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Video Game / Bastion

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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 that 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."

The Kid opens a page, entranced by the words on the screen. It's like drinkin' down warm, sweet honey.

Bastion is an Action-Adventure game developed by Supergiant Games and published by Warner Bros. for PC, Mac OS X, Linux, Xbox 360 and iOS, and was the first game released for the Xbox Summer of Arcade 2011 event. It has also been released on PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch.

The 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.

See also Transistor, a follow-up game with many of the same gameplay tropes (though not a Sequel) from the same developer and featuring the same voice talent.

The Kid reads the list of tropes used in the game:

  • Action Bomb: Stinkeyes, but they won't go off if you kill them first.
  • Adorable Evil Minions: The Squirts, some of which you can turn to your side via Elixir use. You also get to rescue some baby critters and take them back to the Bastion.
  • After the End: The game starts after the events of the Calamity.
  • Alien Sky: Played with, in that you're standing on part of it - the Calamity scattered the lands everywhere, including up and down.
  • All the Worlds Are a Stage: While going through Jawson's Bog, the Kid finds himself traversing a rather dark remix of previous areas in the game.
  • All Your Base Are Belong to Us: Near the end, the Ura launch a siege on the Bastion.
  • The Aloner: The overriding theme of the game is loneliness and regret. Loneliness caused by being the only survivor of a disaster, having lost your entire family, or being ostracized for being different; regret from a personal failing, parting from loved ones on acrimonious terms, or simply feeling that you should have done more... things that are far more close to home than the game's fantasy-apocalypse setting would suggest. Of course, Bastion is ultimately optimistic, so it's probably more fair to say that the overriding theme is overcoming loneliness and regret.
  • 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 Wakeful Bull, god of Order and Commotion, decorates the city walls, the Kid's Bullhead Shield and many places.
  • Anti-Frustration Features: The final level of the Stranger's Dream, if played with idols on, will not apply their effects to the Ura boss. If it did, that level would be downright unbeatable. If you die with idols invoked, the game also gives you the option to turn them off for the next run without having to return to the Bastion to do so.
  • 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 very sympathetic - he learned first-hand that the Calamity was caused by the Caels trying to wipe the Ura out.
  • 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. We're not shown exactly how far the destruction extends, though it certainly hasn't covered the entire planet, and most of the Wilds are slowly recovering. Given the Magitek 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.
  • Arc Words: Undone.
  • Armor-Piercing Attack: Several of the Kid's weapons can be upgraded to ignore armor.
  • Art-Style Dissonance: For a game primarily about the psychological effects of The End of the World as We Know It on the survivors, the game's visual design is a lot cuter than you'd expect.
  • 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.
  • Attack Backfire: The shield's attack reflector is highly damaging to enemies, but if you get hit with the reflected attack, you'll take as much damage as they would, which can even kill you in one hit with the reflection tonic. This can happen with the homing and rebound projectiles from security turrets.
  • Attack Its Weak Point: Stinkeyes can only be (significantly) hurt when their eyes are open, and Lunkheads can only be harmed from behind without armor-piercing weapons.
  • Attack Reflector:
    • A properly-timed block with the shield will send projectiles back at the attacker, or simply hurt the attacker in the case of melee attacks. Certain tonics upgrade this ability to cause double damage and heal you for doing it. It doesn't work for every attack, though. Slime and gas balls get sent back, but cause no damage. Fire and laser turrets can only be blocked, not sent back (and only the former gives you health for blocking). Finally, trying to use it on homing bullets makes the bullets spin around extremely fast and hit you in the back for massive damage (instant death with the reflection tonic).
    • Having Garmuth active gives enemies this ability at random, though the reflection isn't guided back at you, making it rare to suffer damage from it.
  • 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 becomes more practical when upgraded to fire Homing Projectiles.
    • Equipping the Mortar and the Cannon will have Rucks comment on the serious overkill you're packing. However, when you go to actually use them together you'll probably just end up getting yourself killed — both weapons have charge time, self-damaging explosions, and lock you in a standing position until they fire. And since many enemies are melee-focused...
  • Barely Missed Cushion: When you enter the Sundown Path, the camera focuses on a bale of hay before the Kid lands... about a foot to the left of it.
  • Battle in the Center of the Mind: In Jawson's Bog, the Kid gets dosed with some kind of plant toxin that causes him to take a nasty trip through his own head, where the maps are twisted versions of old areas and the rehashes of Rucks' narration grow increasingly hostile and fragmented.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: During a barge trip in Urzendra Gate, the scene suddenly cuts to the end of the trip, where the deck is covered in feathers.
  • BFG: The Calamity Cannon.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The Calamity is ultimately unavoidable; selecting the Restoration ending begins (continues?) a "Groundhog Day" Loop, while selecting Evacuation ends any chance to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. However, despite what was lost, hope remains, and the chance to create a better life exists.
  • 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; they start off as Squirts, which become Gasfellas, which then become Scumbags. Scumbags are used as living garbage disposals by the Caelondians, 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 Caelondians 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.
  • Book Ends:
    Rucks: Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t 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.
  • Boring, but Practical: Some of the less-flashy weapons, like the Brusher's Pike (a simple spear compared to the Automatic Crossbow, Machete Mayhem, BFG, Grenade Launcher, etc), are still the most useful.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The Caelondia/Ura conflict. The whole thing is portrayed as tragically avoidable, rather than malicious on either side.
  • Break the Cutie: Zulf and Zia both have it bad, but Zulf hits an additional breaking point after he deciphers the journal.
  • 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.
    • And if you are attempting it with all 10 idols on, whooo boy, you are in for a rough time. The only reprieve the game gives you is that the final Ura warrior in the last wave isn't affected by the idols.
  • Cataclysm Backstory: The Calamity sets the stage for the events of the game.
  • Central Theme: Regret, and the consequences of clinging to the past.
  • Choice of Two Weapons: The Kid can choose two weapons (and one Secret Skill) to equip at a time. Rucks even provides a little commentary about each weapon combo.
  • Collision Damage: One of the idols causes this. Otherwise it doesn't apply, unless it's part of an enemy's attack.
  • Cool Old Guy: Rucks.
  • Cozy Voice for Catastrophes: Rucks, again.
  • Crate Expectations: There are crates scattered all over. Some contain items, others enemies, others still don't have anything at all.
  • Critical Status Buff: The Werewhiskey tonic raises critical chance to 100% whenever the Kid drops below 33% health. With the right equipment, nothing will survive for long.
  • Cycle of Hurting:
    • If you fall on the Sundown Path, the tile you land on will often fall again before you can move.
    • Invoking the sloth effect god can easily turn any encounter into this, especially against faster enemies or those with a longer reach. Hammer-wielding Gasbags are practically instant death if they catch you, as are the tiny Peckers.
  • Damage-Increasing Debuff: Some idols cause you to take extra damage while they're active.
  • 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.")
  • Death by Childbirth: Zia's mom.
  • Death Cry Echo: Whenever you trick or force an Ura soldier to fall to their death.
  • 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.
  • Developer's Foresight:
    • 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 off 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 grants you fragments when destroyed. The narrator will comment if you spend a lot of time on 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.
    • Werewhiskey gives an incredible combat advantage, but leaves you a Glass Cannon. But once you get the art of dodging down and learn how the enemies react, you turn into a killing machine that can just heal in a pinch and deliberately soak up some damage to get back to the killing.
  • Disappeared Dad: The Kid's.
  • 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.
  • Don't Look At Me: Stinkeyes only follow you when you aren't looking directly at them, and are practically invincible when their eyes are closed. This limits you to either poison/bleed weapons, melee attacks while running from them, or instant fire weapons like the Scrap Musket.
  • Doomsday Device: It's slowly revealed over the course of the game that the Calamity was caused by a Caelondian 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.
  • Dramatic Irony: If the player goes with the Restoration Ending, Rucks says this:
    Might be we'll forget everything you've done, and each other, but after all we've been through, I find that hard to believe.
  • 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.
  • Dream Sequence: The Kid falls into this just as he reaches the Shard in Jawson's Bog, with him replaying some previous portions of the game. This also overlaps with Mind Screw as Rucks' narration of him paints all situations in a negative light, such as calling the Kid a thief, turning Zulf into a Gasfella and Zia screaming at the end.
  • Drop the Hammer: The Cael Hammer is the first weapon found and the Kid's in-universe weapon. 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).
  • Drowning My Sorrows/I Need a Freaking Drink: Implied. Booze-Based Buff aside, it's perhaps significant that, in the post-Calamity mess that is the world, one of the first buildings that can be added to the Bastion is the Distillery. Getting a drink is apparently a top priority for our hero. And it's interesting to note that as the Kid levels up, which means he has dealt with/will be dealing with yet more crap, he's drinking more and more.
  • Dual Wielding: The Dueling Pistols. Get it?
  • Due to the Dead: If you destroy the corpse of the bartender in the first level, it's portrayed as this. In the Mushroom Samba, however, Rucks takes issue with you doing it (it's necessary to progress).
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: And boy do you work for it, Kid. The other characters even recognize this and give the Kid the honors of making the final choice in the game.
  • Easy Level Trick: For some of the weapons challenges, part of the difficulty lies in doing enough damage fast enough to earn the highest rank, which might require several damage upgrades if you're looking to do it fairly. Alternatively, you can equip Werewhiskey and fall off the edge until your health drops low enough to trigger its effect, allowing you to deal the requisite damage without having to pay for any upgrades.
  • Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette: The Ura, including Zulf and Zia.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Arguably three distinct ones.
    • 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 literally 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.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The Calamity.
  • Energy Weapon: The final version of Security Turret uses these. It has a visible charge-up sequence and can't be reflected, in addition to being a homing laser. It's also the toughest turret.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: They're more "antagonists" than "evil", but there seem to be just as many women as men fighting among the ranks of the Ura warriors.
  • Equipment Upgrade: Weapon upgrades can be bought after finding the right amount of the relevant collectible for that weapon (which follow a "Something [adjective]" naming pattern). Each weapon has five stages of two mutually exclusive upgrades that the player can switch between after unlocking that stage.
  • Escort Mission: A variant at the end of the penultimate mission. The Kid happens upon Zulf's unconscious body, and can either abandon him or carry him back to the Bastion. If he does the latter, the Kid is forced to carry him past the remaining Ura warriors, and cannot use his weapons or defend himself in any way, aside from drinking health potions. Eventually, however, the Ura stop attacking.
  • 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 some brief exposition usually ending with the words "...didn't make it".
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Kid.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: Rucks repeatedly speculates on why even the plants and animals are fighting for the Cores.
  • Expository Gameplay Limitation: The Kid cannot use weapons while at the Bastion, or after finding a survivor.
  • Face–Heel Turn: Zulf, after learning the Calamity's true purpose.
  • 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 temperamental. 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.
  • Fire-Breathing Weapon: The Fire Bellows.
  • 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. Later on, you can win or lose the first battle with the Ura, the only difference being you're more likely to lose some of your pets if the Ura can beat you.
  • Flash Step: The Ura's specialty.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Several of Rucks' remarks at Prosper Bluff and his line at the Rippling Walls when the first 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 Rucks' 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 makes it seem like there's a "but..." at the end.
    • Rucks also drops subtle indications that the Bastion's restoration function has been tried many times with lines such as "Seems like this story's been told a thousand times" and the previously mentioned bookends.
  • 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 Magitek-based 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".
  • God Is Displeased: It's heavily implied that the Gods turned on Caelondia. Trying to invoke them from their idols makes things harder (essentially serving as a challenge mode) by doing things like making enemies regenerate health or deal more damage. It's implied this is because Caelondia (unlike the Ura) had stopped treating them respectfully. Whether they're also pissed off that the Caelondians blew themselves up with a Doomsday Device, or they had a hand in making it backfire in the first place is left ambiguous. Downplayed in that the harder settings also give the player more experience and fragments, implying that they might simply be demanding penance rather than abandoning the Kid completely.
    • This is further expanded in a bonus song on the soundtrack, The Pantheon (Ain't Gonna Catch You). The implication is less that the gods are gone or angry, and more that they don't see any need to save people from their own sins. The Calamity is Caelondia's fault, and they're going to have to deal with it.
  • Good Morning, Crono: The Kid wakes up on the Rippling Walls just after the Calamity hits.
  • The Goomba: Squirts.
  • Götterdämmerung/Have You Seen My God?: Rucks muses at one point that the Calamity was destructive enough to destroy the Caelondian gods themselves, if they're not just preventing Caelondia from recovering as some sort of punishment. Of course,if the former is true, this doesn't stop you from invoking said gods at the shrines.
  • Gradual Regeneration: Of the Regenerating Health-type, for every enemy in the game, if you invoke Micia.
  • Great Offscreen War: The Ura-Caelondia War. Rucks is still sore about it.
  • Grenade Launcher: The Galleon Mortar.
  • Gun Twirling: How you reload the Dueling Pistols... somehow.
  • Guns Akimbo: The Dueling Pistols.
  • Guttural Growler: Rucks.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Some monsters (with hearts over their head to indicate allegiance) will help defend you, though this can equally be a trick, where they turn hostile after a certain point. 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 comments 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, and some other commentary of his implies that he's quite the Renaissance Man. Some of the Tributes also have downright heartbreaking bits of flavor dialogue attached.
    Mother... this one's for you.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • 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.
  • Homesickness Hymn: "Mother, I'm Here" and "Setting Sail, Coming Home" (a mash-up of the former with "Build That Wall") are both songs about yearning for and going back home.
  • 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.
  • Hub Level: The Bastion, though you can't go back to the levels you've completed.
  • Hub Under Attack: Near the end of the game, the Bastion comes under attack from the Ura survivors of the Calamity, who are led there by Zulf after he undergoes a Face–Heel Turn. The player is actually deposited outside of the stage when trying to return, and has to find another way after the Ura block the way; if they're too slow, the various hub pets they have collected during the game can potentially be killed while trying to defend the Bastion.
  • Implied Death Threat: Zia's song, Build That Wall, is an implied threat from the Ura to the Cael.
    Build that wall until it's done
    But now you've got nowhere to run
    So build that wall and build it strong 'cause
    We'll be there before too long...
  • Improbable Weapon User: The Kid can make use of flame-spitting bellows, naval artillery, and a battering ram, amongst more ordinary choices like bows, rifles, and dual pistols.
  • Interactive Narrator: Literally. Rucks describes whatever the Kid is doing, even if it's pointless.
  • Interface Screw:
    • One level puts you in the middle of a bunch of tall plants, obscuring your view of the Kid and the enemies. Mercifully, there aren't that many enemies to kill, and the particular section is fairly short.
    • Getting poisoned blurs the entire screen rather dramatically and drowns out a lot of the sound.
  • Ironic Echo: Much of the dialogue and names in the Mind Screw Dream Sequence.
  • It Tastes Like Feet: Rucks describes several of the Distillery spirits like this. Among other things, apparently Werewhiskey tastes like a peppered bootheel and Lunkhead Liqueur tastes like a saddlebag.
  • Jerkass Gods: Invoking the gods actually penalizes 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.
  • Kill It with Fire: The Fire Bellows weapon and the fire-breathing Security Turret.
  • King Mook: Several appear as bosses in certain areas. They also show up in Who Knows Where.
    • Gershel, the giant Scumbag.
    • Queen Anne, the giant Anklegator.
    • Sir Lunky, the giant Lunkhead.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: Lifewine grants you one hit point if an attack would have otherwise killed you, but you have to wait a bit between uses and it is basically useless against rapid-damage foes.
  • Last of His Kind: The Kid and Rucks are the only two ethnic Caelondians in the game. All the others are dead or are just never seen.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: Two in a row. In the penultimate level, the Kid can either save Zulf or abandon him. At the very end of the game, the Kid is given the choice to either use the Bastion to reset Caelondia to before the Calamity happened, or use the Bastion to evacuate the area.
  • Lemony Narrator: Rucks.
  • Letter Motif: Before you learn their names, the other characters are called the Stranger (Rucks), Survivor (Zulf), and Singer (Zia). The characters from the Battle in the Center of the Mind Dream Sequence in Jawson's Bog also use words that start with 'S' (Surrenderer, Siren), which really only makes it worse.
  • Life Drain: Leechade gives the Kid the ability to regain health by harming his enemies at the cost of 33% effectiveness of tonics. Mender Mead also allows the Kid to regain health by counter blocking.
  • Luckily, My Shield Will Protect Me: The Bullhead Shield, which not only blocks attacks but can reflect them back and heal you doing it (the latter with the right tonic).
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Build That Wall is a slow, melancholic song, but a strong case could be made for the lyrics being written by the Ura about one day taking down Caelondia.
  • MacGuffin: The Cores and Shards are nestled in Plot Coupon status, by virtue of Rucks eventually explaining their creation and use (aside from restoring the Bastion).
  • Machete Mayhem: The War Machete.
  • 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.
  • Mission Control Is Off Its Meds: Rucks during Jawson's Bog.
  • Mook Horror Show: The narrator accurately describes the fear your enemies are feeling when you tear your way through the Ura fortress, noting they didn't think you'd be this strong.
  • More Dakka: The Fang Repeater is designed with this in mind, and upgrades just make it more so. 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.
  • Mushroom Samba: Jawson's Bog, Played for Drama.
  • 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: Doing so not only lets you retain your progress, but unlocks the remaining idols. Story-wise, it's actually a direct continuation of the Restoration ending, where the Reset Button was unable to prevent the Calamity from happening again.
  • Nintendo Hard: If you choose to play with the idols active, prepare for pain. The enemies get benefits such as regenerating health, random immunity to attacks, increased defense, and other fun things.
  • No-Sell: Having Garmuth invoked means enemies will occasionally block attacks. Having Olak invoked means they'll occasionally do this and turn invincible for a brief period of time.
  • The Order: Caelondia operates on a guild system, each with their own purpose and weapons:
    • The Masons: Builders and defenders of the Rippling Walls. The Cael Hammer is their weapon. (The Kid was a Mason, and he still uses their hammer as his weapon.)
    • The Trappers: Hunters who kept Caelondia safe by eliminating dangerous beasts from the Wild Unknown. The Fang Repeater is their weapon.
    • The Menders: Experts at repairing both flesh and stone, whichever is needed. The Bullhead Shield is associated with them.
    • The Breakers: Elite archers and couriers who brought messages back from the war or untamed regions. The Breaker's Bow is their weapon.
    • The Gravers: Spies/secret agents, both internally and externally. The War Machete is their weapon.
    • The Marshals: Peacekeepers within the city. The Scrap Musket is their weapon.
    • The Slingers: Dual-pistol wielding rangers in the wilds. The Dueling Pistols are their weapons.
    • 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 navy. 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.
  • Point of No Return: Before The Very Definitely Final Dungeon. The game is at least kind enough to point this out.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: Sort of. The Cores and Shards actually contain an immense quantity of baby Windbags.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • 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.
    • He does appear to have respect or a slight reverence towards Mother (Micia).
    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.
  • Renovating the Player Headquarters: The titular Bastion fills this role. After every level, the player can use collectibles to build and renovate various parts of the Bastion, adding buildings like a bar, a shrine for idols, and a forge.
  • 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.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: The Dueling Pistols.
  • Roboteching: The Kid's weapons do this if they have a homing upgrade. Enemy laser turrets do it as well, if you dodge-roll while they're shooting at you.
  • Riding into the Sunset: The Evacuation ending has you and your companions ride off in search of other survivors and possibly to rebuild civilization and the world.
  • Save the Villain: You can choose to do this for Zulf during the final stage. It doesn't have much of an effect on things, but it does make for huge Video Game Caring Potential.
  • Scarf of Asskicking: The Kid sports one.
  • 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: 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...
  • Shattered World: The Calamity cut off entire parts of the Bastion from each other. The Kid uses the Skyways to reach them.
  • Short-Range Shotgun: The Scrap Musket. Downplayed if you install both the Rifled Barrel and Tactical Stock.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Unique to the Steam version, once you've rebuilt the Arsenal in New Game Plus, check out the skills list. One of them summons an Aperture turret. There's a hidden achievement for killing a lot of enemies with one turret.
    • The Pike Vault skill, usable with the Brushers' Pike, makes the Kid jump into the air and disappear from the screen for a few moments, then fall down, dealing damage to enemies underneath him. This resembles the signature skill of Dragoons from Final Fantasy series, and the skill's description mentions that "the Brushers adopted this maneuver from great war stories passed down from older generations".
  • Skippable Boss:
    • You don't have to kill Queen Anne, unless you want the points for upgrades. The Skyway can be used as soon as you grab the shard. The same goes for the two boss plant monsters in the animal Bastion.
    • Also true of the Ura Leader in the Tazal Terminals. Once you have the shard, you can retreat (slowly) across the bridge that appears. You won't be followed.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: The Kid, who wakes up an unknown but short amount of time after the Calamity on a floating hunk of rock that was apparently once his bunk/resting place.
  • Sniper Rifle: The Army Carbine.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: As soon as it really starts to get tough in the Stranger's Dream, the peaceful "In Case of Trouble" (which usually plays at the Bastion) starts to play.
  • Special Attack: The Secret Skills. Most are weapon-specific (so you can only use them if you have the appropriate weapon equipped), but a handful you can use regardless of your current weapon.
  • Spike Shooter: A series of plant enemies can fire spikes in various patterns, as can one of the Pecker birds. The Kid can become this with the right tonic, which activates when he takes damage.
  • Spin Attack: Lots of them. At least three weapons have some form of spinning attack as a special move, with the Fire Bellows having two. The hammer Gasbags exclusively spin to attack.
  • Stop Poking Me!:
    • If you keep "talking to" the Squirt in the Bastion (making it spin), it will do nothing and narrow its eyes at you, and then Rucks will tell you "C'mon, give the little tyke a break".
    • Doing the same thing to the Pyth statue at the Bastion has Rucks saying "Turn him round and round all you like; Pyth is still gonna be ugly."
    • Finally, doing the same to the Aperture turret will cause Rucks to warn you that she might flip out if you keep it up.
  • The Story That Never Was: The game has two endings. One is to leave the broken land, and the other is to reset to before the Calamity, without knowing if it will repeat or not. It's heavily hinted that it does indeed repeat (serving as an In-Universe explanation for a New Game Plus).
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: The Breaker's Bow. While guns are faster and weaker, the bow is slower and more powerful.
  • 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, like the Skyways and Turrets, definitely act like Magitek, 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.
  • Taken for Granite: The Calamity not only destroyed most of the landmass, but most of those who did survive it were reduced to ash statues that break at the slightest contact.
  • Taking You with Me: One idol causes any enemy that dies to release a small explosive pellet. It isn't fatal by itself, but the damage can build up really fast. The Kid has the Spike Shooter tonic if he takes damage, and the Hearty Punch tonic which causes damage to all nearby enemies if he's defeated (plus an extra revival so it's actually useful).
  • Team Pet: You can get up to four of these, five if playing the PC version.
  • There Is No Rule Six: The first track of the soundtrack has the narrator saying this:
    There are three things I'll always miss, though.
    One: not havin' to watch my step all the time.
    Two: ah... forget about two.
  • The Three Faces of Adam: Zulf as the Hunter, the Kid as the Lord and Rucks as the Prophet.
  • Throwing Your Sword Always Works: The Machete and Pike can be thrown and immediately come back.
  • 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.
  • Underestimating Badassery: The Ura really don't think much of the Kid... until he makes it to Zulten's Hollow.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: The Bastion wasn't completed prior to the Calamity, and you can't exactly test something that is meant to rewind time, but Rucks figures they've got nothing to lose by trying.
  • 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.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: The Manipulative Bastard who seduced and betrayed Zia, which led to her father setting off the Calamity.
  • Vague Age: It's hard to tell how old the Kid actually is, not helped by the art style. It is implied that he's either a very late teenager or an early adult though. He is at least old enough to drink alcoholic beverages (though on the other hand, nobody is really around to stop him regardless of age.)
  • The Very Definitely Final Dungeon: The Tazal Terminals. Its image on the level select screen is twice the size of all the rest, and when selected, prompts the player with a "there is no turning back" message.
  • Video Games and Fate: A possible function of the Bastion is that it is capable of restoring Caelondia back to a time prior to the Calamity which destroyed it. However, Rucks freely acknowledges that doing so in no way guarantees that events will play out differently the second time around, potentially dooming the people of Caelondia and the Ura to perpetually live out the same series of events over and over again. It is heavily implied that multiple playthroughs of the game are all canonical and in sequence, as the Kid continually relives the events of the game, before undoing the Calamity and starting from the beginning.
  • Video Game Caring Potential: At the very end of the game, you come across Zulf, who's being beaten to death by the remains of the Ura. You have the option of saving him. Almost every player does, their first time through the game.
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: The Fire Bellows, which are short ranged and run out of ammo quickly, even with upgrades.
  • Visual Pun: The Battering Ram, which is actually supposed to be a bull, but still looks somewhat like a ram.
  • The Wild West: The game invokes the mood of the West, with Rucks' gravelly Southern accent and a majority of the soundtrack giving off a "cowboy" feel.
  • Wham Line:
    Rucks: The Bastion is under siege.
    Rucks: Problem is... we'll all be gone.
  • What the Hell, Player?: Rucks will call you out on packing both the Galleon Mortar and Calamity Cannon, which are both high explosives weapons that deal major damage.
    Okay, now that's just plain overkill. I mean, come on!
  • A World Half Full: Despite the tragedy of the Calamity, the Kid works tirelessly to improve on what's left.
  • World in the Sky: Thanks to the Calamity.
  • 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 - namely in their clothing and weapon design, though they take more cultural/historical inspiration from the tribes that fought against (and 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.
  • You Cannot Change The Future: The Bastion has a Reset Button, but the people inside it do not have Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. Uh oh...

The Kid moves on to another page, the click of the mouse his only friend.