Bastion and coping with divorce
Author’s note: This piece contains plot spoilers and specific details regarding the story and characters of Bastion. If you have not yet finished the game and don’t wish to have anything spoiled, please wait to read the entry below. Thank you and enjoy.
This is as much an open letter to Supergiant Games and my colleagues at XBLAFans that I’ve let down, as it is about simply musing about one of the best games I have ever played. If the title of this piece wasn’t any indication, Bastion was an extremely meaningful game to me during a time when it’s common for lives and futures to be shattered or irreparably set back.
Like I said, Bastion is already one of the best games of the year by far, and easily in the top 10 games I have ever played, which encompasses 20-some years of gaming memories. My situation at home bars no sway in this opinion because either way; Bastion is a work of art. Its art style is a wonder to look at and is unlike anything available right now. It’s like interacting with some of the most beautiful paintings you’ve ever seen. The game’s music alone is almost worth the 1200 MSP price tag, and is regularly rotating on my iPod alongside major artists everyone knows. The gameplay is also engrossing and addictive, and caters to a wide combination of tastes and play styles. I personally enjoyed the musket and Cael Hammer combo because I like being a devastating, close-range powerhouse. I got 200/200 Achievements within two days of purchasing and playing Bastion, and still want to continue playing.
But where Bastion differs from all other games is how I identified with its plot and characters, and how I used this to overcome my failed marriage.
If you’ve ever been lucky enough in life to experience something that speaks to you in a similar way during a time of hardship, then you know it is a very comforting, reassuring feeling. Whether it’s a song with meaningful lyrics, a movie in which the plot applies to your life, or a piece of art that evokes a cherished memory — it’s as if someone is reaching out to you and saying, “Hey, it’s cool, I understand how you feel. Everything will be okay, I went through the same thing.”
From the very beginning, Bastion spoke to me. The Kid wakes up, not knowing where he is and begins heading in a direction unknown to him, the ground forming as he goes. I, too, was waking up not knowing where (or who) I was, and heading in an unknown direction, where things just fell together (or apart in some cases) as I went.
Upon arriving at the Bastion, The Kid is tasked with gathering the pieces to fix the broken Monument, thus fixing the Bastion. But unexpected tragedies occurred, undoing the progress The Kid had made in fixing and building the Bastion. Zulf’s betrayal had caught me completely off guard, and added extra sting to the devastation of knowing I was only one piece away from fixing the Monument. Later, once the Bastion was completely rebuilt and nearing completion yet again, the unforeseen attack by the Ura destroyed everything, leaving the Bastion barren and broken again.
My Bastion, my home, was also broken and needed fixing. As the pieces became set and the future started forming in the light at the end of the tunnel, unforeseen setbacks struck me down and reset my progress. Failing, after two interviews, to get the job that would’ve solved our money problems. Momentarily taking my eye off the shopping cart holding my wife’s purse, leaving it available to be stolen with everything inside. The final argument over the phone that proved the inevitable was, indeed, inevitable…Days, weeks of effort and progress undone in an instant. I felt for The Kid, trying to rebuild the Bastion.
As Bastion continued to resonate deeply inside my impressionable mind, I encountered the Hanging Gardens. Here, The Kid (and the player) gets the first haunting glimpse of The Calamity’s damage. People, black portraits of ash and soot, stood frozen in time as they went about their daily business in the moments before death. The boy playing with the birds, the father and son – they all reminded me my own memories from a better time. Times of innocence now lost, family gatherings never to happen again, and times of when ignorance was bliss. Both the ash people and my memories vanished in a puff of dust, though, leaving only the cold, hard reality of the present.
Reflecting on such memories is often tough, and easily becomes the avenue for a vicious cycle of sorrow and depression. And upon learning the Bastion’s true power to basically reset time and undo The Calamity, you are given the choice to either reset time and have a second chance at everything, or stay in the present with Rucks and Zia, and forge a new future. “Wouldn’t it be grand if you could have a second go at everything, and undo all mistakes and people you’ve hurt?” I recall the narrator saying. So badly I wished I could actually go back and change everything and have a second chance to do things right. I knew exactly what I would do differently – I wanted it so bad I could taste it. Obviously, life doesn’t work this way, and knowing there was nothing I could do to change the past, I decided to let it go, and so I chose not to activate the Bastion.
Making this choice provided an unexpected yet profound feeling of relief. It was as if by not activating the Bastion, I was able to let go of everything troubling me in my life. Living in a world coping with The Calamity helped me cope with my own “calamity”. A calming sense of peace came over me, as if letting go was complete freedom.
It’s hard to know when I would’ve finally felt relief without help from Bastion. But for the first time in a long while, I felt really good. I felt hopeful, eager and excited to see what the future would bring. Bastion ends on a similar note, with The Kid, Rucks and Zia moving on from the tragedies, regrets and losses of the past. Perhaps my story would have been as epic with Bastion’s narrator.