“You owe it to yourself to buy this game.” If this sounds like typical game “journalism” hyperbole, that’s because it is. Bastion is the critical darling of the day, and while I can’t really level at it the same caliber of criticism that I did at And Yet it Moves - Bastion is a fine, fine game, excellent in many respects - I still don’t think the kind of critical reception it got is entirely merited.
People love indies these days. I get it. That knowledge that the game was made by a couple of people in their parent’s basement, typing code with bloody fingers on keyboards made of sugar cubes - I get it! It speaks to our fondness for the games of old, and gamers are nothing if not nostalgic.
Hell, I do it. I buy indie RPGs - games that I am very unlikely to find the time to play in any meaningful way - solely on principle, solely to support people that I know are making those increasingly rare games of the kind I used to love and still would if I had a less busy life.
But still. People. Not every good, beautiful game from indie developers needs to be heralded like the coming of the new Messiah. No-one owes it to him/herself to buy Bastion. It’s a nice, self-contained micro action RPG / dungeoneer with some cute artwork, decent mechanics and admittedly great storytelling.
I will freely admit to not having finished it yet, but you know, even if the ending somehow magically revolutionizes video games forever, it really won’t have made all of the preceding game any more enjoyable.
And what does it matter, you ask? Why can’t we have our hyperbole, it feels so nice and helps validate our pastime / hobbie / artform?
Well, because it undervalues it.
Similarly to the 10 to 7 review scale most publications use, heaping praise upon praise at the indie darling of the month - or any darling of the month, for that matter - just desensitizes people. It’s like the boy who cried wolf.
While you can argue that games are just so good these days, and so it’s expected to have an awesome game every month, I don’t buy it. Quality should be relative, not absolute, and as such as the quality of games rises so too should rise our capability to discern the very best.
You wouldn't take seriously a film critic that would cry “Best. Movie. Ever.” every month, would you? Things that you “owe it to yourself to experience” come around about once every year, if that much. Acting like giddy, excitable teenagers every time a new, interesting, cute game comes out does nothing to contribute to the maturity of our pastime.
So. Yeah. Bastion is cool. I need to get on with finishing it so I can write my thoughts on it.