Best of 2011 Honorable Mention: Bastion

It's tempting to describe Bastion as merely an action RPG with a narrator. However, doing so undervalues the impact of its unique storytelling feature and neglects the sheer craftsmanship that went into its construction. From the moment I held the controller, I appreciated the elegance with which it accomplishes even the simple things--even down to a common sword swing.

Combat is the core of Bastion, around which the rest of the experience is constructed. The game's hero, "the kid," responds to the controls so fluidly that the intermediary nature of pushing "X" and moving the thumbsticks gives way to a deeper sense of being in sync with his actions. Bastion then supplies challenges players with enemies and environments that test that connection.

Bastion treats every element of its design with equal refinement. A flexible approach to character development eschews the traditional locked-in skill tree approach for one that allows easy swapping of upgrades to tailor the kid to any level and style of play. And the game's narrator feature rises far above being a simple novelty. I got completely caught up in Bastion, savored every strike with my various weapons, and felt the weight of every step in its dramatic conclusion.

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The Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year awards are based on a weighted scoring system between all staff writers and editors. Throughout the week we'll be revealing our 'Honorable Mentions,' which include the titles that did not quite make our overall 'Top Five Games of the Year.' The Shacknews 'Game of the Year 2011 Award' will be revealed on January 20.