Scorched Earth: As-I-Play Bastion (Part Seven)

I begin this session at Mount Zand, which looks more like a giant bush than a mountain, to be honest. Rucks tells me that “The beasts of the wild came down from the mountains. There’s no more mountains now.” Well, I guess there’s a reason I didn’t think it looked like one. Probably the Calamity, since that’s what we’re blaming for pretty much everything else.

And I’m literally spending this level walking through the bushes, utterly unable to see what’s attacking me until it attacks. As it turns out, the horrible hopping armored things are highly susceptible to the flamethrower (see last post), so that’s a bonus, at least, since I can’t see to dodge them.

Eventually I do get out of the (literal and proverbial) bushes, and into an area that just seems to randomly spawn all sorts of critters. Rucks says that this looks like the “Critters have started a Bastion of their own,” but goes on to say that the only thing we can do is “put ‘em down.” After a while, he then says that it has to be “their Bastion, or ours,” and if we win, we win for everybody, including them. Rucks continues, saying that “It’s too bad you can’t explain that to simple beasts.”

I am… skeptical. The whole concept feels a bit too white-man’s-burden for me, particularly given the fact that I’m the one who keeps killing all the critters. Not to mention the fact that if they’re smart enough to be collecting cores and shards—which Rucks says they are—they have to have some understanding of why, which means that we’re the a**holes here.

“They’ve rounded up their survivors, just like we have,” Rucks says. “Maybe they’ve thought about turning back, just like we have.” Okay, that does it. I’m only killing things that attack me first now. If it doesn’t kill me, I’m not killing it. I’m pretty far into this level, but I’ve now left some sort of plant and a Pecker alive. We’ll see if that bites me in the patootie or not.

It doesn’t, and I leave another plant-thing alive before I leave. As I take the skyway out, Rucks says, “He’s done what’s best for ‘em, don’t you worry.” Pause. “Don’t you worry.” I’m not buying it, Rucks. We’re the bad guys, here. We did something to the Ura, and now we’re systematically slaughtering all the other creatures in Caelondia we can essentially get our hands on, except for the ones we tame. There’s an allegory here, Rucks, and in it, we are not the good guys.

Next stop is Burstone Quarry, which, Rucks says, “has gotta have one, right?” As always, I am skeptical. Rucks explains that we (Caelondians) bought the quarry from the Ura, and it came with things called Rattletails, which apparently the Ura were fine with, but Rucks asks, with disgust, “Why would they put up with those pests?” I’m now going to try to go out of my way not to kill them (unless, of course, they attack me and keep me from getting through this level, but I am going to be as merciful as possible without stopping my progress, just because Rucks dislikes them).

I’m trying very hard not to kill things, now, and I’m doing a surprisingly good job. There are Windbags in this level, but they’re not really interested in me, so I skirt them, as well as the spiky things that aren’t actively shooting at me (there are a few trying to shoot the Windbags) and some other plants. I was working so hard not to kill things that I missed something Rucks said, only tuning back in to hear “They were recording it all the time, takin’ it all in.” I’m not sure who “they” were—Ura, maybe?

There’s a boss fight, and at the end of that, Rucks narrates that “‘Are you all right?’ calls a voice from down the hall.” I follow the hallway, and find Zulf. Rucks narrates: “‘I’ve come to warn you,’ he says.” Zulf tells me “The Bastion is under siege. Let it fall. You should not go back.” That’s probably not actually going to happen, although at this point I’m more inclined to listen to Zulf than to my erstwhile narrator, Rucks. I don’t trust narrators. It’s in my English-major-I’ve-read-Wuthering-Heights-and-The-Great-Gatsby blood.

There’s a button, and a little scroll-arrow pops up which tells me I have to push it or I can’t continue. I try to continue anyway, and, sure enough, I have to push the button to get at the shard. Fine. Rucks narrates, “The Kid hears him, but he can’t be deterred.” Well, actually I totally can be deterred, but the game isn’t giving me that option, probably because of you, Rucks, you jerk. Zulf replies, “If that’s the way it is, then I won’t stop you.” Really, I rather wish you would. But you won’t, because that’s not what Rucks has in mind, and he is narrating this story, after all.

I keep going, and then, “Because my countrymen will.” Oh. Okay. Except they won’t, either, because otherwise this wouldn’t be a game and I wouldn’t be its hero. They might try, though.

And yes, the Bastion is yet again a giant mess. Dammit. I was almost done fixing that so I could be done with this game, and now you and your stupid Ura have to go and ruin it. Okay, so maybe we are mean, nasty oppressors and we totally deserve it, but I want to finish this game, so if you could maybe just let me do that and then I’ll give the Bastion to you? Please?

I didn’t think so, but it was worth a try.

So kill them—interesting that they fall over dead and stay corpses, unlike the critters I’ve been killing which melt into little blue XP—and then go in the back door, because clearly a floating island totally has a back door (okay, Rucks). As I make my way, Rucks says that “It’s too bad they have the girl.” Of course they do, because this is a videogame and we couldn’t have a videogame without a damsel, now, could we? sigh

All the creatures I’ve acquired are fighting on my side, except “Little Squirt didn’t make it.” I wonder if that’s always true, or if I’d have gotten there faster, would all my creatures survive? (I still have the god, the anklegator, and the pecker.) Rucks continues, “Problem is, Zulf’s plan worked.”

Rucks then tells me that the Ura came to get revenge for the Calamity—“It was Caelondia’s master plan to wipe out the earth.” Oh, good. So I’m a member of a race of psychotics. Rucks continues, “If only Zulf knew the whole story.” I’m kinda with Zulf on this one. We deserve whatever we’ve got coming to us.

But first, I ask Rucks about Zia, and he says, “What were we to think? They musta got her. Taken her back to her rightful home.” Yes, that does sound terrible. Home. How awful for her.

Now how many more of these stupid things do I have to collect before this game will be over? (To be fair, I am enjoying it infinitely more now that I have a controller. It’s still not my kind of gameplay, but I’m actually not actively disliking it anymore.)

The next jump I make, Rucks says, “One shard, that’s all we need to put this mess behind us.” Dear videogame gods, I hope so.

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[…] This week’s TLF post is my second-to-last in the As-I-Play Bastion series, and it marks the point when I began to realize just how political (and serious) a game Bastion actually is. If you follow me on NPC Gamer, you will know that I made a general Bastion post there a few weeks ago which talks about this in greater detail (including the ending), but if you’re following along in the whole As-I-Play series, you might want to wait to read that one until Part Eight goes up (in two weeks). […]

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