Bastion

Bastion is a hack-and-slash, button-mashy action RPG with very nice art and absolutely gorgeous music bogged down by mediocre gameplay and a story that ranges from boring to bizarre. And I don’t mean bizarre as in strange, I mean as in wtf were the writers thinking.

The final choice in the game is you deciding whether to wind time back a few weeks weeks to prevent the genocide of two peoples or destroying the undo machine and running away, and this is presented as some kind of extreme moral quandary.

Spoilers inside for Braid, of all things, which is an excellent game you should go play.

Aside from its music (seriously check out the music), the thing Bastion has going for it is its narrative gimmick, wherein the PC’s story is narrated as it goes, and this is done really well. The writing in the narration is solid-to-good, and the voice actor is excellent. The narration gives the mediocre gameplay some spice, and makes the story bearable early on, where it’s really nonexistent. It doesn’t try to get metafictiony, either, which I appreciated.

The gameplay is pleasant but button-mashy and requires absolutely no skill. The game tries to compensate for this by providing like 15 different weapons, but in practice the only difference between them is how you time your button-mashing. All of the levels are functionally the same, and a handful of the baddies require some actual thought, but the vast majority can be brute-forced through. But this in and of itself may not have even been a huge deal if it weren’t for the story.

First, this is one of those instances where not only is there no reason for the PC not to be gender-neutral, but it would have actively made the game better if it had gone a Road Not Taken route and just made it so that it would have been impossible to tell exactly who the Kid was. Immersion and role-playing boons aside, the whole point of the Kid is that they’re anonymous — nameless and voiceless and confused. “The player charcater is No One, but they’re male No One” is contradictory and suspension-of-disbelief breaking, because the authorial hand and how it views personhood is immediately apparent. It’s shitty writing.

Anyway, the story itself starts out boring and cliche — the kind of juveile grimdark cliche where you use alcohol for powerups. A few hours in I was really bored and was about to quit, between the repetitive gameplay and complete lack of story, but then suddenly it threatens to get interesting, and then instead careens off into WTAFery and never returns.

The game has… weird issues with race. The narrator is voiced by a black man in what is clearly the accent of a black man from the South, but his in-game sprite is of an old white dude. I’m not really sure why no one was like, “This is weird, right?” during production, and it’s one of those small things that’s really pointless and inexcusable.

The weirder thing is that the story is about murdering all Asians.

The people called the Ura all have pale skin, black hair and dark eyes (whereas the other characters are caucasian with white hair), come from “the east,” fight with long thin swords in robes with their faces covered, and are stealth fighters, teleporting around the screen when you approach them. The Ura are Asians; there’s no way around it. They are Asians who backstab the player after finding a mysterious book full of math and equations. Asians whom the game is way, way too blase about killing.

Because about 2/3 of the way through the game, you find out the current grimdark state of affairs is the result of the people of Caelondia decide to quite literally kill all the Asians at once… using some sort of bomb that will obliterate them/turn them to ash/trap them in tunnels and suffocate them/blast them into space, depending on how the game feels at any given moment (the game is really confused about what the Calamity actually is). One of the Asians managed to somehow fuck with the bomb so that it also took out Caelondia, so when the game starts two peoples have been wiped off the planet with the exception of small groups of survivors.

Now, I’m not sure anyone sat down and said, “Let’s make the Ura fantasy Asians.” It’s possible, but I can’t tell from what we have. I’m also not sure if anyone sat down and specifically said, “Let’s have our plot be about using an atomic bomb to wipe out the enemy,” especially since it’s so confused as to the specifics of the Calamity. What I have a hard time believing is that you could have a plot about wiping out an enemy with a fantasy atom bomb and then make the enemy fantasy Asians by accident. You just don’t write a plot about secret bomb development that can vaporize people on contact and was developed as a governmental last-resort secret and not realize you’re talking about the atom bomb. You also don’t decide to use the fantasy atom bomb to genocide the fantasy Japanese and not go: hey, this is a thing that happened IRL, right?

That said, if this was all on purpose, it isn’t inherently problematic. After all, you should go play Braid it is an amazing, amazing game. There’s a reason Braid used the “now we are all sons of bitches” quote — there’s a lot of moral horror in the atom bombing and there’s still a lot there for fiction to examine. And I actually think that if this game had taken the Braid tack and had it slowly revealed that actually, this all happened because your government was really into killing all humans Asians, I think that could have been a really neat twist, if kind of predictable. The Kid would essentially be the modern gradeschooler reading Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

The problem here is that the game doesn’t seem to see why genocide is such a big deal. And that’s weird and protagonist-centered-morality-holy-shit enough on its own, but when there’s such a clear real-life analogue you just have to wonder what everyone was thinking.

To be clear, the game never uses the word genocide. It never even gets close. But it is made abundantly clear that the Calamity was intended to wipe out every single Ura. The game goes out of its way to sanitize this and deflect blame for it. It starts the story of how this happened off with the Caeldonian government being so sad about war and wanting war to end forever — and incidentally, this is where the plausible deniability about the bombing-Japan thing gets really thin. You have white people deciding to drop an atom bomb on fantasy Asians, and their reasoning is that it would end the war? Really? Anyway, being rational and not at all evil mad scientists, the Caels decide the most sensible way to end war forever is to murder all of their enemies in one fell swoop. To do this they develop the weapon behind what becomes known as the Calamity. It then misfires thanks to an Ura worker in Cael who finds out, and kills all of the Caels and most of the Ura.

The Bastion of the title turns out to be a failsafe — it has the power to set the world back to a time before the Calamity, and the Narrator, PC, and Obligatory Woman hope they can ultimately use this to prevent the Calamity. The bulk of the gameplay is finding the power needed to fire up the Bastion.

The Ura, naturally, want revenge for the attempted genocide, and spend the game trying to finish you three off and stop the Bastion from being activated, since they rightly assume it’s not a tool to save them. To the game, this is a sign of how not “civilized” they are:

“Yes our people caused the Calamity, but here we are tryn’a fix it.” Did the Ura really think we’d turn around and walk away? Shame the opportunity for civilized discourse is over.

“Sure we attempted to murder you all, but god, could you stop acting like such barbarians and let us activate our other mysterious device?”

Then there’s quotes like this one:

Zulf, the Ura…they have every reason to be angry. Beyond angry. But when this is all over, it’ll all be water under the bridge

I just like that they view attempted genocide as something that makes you very angry. Grr, say the Ura! You might as well have gotten our coffee wrong at Starbucks for how angry we are!

So yeah, the game first sanitizes what the Caels were doing, and then characterizes the Ura as unreasonable for not being thrilled. Even if there were no IRL analogue, this would be really weird and unsettling. The game just doesn’t seem to get why the Ura see Caelondia as a bad guy just for trying to enact a genocide, and I really have no idea what the writers were thinking with this, because there’s no sign anywhere in the game they see genocide as kind of a bad thing, either.

To make IRL matters worse, though, the Ura are further characterized as sneaks and traitors — crafty Asians, basically. One you save turns on you for very good reasons — he finds out YOU TRIED TO GENOCIDE HIS PEOPLE — and then his own people ultimately turn on him for vague nonsense reasons. This is a game that dares to ask: who are the real bad guys — the ones who built a genocide machine, or the ones who were the target of it?

And then as the game is ending, the Obligatory Woman suddenly is like, really sad about resetting the genocide, and wants them to instead destroy the Bastion and run away, and this is presented as a totally valid option by the game. It seems to genuinely think there is some kind of deep, meaningful choice here for the protagonist. Yeah, sure thousands, possibly millions, of people are dead, but she had a shitty boyfriend :((((( Wouldn’t it be better just to get away from it all?

I can understand the Obligatory Woman getting cold feet about saving the world because it’s so hard and women are cowards etc. What I cannot wrap my head around is the game thinking this is a plotline that is worthwhile.

And this is where the Kill All Asians plotline starts to get muddled, because if there was some secret anti-Asian plot thread here, it doesn’t actually go anywhere. Should you try to save the world? Is it better with everyone dead? Are Asians evil? Is genocide wrong? Can going back in time change things? The best the game can come up with is an epic shrug. Why not just go take a vacation instead of dealing with all this shit, it says, God knows we don’t want to be here.

The best sense I can get about whatever the loving fuck is going on with this plot it that it’s just trying to be edgy. Early on it reminded me of Farla’s discussion in her Pokemon RMN review about That Fic that teenage boys always write. It had a GRIZZLED OLD NARRATOR and ALCOHOL and VIOLENT WEAPONS and was clearly trying to be edgy, and what’s edgier than ATOM BOMBS and GENOCIDE and HUMANS AREN’T WORTH SAVING. I genuinely think the most likely scenario is here that some bad writers thought they were being deep.

Gorgeous music, though.

46 Comments

  1. Joe says:
    Geeeez. I’ve had someone give me a plot synopsis of this before in an attempt to get me to play it, and it’s a lot prettier without the details.

    “Idealistic boy kills for the Greater Good, finds out that that the likely ends are just as corrupt as means, and has to come to terms with fixing the imperfect present the hard way” sounds much better than “So, second time’s the charm? Or are we not retrying the genocide thing? I don’t have much preference either way, tbh.”

    1. Act says:

      It’s actually really creepy how enthusiatically the Kid murders his way through the game long before anyone but Rucks knows they’re going to reset the timeline. Even after, though, I was super uncomfortable with slaughtering all the Ura in the final levels. No one seems to balk at all at the idea of taking lives.

      It’s not a very introspective game, and I suspect the writers never stopped and put themselves on the ground in the world to think about how this would actually be if it were real. Undertale’s team would have a hemorrage at how distant the writing seemed from its own premise.

  2. And on top of all that, the game very, very hamfistedly tells you the rewind ending is the wrong choice because everyone’s memories get wiped so the Calamity still happens anyway. So it’s a ~deep moral choice~ but if you don’t pick the one the developer agrees with you don’t get a real ending. It really pisses me off when games do that, even before getting into the fact it’s treating preventing genocide like the stupid, cowardly option.

    1. SpoonyViking says:

      Drat, I should have reloaded the page before posting.

      Do the characters have some sort of plan on how to stop the Calamity before it happens, or are they focused only on rewinding time?

      1. Silly Spoony, that’s the bad choice that only bad people would pick, we don’t need to have it make sense.

        (I think they assumed they’d keep their memories. Rucks was a chief engineer on the project, so he’d definitely be able to shut it down.)

        1. Act says:

          I don’t remember direct confirmation they lose their memories? I played it a little while ago though so I could be worng.

          1. New Game + is canonically what happens after the rewind ending (so you were a bit too quick to praise it for not going meta!). Rucks’ narration changes in some places to imply he has a sense of deja vu, but they do lose their memories, which is why they’re unable to change anything.

            1. Act says:

              Ugh that’s… something I don’t like.

              Reply
            2. illhousen says:

              To be fair, that doesn’t sound very meta (at least not enough to make my blood boil like certain other games), just your standard time loop. Still not a good thing in the context, but for different reasons.

              Reply
            3. Roarke says:

              Wait! I know the Kid’s name, and why he has to be male! It’s Blick Winkel!

              Reply
        2. SpoonyViking says:

          Ah, in that case, their plan does make sense.

    2. Act says:

      I don’t understand why people who think things should turn out a certain way put multiple endings into their games.

      1. To show the wrong people just how wrong they are and make them repent their badwrong ways, of course! (It can theoretically be done well but you have to put way more thought into it than most writers do.)

        1. Roarke says:

          This was like, the biggest complaint about Far Cry 3 for a lot of people. You’re given the choice to either go back home with your friends or kill them and stay in the jungle, but the attractive choice, killing your old friends for continued jungling, just gets you murdered immediately after.

          1. Act says:

            That’s actually hilarious. Though it probs wouldn’t be if I played the game.

  3. Roarke says:

    Didn’t actually finish Bastion, so I didn’t uncover the deep moral quandary of genocide vs. no genocide.

    In other avenues of EDGY game design, there were those bonus levels you accessed by taking a hit off of the Ulf dude’s massive pipe. There you learn the Kid’s backstory, including being raised by a single mom after his dad left, and his mom was the kind of sick woman who died while he was in the army.

    Narrator and music were great, yes, and I busted a gut when SAO Abridged used the main theme in one of its episodes. That was awesome.

    1. Act says:

      Can’t blame you for not finishing it. I pushed far past boredom long before I even got to the wtfery.

      Yeah the weird peyote scenes were another ~totes adult thing. And the woman’s backstory was all about how she was hoodwinked by her boyfriend and her motivation was that seeing him again was a sad. It was… yeah.

      I also lulled at SAO:A.

      1. Roarke says:

        Apparently the dev team for Bastion made another game, Transistor, that actually looks pretty superior. You gonna check it out?

        1. Act says:

          Eh. All the reviews gush about the visuals, music, and gameplay, which were the solid-to-good things about Bastion. It’s always a red flag when I read tons of reviews who mention nothing about the story, and the writing was the weakest part here, so unless someone can argue in its favor I probably won’t pick it up.

  4. SpoonyViking says:

    If time is reset to before the Calamity, wouldn’t that just lead to an eternal loop? How are they ensuring the Calamity doesn’t actually hapen?

  5. Xander77 says:
    That’s certainly an interesting unique take on the game’s premise. Haven’t heard that particular interpretation before.

    Most people seem to assume that Rucks being one of the scientists responsible for the calamity makes him an unreliable narrator (seeing how the backstory slowly reveals re-contextualized his earlier perspective) rather than the voice of the authors.

    I assume that most people choose the “rewind” ending the first time around. I found the notion that the Calamity happens all over again interesting rather than “grimdark” (again, that’s a peculiarly unique definition, as I don’t believe I’ve ever read a description of Bastion that included “grimdark” before). After all, the war is still in place, the super weapon is still in place, and the attitude the “civilized” people have towards the savages is are still in place. What exactly could the heroes change even if they had retained their memories? Stop the device from being sabotaged so that it functions “correctly”?

    As an aside – I found the game extremely hard on the default difficulty, and there’s a well programmed set of ingrained restrictions you can undertake if you find it too easy.

     

     

    1. Act says:

      If you want to actually discuss the narrative’s attitude and the way the game uses tropes I’m more than happy, but I don’t feel obligated to respond to weird, vague, passive-aggressive jabs that don’t even bring the actual text — either of the original material or my post — into it.

      Most people seem to assume that Rucks being one of the scientists responsible for the calamity makes him an unreliable narrator

      That’s actually interesting, in that it implies I wasn’t the only one uncomofortable with how the narration treated everything. Unfortunately there’s no textual evidence of it, that I saw. He’s the only voice we get, everything he says is treated as right, and then he’s validated by the endings.

      I found the game extremely hard on the default difficulty, and there’s a well programmed set of ingrained restrictions you can undertake if you find it too easy.

      I played on the highest difficultly and found it really boring. I didn’t care enough to fool around with the totems by the time they started to be accessible. *shrug*

      1. Rucks is actually pro-rewind, so the ending doesn’t quite validate him. It is hard to tell if he actually regrets the genocide or just the fact it became an omnicide, though.

        1. Roarke says:

          It is hard to tell if he actually regrets the genocide or just the fact it became an omnicide, though.

          It’d be a damn brutal ending if it turned out the Rewind just let Rucks carry out the original genocide plan. Like, at that point, I’d legit be asking myself moral questions, like, it might really be better for 90% of everyone to be dead, rather than just a one-sided annihilation.

          1. Heatth says:

            Haven’t played the game myself, I thought this was the point of the game. That the question of “should we go back and prevent genocide” is tempered with “what if this will just result in genocide anyway, except with the perpetrators getting out fine”. That seem like a genuine moral question to me.

            1. Act says:

              I think this goes back to what Mini-Farla was saying above — theoretically if you keep your memories, even if Rucks does, too, and his whole plan is to make sure only one society survives, there’s still a chance for Kid and Woman to stop it, and since the entire Ura civilization is in the balance that’s a chance you have to take, morally, I think (this actually reminds me of Radiant Historia, where the twins go back in time over and over trying to come up with a way not to have the world end — great game). But since the True Ending is apparently that no one remembers and it is an infinite time loop, there’s no point.

              The game would be infinitely more powerful if it left the question of what happened hanging instead of the dumb grimdarky “world is doomed and you’re a fool for trying” thing. This is a trope I really dislike. Fighting hard in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity is an admirable thing. I have… issues with “give up and never try you’re doomed anyway” messages.

              Reply
        2. Xander77 says:
          Yeah. Besides being the head researcher on the Calamity, implicitly being complicit in stuff like blackmailing Zulf’s father into intellectual slave-labor and being heavily in favor of enslaving sentient creatures (Gasfellows etc) waging war on the Ura, and exterminating the remaining animals (if you aren’t questioning Rucks during the “the animals are building their own Bastion, and killing them all is a mercy” sequence,  I don’t know what to tell you) he’s also desperately hoping that all his sins will be wiped by pressing a literal reset button that doesn’t even work.
          1. Act says:

            But there are no narrative consequences for the terrible things the Kid does!

             

            The whole “it’s okay to murder woodland creatures” bit was almost as creepy as the blithe murdering of human enemies, but there’s no prize for playing as a pacifist and the Kid doesn’t once balk at the idea of leaving a trail of blood and gore behind him. I know — I went through the Ura levels trying to kill as few people as possible. I agree that that’s the reading that makes the game deep, but I think it’s fanwank. I don’t think it’s there. At the very least, if the game intended it, it was implemented terribly.

            An alternative setup:

            You can choose not to kill bosses, and instead escape them by grabbing the core and running back through the level — but this isn’t explaining by Rucks. Obligatory Women asks you why you always kill them after you get her, and that’s your hint that something isn’t right.

            At the start, things proceed like any game, but then you start to get weird things like “go murder Bambi” and “why are the Ura so pissed about genocide.” As the game goes on, Rucks gets increasingly antagonistic toward you if you don’t kill bosses. At the end, you can choose to spare the Ura leader or kill him. If you chose to spare him, Rucks confronts you back at the Bastion and tries to get you to go murder the Ura leader. You refuse, and have to fight him before either activating it or not.

            If you do listen to Rucks the whole time and get to the normal ending but choose not to activate the Bastion, he goes ballistic and tries to activate it anyway. You can either go along with him and reset, hoping things will be different, or kill him in order to maintain the devastated world.

            The game as-is is just shallow. The writers weren’t thinking, and as a result the narration just goes “meh” to everything. The most generous interpretation is that there is a serious story/gameplay divide that undermines every point the narrative was trying to make.

            0

            1. illhousen says:

              So, basically, more games should be like Undertale.

              Reply
            2. Act says:

              Yeah I realized as soon as I wrote that that I’d basically written Undertale. I haven’t even played it >.>

              Honestly, I think the truth is that Undertale just hit on a problem that’s really endemic to the medium, which is so overrun by violent power fantasies. I wonder what percentage of just the games we’ve done here could be imrpoved dratically by undertaling.

              Reply
            3. Xander77 says:
              You do in fact get a pacifist option the moment Kid gets fed up with Rucks’ bullshit.

              As for your repeated assertion that “the writers weren’t thinking”… I honestly have no idea where you’re coming from. You’ve said above that you’re wary of reviews that gush Transistor’s visuals and gameplay but don’t mention the story, so I think pointing out that most every review praised Bastion’s story might be relevant, rather than an appeal to popularity.

              You might be coming at the story from a unique perspective, or you might quick to dismiss the game’s narrative and message because… it’s not Undertale?

               

              Reply
            4. illhousen says:

              Well, Undertale was just the most successful recent game to address those issues. The current was there for quite some time with games like OFF poiting out that standard RPG gameplay is kinda fucked up and social combat games like the Logomancer or Last Word trying to break free from it. And some bigger names played with the idea as well, though not quite as decisively.

              Undertale is just a culmination of it, outlining the problems more harshly and providing an actual working solution all at once.

              As for the percentage of tha games reviwed here, to be fair, we review a lot of adventures and VNs and other games where you don’t actually get to kill anyone, so the percentage would be low, I’d expect.

              Still, some would definitely benefit from it. Like End Roll which basically begs for a way to interact with the world other than stabbing everything.

              Reply
            5. Act says:

              @Xander77

              You do in fact get a pacifist option the moment Kid gets fed up with Rucks’ bullshit.

              ?? [citation needed] Are you talking about not killing whatsisUra? I would hardly call one choice not to murder someone for no reason a “pacifist option.”

              I honestly have no idea where you’re coming from.

              This entire post was about the shitload of Unfortunate Implications in this game.

              I think pointing out that most every review praised Bastion’s story might be relevant, rather than an appeal to popularity.

              Yes, that would be why I bought the game in the first place. As usual, reviewers are more than happy to praise anything for any reason and have disappointed me.

              you might quick to dismiss the game’s narrative and message because… it’s not Undertale?

              I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty frustrated by your refusal to engage what I actually say (coupled with the constant shouting of “NO YOU’RE WRONG” without bringing any actual evidence to the table), and this is going to be my last response.

              I’m critical of the game’s narrative becasue it has all the flaws that Undertale was calling out — severe protagonist-centered morality and a violent power fantasy that never seems to acknowledge the in-universe implications of what you do.

              The game’s message, as far as I can tell, is “Is genocide really something worth trying to avoid?” I’m willing to believe this wasn’t intentional, but absent some actual textual argument to the contary, I’m entirely sure that’s what it ended up with. Illhousen’s comment below nails, I think, what they were probably going for and why it doesn’t work given the story itself.

              I’m not interested in the interpretation of the story that extrapolates what it intended — that’s just fancy fankwank. I’m interested in what it actually says. And as I said in the post, the premise here isn’t inherently flawed: the execution is the problem. I agree that the story you’re describing is a good one. I disagree that it’s the one we got.

              Reply
        3. Act says:

          The ~true ending~ is notable because it is the one time he’s clearly marked as being wrong. Not only does he not fight you on your choice, he treats it like some crazy enlgihtening idea he’s never thought of and rewards you for it — it’s a pat on the head to the player for being so much wiser than the Grizzeled Old Guy who has known everything up to this point:

          I gotta admit kid, I ain’t put much thought in that idea. Of carrying on. With you here.

          We can’t go back no more. But I suppose we could go… wherever we please.

          And if anyone’s left out there, I would sure like to see the look on their faces, when we dock this thing right on their doorstep.

          Gettin’ ahead of myself though, I’m gonna need a first mate. What do ya say?

          If you’re not supposed to admire him, his praise here and the reward of being his sidekick is meaningless. But it’s presented instead as a treat for a job well done.

          Basically, everything you’ve done up to that point was a-okay — the only problem was that you were doing it in the interest of trying to make the world better instead of accepting that everything is stuck terrible forever.

  6. illhousen says:

    What I cannot wrap my head around is the game thinking this is a plotline that is worthwhile.

    Oh, I know the answer to that one! It’s what happens when writers try to create a metaphor that could be applied to the real life but fail to properly incorporate fantasy elements into it.

    From what I see here (and keep in mind that I didn’t play the game), the intended moral appears to be that you shouldn’t live in the past and should instead focus on the present and try to make the best of it. Which is usually not a bad moral, but the issue here is that there is an actual time machine that could potentially alter the past, preventing a great tragedy, and the writers don’t seem to quite realize that it changes the logic involved a lot. I mean, with so many lives at stake, as long as there is even a minuscule chance of success (and the absence of that chance seems to not be established properly) they must try.

    Of course, the whole “drop a nuke on fantasy Asians” thing doesn’t help the moral either since now it comes across as “yeah, well, that whole business is in the past now. Can’t we just forget about the genocide of your people and get along now? That would be very convenient for us.” There is a reason that particular moral is usually applied to specific people rather than nations with stories about attempting to resurrect the dead and the like.

    1. Act says:

      Yeah, this all rings pretty true. I honestly just don’t think anyone was thinking very hard about any of the writing. Ignorance/malice and all that.

  7. Zephyr says:

    I like Bastion, but I do think when I played it, I was seeing more of the extrapolated story than what was actually presented. Somehow I completely missed the Ura = Asians parallels and thus that particular creepiness of the attempted genocide, but even my first time playing, where I was really into everything about the game, I was still very uncomfortable about fighting the Ura. I think that the final scene with rescuing Zulf would’ve been a lot better even if the first half of the game was intact but you could progress without killing any Ura – then they’re letting you progress not just because you’ve chosen to save this one guy, but because you’re really proving that you’re not continuing Caelondia’s path of destruction. Could make the second ending better too (or a third ending?) – rather than just sailing away in your isolating fortress, you stay and help the Ura rebuild and recover after everything that’s happened.

    But I really liked a lot of the little flavour-text details in the shrines, the drinks, and the weapon challenges.

    Speaking of Braid, what are your thoughts on the ending? I’d seen spoilers about the final level’s twist before playing, so I went into the game thinking that the stalker theory was the true reading (also not knowing there were other readings). And I was really impressed at the writing describing that creepy possessive/objectifying mindset from Tim’s perspective without narratively justifying or excusing it, but then I hit the epilogue and everything fell to pieces. That’s mostly my fault for going into it with pre-set ideas, but I just don’t really understand the atom bomb theory – maybe because I didn’t recognise any of the stuff the epilogue was quoting. But judging from the parallels you’ve drawn between them, I’m guessing you do support that theory? If you don’t mind, could you explain your thoughts about it?

    1. Act says:

      Honestly, I played Braid so long ago that I’m not sure how well I can elaborate, but: I remember loving the art, thinking the writing was excellent, and liking both sides of the story (ie, the critique of the save-the-princess thing on one hand, the larger social commentary on the other).

      I don’t think either interpretation of the story cancels the other out — it’s very much about both, about the monsters we become when we try to force others to act to our desires and the monster we become as a society when we forget about others’ humanity. The story works on both the personal level, between two characters, and as an allegory for something much bigger. I think that’s honestly part of why I liked it so much — it takes a single issue, like the way men pursue women as objects, and manages to treat it with care while also magnifying it a thousand times and asking what happens when Men treat others as objects.

      Like I said, though, It was almost a decade ago I played it, so I may have some hindsight blinders on.

      1. Roarke says:

        And I just bought it for $3. Yay autumn sale!

        1. Act says:

          I bought like 10 games for $25 yesterday, it was amazing.

      2. Zephyr says:

        Whoa, is the game really that old now? I only played it a few days ago because I’m terrible for buying things on sale and then never getting around to playing them.

        That makes a lot of sense, thinking of it as the same themes on different scales rather than specifically about the atom bomb as a single event. Thanks!

        1. Act says:

          Yep, it was 2008. Braid is also interesting historically, since it’s hugely responsible for the boom in high-quality indie gaming we’re in now, both in the sense that it encouraged major publishers to take risks on small devs and that it showed tiny devs they could make an impact.

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  8. Act says:

    I have a Steam key for this game from a humble Bundle if anyone’s interested. I continue to not recommend it, but if you’re some WEIRDO who likes to form their own opinions or w/e here’s your chance :P

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