The gameplay rhythm that you soon settle into is quite simple. You use a skybridge to head out into the world in search of the cores, return to the Bastion to build something, and maybe pick up a survivor, a new tool or some interesting information along the way. But there are lovely touches throughout that prevent this slipping into dull repetition, including little trinkets you can gather back to the hub like a gramophone that lets you play back any of the beautiful soundtrack - southern guitar textured with eastern strings - at your considerable leisure. (I'm still humming some of it now.)
Out in the world, Rucks paints each beautiful level with a layer of narrative varnish that complements the action wonderfully. He introduces one battleground by noting that the enemies you encounter early on aren't the worst of its secrets, returning to the theme later to introduce the real bad guy in a manner that ties the whole sequence together and gives it an intuitive sense of scale. Of course, Rucks' narration can only be spread so thin over each area, and this seems to have inspired the designers to keep each level short and interesting, changing pace and direction in numerous ways that keep you guessing and would each be a sin to spoil.
For players wishing to wring more than the five or six hours it takes to complete the Story mode, there are proving grounds, side objectives and other ways to modify the experience to increase the challenge and unlock more interesting rewards. There's also a New Game Plus mode that allows you to continue levelling The Kid and revisit old locations with a greater sense of the game's meaning and the nature of the Calamity - something that the developers, Supergiant Games, resolve with impressive poise and elegance.
Where Bastion lets itself down slightly, though, is in the combat that makes up so much of the game. Your arsenal is as tough, diverse and engaging as the places you visit, and the modifiers and special abilities offer a great range of strategic options. But the enemies you encounter don't rise to the challenge, frequently just spamming you with increasing numbers, extra spawn points, area-of-effect attacks and storms of projectiles rather than fighting you in ways that invite experimentation and get you excited about going into combat. For a game where you spend so much of your time hacking and slashing, that's a disappointing revelation.
Once the dust settles on The Kid's journey, though, you are still likely to want to return for another: listening out for deeper meaning in Rucks' narration, storming through previously tough areas with a meatier arsenal, soaking up details you didn't linger on previously. Any concerns you had are likely to be drowned out in wistful hindsight by the dazzling visuals, artful commentary and moving score that made up your adventure.
Bastion may have you tugging at its threads to decipher your role and meaning, even as you return for a second go-round - but you're unlikely to question the choice you made to buy it.