Probably one of my least-favorite Disney animated films is 1997’s Hercules. It’s not that interesting of a film, to be frank, and it only has, like, one good song. But what grates the most for me is its visual design, which is a flat and lazy take on Roman mythology. It’s just an ugly-looking movie.
World of Warcraft’s Bastion, the first leveling zone of the four added with Shadowlands, does a better job bringing a sort of Greco-Roman myth-inspired realm to life… yet it still manages to underwhelm even as it gives us all of the eye candy. We all have subjective reactions to zone visuals in MMOs, so your mileage may vary, but Bastion never clicked with me. It’s way too golden and elysian without much of a personality. The strongest reaction I had running around was an aversion to abruptly falling off the sides of what is essentially a series of giant floating rocks.
And yes, I fell a few times. Never hire me to drive your tour bus.
It wasn’t just the visuals that underwhelmed but the story, too. In seeing preview videos and screenshots, I kind of already knew that Bastion wouldn’t be for me, but I had hopes that it would defy expectations with the narrative. Instead, the story here — sort of angels-in-training finding the system falling apart around them — is head-thuddingly dull. There were no standout characters or quest lines (although I did like the little owl servants).
We’re also entering this weird territory of Blizzard trying to come up with some sort of afterlife system that makes sense for this game world, and it’s not selling me on the merits of dying, here. I sense the studio trying to walk a very skewed line of touching on religious ideas without trying to make any real-world connections while also trying not to be religious at all.
It’s unfortunate that Bastion had to be the first in this linear leveling experience, because I went from a full tank of excited steam to a quarter-tank by the time I was done. It was fine, it filled a few days of mindless questing, but it wasn’t the jazzy, gripping, “oh my goodness I need to go tell my friends how amazing this is” experience I was hoping it would be.