Music Monday: Bastion

written by JMatula on October 8, 2012 in Music Monday

Welcome to a brand new segment here at the GameAgent blog! Far too often us gamers get caught up discussing the latest and greatest tech, what video cards works best on a game and even strategy for survival. What we rarely do is shine a spotlight on a game’s soundtrack. It has a difficult task after all, to be engaging enough to create a more immersive experience while simultaneously being sublime enough that it doesn’t detract from involvement in the gameplay. It’s a fine line to walk but some games do a marvelous job of creating tunes that stick with you long after the game’s switched off. We’re here to give that music the attention it deserves in what we’re calling Music Mondays.

Today we feature a soundtrack that is both modern, compelling and catchy.

Bastion

Rising from realtive obscurity, the studio Supergiant Games released Bastion, an action RPG in the middle of 2011 just 2 short years after starting. The game arrived on Mac and iOS the following year. In just 2011 alone the game sold more than half a million (500,000 +) copies! It has also been featured as part of the Humble Indie Bundle, where gamers can get great independent games for cheap and help charitable causes as well.

In Bastion, players take control of silent protagonist “The Kid” who is traveling towards “Bastion,” or a safe haven for his people in the wake of a catastrophic disaster. Near the end of each level the Kid collects Fragments, which can be used between-levels as currency to purchase new items and equipment. But don’t be too hasty to grab that fragment: in many levels once its been grabbed, the ground begins to disintegrate! Players will definitely need to use strategy of when to grab and run, as well as which weapons and items are most effective in their style of gameplay. There are also challenge levels and in the time honored tradition of games since Super Mario Bros. there’s a “new game+” option where the player gets to play through again with greater difficulty. The best part of this replay is you get to keep all of the items and experience you gained the first time around! It’s a fantastic game and shouldn’t be missed. For more info on this game, click here.

The Music

The soundtrack was composed and recorded by Darren Korb, a childhood friend of Supergiant head honcho and Basion creator Amir Rao. It was Korb’s first game score, but you’d be hard pressed to know that from the craftsmanship on display. It’s even more impressive when you know the whole thing was recorded in the closet of Korb’s apartment! Other audio elements of the game were recorded in the very same closet, including over three thousand lines of narration.

Get a glimpse of the narrator in the top center of this screenshot

Korb describes the sound of the score as “acoustic Frontier trip hop” and while it sounds like a strange and contradictory description, it’s actually quite fitting. The hypnotic old world strings mesh with thumping beats in “Terminal March,”  evoking such a modern atmosphere yet manages to keep one foot firmly in the past to electric results.  The aforementioned frontier sounds are prominent on “Slinger’s Song” and the banjo and harmonica in “Spike in a Rail” evoke a dangerous dusty landscape one could almost see the Clint Eastwood of old riding through. There’s near-comical twang juxtaposed with intense gritty beats and guitar work on “Brusher Patrol” to create something that shouldn’t work, but does so brilliantly.

There are even a few songs with vocal elements, including Zia’s theme “Build That Wall,” with gentle female cooing that’s engaging yet relaxing. The song from the end of the game, “Setting Sail, Coming Home” has both male and female vocals, feeling epic, doomed and gorgeous. The final song on the soundtrack, “The Pantheon (Ain’t Gonna Catch You)” sounds like a lost track from a Mark Lanegan album.

If you’re listening to this soundtrack and asking yourself, “where can I get more great music with this unique sound?” There’s actually a band that makes music similar to this called Beats Antique. They too combine traditional, folky old world sounds with thudding bass and head-nodding beats. I can’t recommend them highly enough.

While Baston is a fantastic game in its own right, the soundtrack to this game is equally as fantastic and incredibly engaging. It’s great music to listen to while reading, surfing the internet, cooking, or even playing other games that have lesser soundtracks. Check out the whole soundtrack right here in the embedded Spotify playlist:

What do you think of the soundtrack to this game? What are your favorite game soundtracks you think we should feature? Is Music Mondays a segment you’d like to see continue in the future? Let us know in the comments!