Thursday, February 28, 2013

Caelondia dominated! Until it fell...

In the award winning game Bastion, produced by Supergiant Games, you control a character that is only known as ‘kid’ who now lives in a post-apocalyptic world which was caused by an event called ‘The Calamity.’ Few have survived in the city, and those that have survived went to the ‘Bastion,’ the stronghold of the city. The Kid is then given the task to collect district cores from the different parts of his city, and that will supposedly fix the situation that they are in now. The kid travels from place to place, removing these cores from the districts until the Bastion is complete. However as he does this, the player can get an understanding of how their technology has defined nature in many ways and can be related back to Marcuse’s One Dimensional Man, when the ideas of ‘the expanding conquest of man and nature,” (Marcuse 3). This conquest can be seen through the collected cores and the supposed enemies that are the windbags and their influence on the pre-Calamity Caelondia, and how the Cael people (the people of Caelondia) mistreated and dominated nature in a way that would then cause the entire civilization to collapse.

The first notable thing about each major district is that it has a physical core, and the material that the core is made of isn’t spoken about until late game.  We first learn that The Cores contain the memory of the land from before it was undone” (Bastion).  This statement implies that the cores have some sort of computational memory, such as a camera of what Caelondia was like before the calamity, and these cores can return Caelondia to its former glory. However it becomes clearer that the cores are more than just computational memory, they are they have the ‘essence’ of the windbags (a creature in Caelondia’s districts) inside of them, which can create a rather interesting theory. This “essence” that the cores contain is never fully explained, but one theory is that the windbags need to cores to create their lives which is why they are so connected to the cores and places such as Burstone Quarry, which is where the cores originate from. We also know that in Burnstone quarry that the cores, “call out to them” (Bastion). This shows Caelondia’s dominance over nature because they are literally using the essence of life to have a useable power source.

When the cores are attached to the city’s districts there is also another effect, when the influence of the Cael’s is gone, the entire district crumbles. This is noted in the first level, once you take the core meteors fall onto the kid and Rucks narrates, “All of a sudden, the ground starts to rumble. Kid has a feeling he better get a move on. Turns out the place is starting to fall” (Bastion). For every core that is taken from a city, this event happens and the district is no longer able to searched for items or anything because it has been destroyed due to the removal of the core. However, the areas that Caelondia has less influence on do not behave in the same way. When the wilderness levels appear and a shard (basically same thing as a core) is removed to be added to the Bastion, that world doesn’t fall apart because the Cael people have not conquered it yet, instead most people in Caelondia would have abhorred the wilderness, and few would have even gone into it at all. So when the cores are highly connected with the surrounding area they cause massive changes, however this is a double edged sword for Caelondia because they lose the areas that they have influence on when a core is taken.

            There is also another interesting point about the windbags, these creatures are distilled into alcohols. There is a distillery in the game in which alcohols can be used to give passive bonuses, and many unlike our world, come straight from parts of these animals. Squirt Cider, Cham-Pain, and Lunkhead liquor are just a few examples of the in-game liquors (Bastion). This wouldn’t seem terrible at first, but many of these animals are intelligent creatures being able to hold jobs in many of the cities, some as foremen, others as trash collectors, but it shows not only how powerful these people were, that they were able to dominate these creatures by being able to capture them and have a hearty toast urging the supremacy of the Cael people unto its citizens. In the long run though, this domination would bite them hard, because the windbags, which used to be peaceful to the much more powerful Cael people, are now angry and attack the main character at will.

            The Caelondia of the past was one that strived on being the best and dominating over all, not only including nature, but the Urals (their rivals) as well. This notion may have led Caelondia to the devastation of the Calamity, but until its collapse, it ran rather well.


Bastion [computer software] . (2011). San Francisco, CA; Supergiant Games


Janine Talis said...

I guess the big thing with this essay is that it just felt like you were just summarizing the events of the game. Except for a brief sentence in the introduction, I was not really sure how you were tying it with Marcuse, and if the introduction was not there, I would have just thought this is a game review.

On the upside, you made the game sound really cool, and I am not a gamer in the slightest, and tend to get bored when I hear about them. So, you impressed me a bit with that.

Adam said...

What Janine said.

No, really, I don't have much to add. You have convinced me that *Bastion* is a weird and interesting game (at least in the abstract), which includes (or merely *is* a complex portrayal of the dominion of people (?) over nature (?).

But you get so tangled up in trying to provide a comprehensive summary - something you should have been trying to avoid, by focusing on some precise detail of the game, rather than trying to explain the whole thing - that you don't *do* anything.

I have no idea what your argument is, no idea what you're really doing with Marcuse. You have convinced me that there is interesting work to be done here, but you needed to start out with at least a somewhat narrower focus - this doesn't even read as a brainstorming session yet, because your focus is on describing rather than analyzing.