Supergiant Games’ first game, Bastion, was highly regarded for a number of reasons. One reason that comes up almost every time the game is mentioned is the audio – in particular, the engrossing verbal narration provided by Logan Cunningham. What doesn’t get mentioned nearly as frequently – but should – is the game’s outstanding soundtrack.
Sitting down to listen to Bastion will present you with a fusion of a western frontier vibe and a more electronic, synthesized sound. Twangy strings and echoing, hollow sounds combine with heavy bass lines and the synthetic elements to produce a potent image of a melancholic, formerly bustling frontier world. The overall mood produced by composer Darren Korb is a calculated one that evokes a sense of exploration and discovery, but doesn’t sacrifice any of the game’s essential punchy aesthetic and the narrator’s dry sense of snark.
The spoken opening track is a stellar way to set the mood for the album. The narrator wistfully recalls the things he misses most about the old world. The soft crackling of flames and a faint acoustic guitar strum away, and it’s hard to not feel yourself being tugged into this world, sitting around the fire reminiscing right alongside the speaker.
One song that encompasses the soundtrack perfectly is “Bynn the Breaker.” Weeks after playing the game and listening to the soundtrack, it is the track that I can always find myself humming idly. The strings twang back and forth dramatically as the bass thrums, and after a few minutes the electric sounds cut in with a line that lends a sense of purpose and urgency to the entire track.
“Terminal March” is another great track, with its boingy background effects, thumping drum and bass line, and twangy guitar that further the frontier motif. “Faith of Jevel” is a track that, for me, evoked a sense of loss, and wouldn’t sound out of place in a Shin Megami Tensei title. The slow pace and pinging on the guitar sound off quite nicely, and would easily take a place alongside some of Shoji Meguro’s most powerful “world in ruins”-style pieces.
“Mine, Windbag, Mine” delves a bit deeper into the electronic side of things, and is full of dramatic weight and a clanging industrial percussion bit. “Build That Wall (Zia’s Theme)” is a bluesy acoustic track with a vocal component provided by Ashley Barrett. Though I’m unfamiliar with her work, solid lyrics, some heartfelt humming, and a real sense of loss tingeing her voice make this one of the most powerful pieces on the disc.
I can’t think of a better way to get a player to get invested in the all-important words of Bastion‘s narrator than to pull them into his world, and this music is resoundingly successful in that regard. However, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t sound great outside of the game – the beats are catchy, the melodies are memorable, and it serves as a bright window into a post-Calamity world.
Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in hearing more about Bastion, check out Random Encounter Episode 31, in which we speak directly to the game’s sound director and composer, Darren Korb!