood still for long stretches, just soaking it in, hoping it wouldn't stop. And when I reached the end, a singer was sitting in the grass. I had initially assumed the narrator had broken the fourth wall by recognizing the soundtrack, but that wasn't the case at all. The Singer was as real as The Kid. And I stood next to her, listening to the words and the music repeat over and over.
I've been hard on Microsoft recently. Their unrelenting focus on the Kinect is a serious bum out, and I'm still in denial about what they've done to my beloved Rare. But despite the many bad decisions they've made the last few years, Microsoft still managed to implement the most meaningless yet compelling feature this generation: achievements.
I'm sure I'm not the only person who scoffed at the idea when these was first announced. Why would I, an adult man, possibly need a happy chime to signify my progress? I'm not a petulant baby who needs to be coaxed and coddled to play a video game; I play because games are inherently fun. And yet, I can't deny the temporary pleasure I get every time that little gray box pops up on screen. I've never been one to chase after the more tedious ones, but when I pull off a particularly difficult task and receive a notification confirming that I am, in fact, a badass, I can't help but smile.
Anyway, I earned by 50,000th point tonight. Is that a high number? I have no idea. It does seem like a rather significant milestone, though. I've been eying the slowly growing number the last couple weeks, ever since I realized how close I was to reaching that lofty score. And I was hoping that I would get there playing a game I thoroughly enjoy, instead of something utterly lame or forgettable.
Well, at least I did justice to my exquisite taste. I leapt past that mark after finishing Alice: Madness Returns for the second time (the first was on PC), so there's no fear that I tainted my good name. And, it was for something other than the standard pat on the back for playing through the game like every other person who picks up the controller. Nope, the achievement that pushed me over the mark was a special one:
Anyway, I'm sure this isn't super interesting to anyone out there (even I'm kind of bored), but it is a high number, and I have been known to like big things. So, yeah, go me!
Last week, we compiled a list of predictions from our editors in a feature called E3 2012: A Look Ahead. I spent a couple days ruminating about future possibilities, and couldn't think of anything to say other than "Wii U will be there" and similarly obvious ideas. So, when I did type something out, it was painfully stupid. So dumb, in fact, that when Giancarlo (our Feature's Editor) looked it over, he said he couldn't possibly publish it.
But nothing is too stupid for my blog. Enjoy!
"Dinosaurs. Just reading the word is exciting. I imagine a world where Thunder Lizards rule the countryside. A new Gran Turismo set in the Cretaceous period would be a good start, but why stop there? Call of Duty: Dino Assault and Assassins Creed: Adventures in Dinoland would breathe new life into stagnating franchises, and injecting a bit of dino DNA into Rock Band could resurrect an entire genre. I'm sure Nintendo recognizes the appeal of these extinct kings. We saw how the Wii U could turn the simple act of window sniping into a riveting experience, but that's just child's play compared to the dino parade they'll set lose on the unprepared masses. Dinosaur will be the buzzword on everyone's lips, and the defining image that carries us through E3 2012."
I still hope my prediction comes true. Give me dinosaurs or give me death!
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