Proper story's supposed to start at the beginning...
"The dead? The dead ain't gotta worry about this mess. Our world? She's done. But there's a way to put it back together. So better get ready. Cause Mother only knows what's out there floatin' on them rocks. Beasts what don't know up from down. Fragments of the old world. You bring them back. And together, we're gonna build something grand. And remember. You ain't in this alone. That's a promise."
Bastion is an Action Adventure game developed by Supergiant Games and published by Warner Bros., and was the first game released for the Xbox Summer of Arcade 2011 event.The flying city of Caelondia has been torn to pieces by an event called "The Calamity". The main character, known only as "The Kid", wakes up shortly after the Calamity strikes and heads towards the Bastion, the emergency gathering place for the entire city. Once he reaches it, he learns from Rucks, the only other person to reach it, that things can be set right if Caelondia's Cores can be gathered to power the Bastion. The Kid then sets off alone into the ruins of Caelondia, hoping to rebuild what's been undone.
Ambadassador: Zulf, before the Calamity, though not in any official capacity. He simply traveled to Caelondia in an attempt to improve relations with them.
An Aesop: While it's not explicit, and the game ultimately lets the player make their own decision and draw their own conclusion about the results, there's a definite theme of "worry about the future, not the past".
Rucks: Nothing good ever came out of the past, except history.
Animal Motifs: The image of Pyth, the Bull, God of Order and Commotion, decorates the city walls, Kid's Shield and many places.
Anti-Villain: All of the game's enemies — from the windbags, to the various types of wild creatures, to the Ura — are portrayed sympathetically. Zulf in particular is given the antivillain treatment.
Apocalypse How: The Calamity causes regional physical annihilation, at minimum. The city of Caelondia and surrounding areas are left as nothing but disconnected bits of land floating over an infinite void, and we're not shown exactly how far the destruction extends (though it doesn't seem to cover the whole planet). Given the Magi Tech nature of the Calamity, and the fact that the ending reveals that the Bastion's "Restoration" function is unable to prevent it, it may even extend all the way to metaphysical annihilation, as well.
The Atoner: Rucks expresses guilt about his role in the Calamity. He wants to fix the Bastion because he hopes that will undo the damage caused. He goes so far as to say that he's not sure he can "stick around" because of his guilt, which has pretty clear implications.
Awesome, but Impractical: The Calamity Cannon hits hard, but you can't move while firing it, timing the shots is tricky, and you're likely to blow yourself up with the slightest error. It won't get any more practical until you level it up to fire Homing Projectiles.
Badass: The Kid, who seems to have been that way even before the Calamity. Pre-Calamity, he was the only one to have ever signed up for a second five-year tour of duty on the Rippling Wall, was the Marshals' most trusted scout, and was being actively headhunted by some of the martial guilds. Post-Calamity, of course, he fights his way through the remnants of Caelondia's extensive security systems, hordes of Windbags, the beasts of the Wilds, and the remaining Ura, entirely by himself.
Bilingual Bonus: In Japanese, Ura can mean "underside" (appropriate, given that they prefer to live underground) or "reverse".
Bizarre Alien Biology: Windbags are all the same species at different stages of life; Squirts become Gasfellas, which become Scumbags. Scumbags are used as living garbage disposals by the Caeldonians, and Gasfellas as moderately intelligent coerced labor. Before Squirts is another stage, thousands of Windbag babies that live inside of rocks that Gasfellas look after. These rocks are used by the Caeldonians as Cores and Shards; anchors for their version of magic.
Bleak Level: The Hanging Gardens. It has quiet, melancholy music, dim lighting, and contains a multitude of incinerated corpses, each of which elicits a depressing snippet from Rucks when approached, and doubly so when their ashes are scattered. And to get the Core for the area, you're expected to destroy a ring of those corpses (though you can avoid this if you grab it from the right angle). Not a happy place.
Rucks: Proper storyís supposed to start at the beginning. Ainít so simple with this one.
Rucks: ...I'll see you in the next one. (if you choose the Restoration ending and then start a New Game Plus)
Booze-Based Buff: Every time The Kid levels up, he can equip another drink in the Distillery, which offers a selection of alcohols that can do everything from increasing damage or critical chance to shooting spikes out of The Kid's body when he's hit. It's noted in-game that the only spirits Caelondia allows are those that are beneficial, and some of the alcohols are borderline illegal.
Both Sides Have a Point: The Caelondia/Ura conflict. The whole thing is portrayed as tragically avoidable, rather than malicious on either side.
Brutal Bonus Level: The Stranger's Dream, added in DLC after the game's release. A final Who Knows Where level with almost 30 waves of enemies, cherry-picked from every level of the game, in unprecedented combinations. (How would you like to fight a pair of Anklegators while dodging fire from Pincushions and Ura soldiers?) Almost every one of the game's bosses are used, and never by themselves. Finally, potions do not drop anywhere near as frequently as in the other segments, all but necessitating Leechade. So, of course, there's an achievement for beating it with all ten idols on.
Dark and Troubled Past: The battle arenas in Who Knows Where has Rucks revealing these, little by little. The Kid's is bad. Zia's is worse. Zulf's is heartbreaking.
The Dead Have Names: One sequence has you passing through a large gathering place full of ashen statues that were once people, and Rucks mentions each and every one of their names.
Deadpan Snarker: Rucks does this as part of being a Lemony Narrator. The Kid has a bit of a snarking streak, too, when showing items to others, such as when he asks Rucks about the gramophone ("It's not like the neighbors will complain.") or gives Zia her harp back ("Pardon me, miss, but didn't you drop this?")
Delayed Narrator Introduction: Rucks begins narrating from the beginning of the game, but doesn't appear in person until the Kid makes it to the bastion (and doesn't reveal his name until Zulf shows up). This avoids the trope's usual Fridge Logic, as it's implied he has been hearing about the Kid's travels whenever he returns to the Bastion (as evidenced when he can't tell what the Kid's doing in the final level and assumes he's having some sort of final showdown with Zulf).
Determinator: The Kid. He will fix the Bastion, no matter the forces arrayed against him or the setbacks suffered along the way. This peaks in the very end of the game, if you decide to save Zulf. The Kid is reduced to a snail's pace and can't block, dodge, or counterattack, but wades through a gauntlet of enemies without flinching. The enemy are so impressed by his mettle that they stop attacking, showing him respect as a Worthy Opponent.
Rucks has unique dialog for every single weapon pairing, referencing the effectiveness or in-universe significance of the combination. With eleven weapons, that means 55 combinations, with one combination (the repeater and bow) having two quotes.
He also has quotes for just about everything you do. For instance, if you stick around in the first area and break pieces of the destructible environment, Rucks will notice. If you use your dodge roll to speed across a collapsing floor (since it's faster than walking), Rucks will notice. If you fall of a certain platform during a Rail Shooter section, Rucks will count the number of times you fell off. Hell, if you fall off in any area, he'll say a line in context with that area.
There's even specific lines for when you do things as well. For instance, Rucks will have different things to say depending on whether you go to the second Who Knows Where before or after Zulf's men wreak havoc on the Bastion.
Die, Chair! Die!: There's plenty of debris lying around to smash, some of which grant you fragments when destroyed. The narrator will comment on it if you spend much time at it. The Challenge for the Cael Hammer actually makes this a gameplay mechanic; it requires you to smash a whole bunch of junk within a time limit.
Difficult, But Awesome: The Cael Hammer has poor range and damage is cut in half unless you're standing still, but if used correctly it has the highest raw damage potential damage of any weapon in the game.
Do Not Run with a Gun: Ranged weapons tend to force you to slow to a crawl or stop entirely while you're using them.
Doomsday Device: It's slowly revealed over the course of the game that the Calamity was caused by a Caeldonian doomsday device, intended as a weapon of last resort against the Ura. Of course, it was sabotaged and set off early, thus doing more damage to Caelondia than the Ura.
The Dreaded: The Kid becomes this for the Ura. From their perspective, after a failed revenge strike against those they've been told were responsible for The Calamity, one person chases them down to what remains of their homeland and slaughters countless numbers of them along the way. No matter how many troops they throw at him, he just drops them and keeps rolling. This warps into Worthy Opponent if you try to save Zulf in the final level.
Drop the Hammer: The Cael Hammer is the first weapon found and the Kid's in-universe Weapon of Choice. It does more damage, hit for hit, than anything but the Mortar and Calamity Cannon. With the right upgrades, it'll do more damage than either (provided you use it properly).
In the penultimate level, you obtain the Calamity Cannon, a BFG which supposedly utilizes the power of the Calamity itself (though it's not strictly better than the other weapons).
Then in the final level, you get an item that replaces your roll with an extremely useful jump.
Finally, you get an enormous weapon called the Battering Ram, which kills almost any enemy with just one swing and hits the whole screen with its special, though at the cost of making your movements slow and the aforementioned jump/dodge impossible.
Everybody's Dead, Dave: The game ticks off an impressive list of Caelondia's inhabitants as you come upon their incinerated corpses. Each time, Rucks gives a brief exposition usually ending with the words "...didn't make it".
Fantastic Nuke: The Calamity, to the point of being intended as a strategic weapon of last resort for Caelondia in the case of a second war against the Ura, very similarly to real-life nuclear weapons.
Fantasy Pantheon: The Caelondians and Ura both worship the same pantheon of gods, the Ura more devoutly than the Caelondians (who stopped fearing them to the point that they made plushies out of Pyth). There is a little bit of flavor information given on each one in the Shrine, and a little more in The Stranger's Dream. Interestingly, each god represents two different aspects, most of them being diametrically opposed, to show two different sides of the same concept. They also play into the difficulty system, as you can invoke the gods in the Shrine, who will change some aspect of the difficulty (e.g. enemies will be faster, won't drop health tonics, etc.) while giving you an increase in experience gained and fragments dropped. They are as follows:
Acobi: The Chastened Maid, goddess of Oath and Abandon. A maiden bound by shackles of her own design. Her chains represent oaths and promises.
"Make a promise, and The Chastened Maid will hold you to it."
Foes Shall Have Vengeance in the Throes of Defeat
Garmuth: The Crippled Duke, god of Purpose and Folly. A crippled god without senses, who still gives counsel to those in need, and serves as a reminder of the consequences of folly.
"The Crippled Duke reminds us that good intentions are nothing on their own."
Foes Shall Deflect Attacks on A Whim
Hense: The Veiled Widow, goddess of Pain and Pleasure. Beneath her robes, Hense's body is all scars and scratches, and yet the goddess always has a smile of pleasure on her face.
"Pain and Pleasure. You can't have one without the other, the Veiled Widow makes sure of it."
Foes Shall Strike With Greater Ferocity
Jevel: The Tower Keeper, god of Health and Atrophy. A curious god whose face is half that of a youth, and half that of an old man. In him is reflected a man's prime and twilight.
"We each have the Tower Keeper's strength in us, until the day that strength runs out."
Foes Shall Gain Resilience to Physical Harm
Lemaign: The Mason King, god of Hope and Despair. Before battle, soldiers would pray to him for high morale.
"The Mason King knows that success and failure are all in the mind."
Foes Shall Induce Sloth With Each Strike
Micia: The Lorn Mother, goddess of Loss and Longing. She gave away her heart, and bears in its place the Star of Caelondia.
"We all are born from the Lorn Mother, and in the end, we all return to her."
Foes Shall Regenerate From Any Injury
Olak: The Carefree Son, god of Chance and Whim. A young god who is alive forever in a single moment, and plays his carefree games outside the reach of time.
"The Carefree Son lives forever in the moment. The rest of us can only try."
Foes Shall Sometimes Turn to Air, Unable to be Hit
Pyth: The Wakeful Bull, god of Commotion and Order. A bull who is both patient and tempermental. His likeness adorns the walls of Caelondia, a testament to their love of order.
"When the Wakeful Bull is calm, let's all do our part to keep him that way."
Foes Shall Grow Quicker to Move and Strike
Roathus: The Gorging Host, god of Thirst and Plenty. A god who grows ever larger as he eats, but whose hunger is never satisfied. His eyes overflow with tears of pain.
"The Gorging Host reminds us to always know when we've had enough."
Foes Shall Never Yield Health Tonics or Black Tonics
Yudrig: The Morning Stallion, god of Impulse and Bravery. Each day, at daybreak, he affects the wishes and impulses of all people.
"Each time the Morning Stallion stamps his hoof, somebody out there makes up his mind."
Foes Shall Cause Harm on Physical Contact
Far East: Ura, a country with vaguely defined borders whose citizens mostly live underground.
Fission Mailed: If you fall off the path in the first level, Rucks will say "And then, the Kid fell to his death." while the screen becomes grey and blurry. Then he'll say "I'm just foolin'." and you'll be dumped back on land.
Foreshadowing: Several of Rucks' remarks at Prosper Bluff and his line at the Rippling Walls when the Gasfella shows up foreshadow the reveal that his narration all along was him telling the story to Zia while the Kid is off fighting the final battle. A couple of lines also foreshadow Zulf's Face Heel Turn.
A subtle one is Ruck's line at the end of the Kid's dream. He says he would like to think he will never forget everything the kid has done, but the way he says it make it seem like a "but..." on the end.
Friendly Enemy: Zulf bears no hostility against The Kid and Zia. His grudge is with Rucks, and everything he and the Mancers helped create.
Functional Magic: Caelondia seems to be a Magi Tech-base society, with transportation based on literally riding the wind, an arcane fortress in the form of the Bastion, and a late-game weapon that harnesses the power of the Calamity itself.
Genre Busting: The soundtrack. iTunes attempts to describe its genre as "Acoustic Frontier Trip-Hop".
Getting Crap Past the Radar: A bird enemy is referred to as "Peckers", which at first seems like just an unfortunate choice... but then Rucks drops lines like:
Not really the time for Pecker hunting, but the Kid just can't help himself.
Heel Face Turn: Some monsters (with hearts over their head to indicate allegiance) will help defend you. One Secret Skill will even call Squirts to your aid. Zulf does one as well, if you choose to rescue him in the final level.
Heroic Mime: The Kid, whose voice clips are little else than grunts of exertion. It's clear he at least speaks to the other inhabitants of the Bastion, as when he shows an item to one of them, his thoughts about it are summed up in a text box to the right side.
Hidden Depths: All of the characters are more complex than they first appear, but Rucks in particular stands out. He's a grizzled old cowboy type, but his "Tributes" show that he's also a talented artist. Some of the Tributes also have downright heartbreaking bits of flavor dialogue attached.
The Caelondian Mancers created the weapon that caused the Calamity. While originally intended to be used as a last resort against the Ura in the event of another war breaking out, it was sabotaged and turned against them instead.
Zulf's strength is drawn from the remnants of the Ura, telling them of the Calamity's true purpose and setting them against the Bastion. They rally behind him, but after the Kid kills way too many of the Ura, they try to kill Zulf, before being interrupted by the Kid.
The Battering Ram weapon gained in the last level is also the weapon used by the Ura when they tried to destroy the Rippling Walls in the Ura-Caelondian war.
The Fang Repeater and War Machete combination is said to be the favoured weapons of the Ura hunters during the Ura-Caelondian war.
Several of the upgrades for various weapons are based on Ura techniques.
Homing Projectile: Several ranged weapons get this as an upgrade, including the Fang Repeater and the Calamity Cannon.
How We Got Here: There's a reason much of the narration's in the past tense.
Ill Girl: The Kid's mom, who was constantly ill with some sort of disease. She succumbed to it while the Kid was on-duty at the Rippling Walls.
Jerkass Gods: Invoking the gods actually penalize the Kid, by making combat more difficult... though he does get boosted XP and fragment rewards in exchange, so maybe they just want him to prove his worth.
Life Drain: Drinking Leechade in the Distillery will give the Kid the ability to regain health by harming his enemies. The downside is that drinking it severely cuts the curative power of health tonics.
Magikarp Power: The Fang Repeater starts out fairly underwhelming, but with the right upgrades, it becomes one of the most powerful weapons in the game.
Manipulative Bastard: An unnamed Caelondian man in Zia's past contrives a misunderstanding between her and her father, and convinces her to leave Caelondia with him, only to betray her to the authorities in order to blackmail her father into returning to work for the Mancers.
Mascot Mook: The Squirts feature prominently on labels in Caelondia, notably liquors.
Mineral MacGuffin: The Cores and The Shards are pretty much archetypal examples of this.
Minimalist Cast: If you don't count the nameless Ura soldiers and characters only mentioned in passing, there are only four characters.
Mirror Match: The hammer you found before comes to life and attacks you as a dark copy of yourself during the Mushroom Samba sequence in Jawson's Bog. In Zia's Who Knows Where, you have to fight three at a time.
Mondegreen: An interesting spoken case; near the end of the game, many players misheard the line "you made it" as "Veda", which they assumed was The Kid's name. According to Word Of God from creator Greg Kasavin, his name is never mentioned◊.
More Dakka: The Fang Repeater is designed with this in mind, and upgrades just make it moreso. The Dueling Pistols are also capable of it, if your trigger finger is quick enough. Several Secret Skills qualify as well — including one for the Calamity Cannon.
The Musketeer: The Slingers used Dueling Pistols and the War Machete; Ura hunters used the War Machete with the Fang Repeater during the Ura-Caelondian war. The Kid can use either of these combinations, as well as others combining firearms and melee weapons.
Must Make Amends: Rucks has this bad due to his role in the Calamity. While he almost never shows it, it's clear that this is the reason why he's so focused on repairing the Bastion and using its Restoration function to make it so that the Calamity never happened in the first place.
Think of all those times that didn't go your way. All life's little setbacks, imagine you could could have another go at 'em. All the mistakes... anyone you've ever hurt... everything you've ever done... you could do it over. Now, wouldn't that be grand?
New Game Plus: Played straight in terms of gameplay, but deconstructed as part of the plot: it's actually a direct continuation of the Restoration ending, where the Reset Button was unable to prevent the Calamity from happening again.
The Triggers: The Caelondian Army's Cavalry/Sharpshooters. The Army Carbine is their weapon. (Rucks was a Trigger during the Ura-Caelondian War.)
The Brushers: Frontiersmen who performed recon in unfriendly territory. The Brusher's Pike is their weapon.
The Cinders: Militarized sanitation engineers. The Flame Bellows is their weapon.
The Skippers: Expert bombardiers and leaders of Caelondia's naval fleet. The Galleon Mortar is their weapon.
The Mancers: Leaders of Caelondia, also the scientists/researchers. The Calamity Cannon is associated with them (though, being powered by the Calamity itself, it probably wasn't in use prior to it). (Rucks was one, just prior to the Calamity. So was Venn, Zia's father.)
One-Man Army: The Kid takes down the remnants of Caelondia's security forces, the rogue windbags, the creatures of the Wild, and the Ura remnants singlehandedly.
Our Gods Are Different: Most of the gods have the interesting habit of symbolizing opposites. (Pain and pleasure, purpose and folly, health and sickness, etc.) When you invoke them, they make things harder on you, but the extra trials go on to make you stronger for the wear, and grant increased bonuses in the long run.
Parental Abandonment: The Kid and Zia. The Kid never knew his father, and his mother dies during his first tour on the Rippling Walls, while Zia's mother died shortly after her birth, and her father was killed in the Calamity — when he triggered it.
Playing Tennis with the Boss: The shield can knock projectiles aside, but bringing it up at the right moment will send it flying right back at the enemy who fired it for a lot of damage. Several drinks enhance this strategy, doing things like increasing the amount of damage it does and healing the Kid when he does it.
Zia decides to run away because her father never told her about Ura culture or that what her suitor did was a deliberate insult. This indirectly leads to the Calamity.
Rucks's hesitation to properly fill in Zulf on the truth behind the Calamity probably contributed a lot to his feelings of betrayal and all the misery that followed. Near the end, Rucks himself wonders if he should've trusted Zulf more, but decides that it's really too late to matter anyway.
Pun: All of the drinks in the Distillery are puns.
Rage Against the Heavens: The gods are one of the few subjects that gets Rucks' dander up. The soundtrack even has a bonus song to this effect.
Gods ain't gonna help you, son You'll be sorry for what you've done.
Religion Rant Song: The Pantheon, a song sung by Rucks. It's up in the air whether or not he's right.
Reset Button: The Bastion can be used as a literal in-universe one, effectively rewinding time to negate disaster. Of course, as is mentioned in-game, you can't really test something like that, so they're not 100% sure that it'll work. It does, but averts Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory, so they can't Set Right What Once Went Wrong because they don't remember it going wrong — instead they get New Game Plus.
Scenery as You Go: Bastion takes this trope to the extreme, having the entire world coalesce around you as you move around. There is an achievement to reform a certain amount of the world. If a player explores every last corner of every map, they will obtain it sometime just before the Tazal Terminals.
Scenery Gorn: The landscape has been torn to pieces by the Calamity, and is still falling apart...
Scenery Porn: ...as shown by hand-drawn scenery of beautiful skies and what had been a city famed for its architecture and grandeur.
Schizo Tech: You can use a weapon as simple as a spear alongside a weapon as complex as a rocket launcher. Rucks even comments on weapon combos putting this into effect.
We've fought with bows for centuries. Calamity Cannons, not so much...
Suddenly Voiced: Zulf singing during the final portion of the final level, and Zia speaking (rather than singing) in the ending.
Sufficiently Analyzed Magic: The various magical devices in the game such as the skyways or turrets definitely act like Magi Tech, but magic is never actually mentioned, and the Mancers who design such devices are referred to as scientists. Notably, even the Calamity is referred to as a 'science project' rather than a ritual or spell.
Survivor Guilt: The Kid suffers from this pretty heavily near the beginning, especially because he keeps coming across the incinerated remains of people he knew. This may be the reason he suffers the above-mentioned Mind Screw in Jawson Bog.
Team Pet: You can get up to four of these (five if playing the PC version.)
Too Kinky to Torture: Hense's schtick, as the goddess of pain and pleasure. A brief description of her says that while her body is covered in scars, they don't bother her at all.
Trial by Combat: Allowed in the courts before the world ended — the accused was given only a shield, and had to use it to destroy various turrets and monsters. You can attempt it yourself for a reward. Worth noting it was implied that this system was either an optional court alternative or reserved for certain crimes.
The Unfought: Zulf. Made somewhat humorous by the fact that immediately after you figure out there won't be such a fight, Rucks starts talking about how The Kid must be having a final showdown with him right about now.
Unreliable Narrator: Rucks doesn't outright lie, but his commentary is definitely colored by his personal viewpoint.
The Unreveal: The Stranger's Dream explains very little about Rucks' backstory — all we learn is that he once had an alphabet book.
Weapon of Choice: Each Caelondian guild had one; a weapon's Vigil is named for its associated guild. The Kid's, as a Mason, is the Cael Hammer (though the player can choose any weapon loadout they want).
The Wild West: The game invokes the mood of the west, with the characters' accents and a majority of the sound track.
Worthy Opponent: If you decide to rescue Zulf and abandon the Battering Ram, the Ura begin to treat the Kid this way.
Wutai: The Ura nation has some Asian influences, though they're more like the various tribes that sacked Rome.
You Are Not Alone: Rucks does what he can to offer moral support to The Kid, though his narration often has him wishing he could do more.
You Bastard: Rucks delivers a very mild one of these to both himself and The Kid, pondering how they're destroying the homes of creatures who are just trying to survive, same as them. But he goes on to say the Bastion will repair everything regardless, so the ends justify the means.