This review contains spoilers

Fundamentally a proof of concept in how it introduces the two halves of a thematic underpinning behind every Supergiant game aka the very classical marriage of melodrama and ideology, with the conflict between the two providing the driving force behind the game logic itself. Bastion is literally shaped by its framing narrative in the terrain and player choices (it’s significant that Zia isn't heard until the final moments, and Zulf never) and this sets up that tension between directed/immanent action, in that you are playing a game with set goals and levels while also unavoidably in history, with your actions mythologized in real-time and presented as inevitable even as the game is so nakedly arbitrary in its construction. "Coming Home" is the bad end because it is unsatisfying on both of those levels, and the ability one has to choose it is more a statement about the difficulty in revolt, and in saying to a game no this is what I want from this experience, Rucks is wrong, sometimes projects need to be abandoned. And of course the fact that an alternative is already accommodated in the system (as opposed to just like, turning the game off, for example) is telling as to Supergiant's thoughts on the work, and their artistic need to move on to better and brighter things. Of course they would revisit all these threads later in their career, massively abstracting the "constructed world" concept in Transistor and focusing on either melodrama or ideology in Hades and Pyre respectively, but in creating a crude thought experiment that accomodates both bending to a system and breaking it’s obvious that their creative capabilities at this time were vulnerable--can't imagine they didn't make a similar choice themselves as struggling no-name game devs. Anyway, I'm glad this past decade went as well for them as it did, the game is pretty good, but it doesn't compare to how staggering of an artistic statement Transistor is, or even to Pyre and Hades's slick finishes. Its strengths lie more in how literal of a debut it is, and how much it yearns for those accomplishments yet to come.

Living within and growing into an intricate web of prophecy recontextualized as the player existing within a world that’s more obviously clockwork than ever, navigating disparate and reoccurring skills and areas as your skill with them mirrors Link’s maturation into his role as the Chosen One. The reason the backtracking is almost never tedious to me is that the later iterations (silent realms, flooded Faron, timeshift stones on a moment-to-moment level) reward not just awareness but total mastery of shortcuts as well as your whole toolkit. It’s less impressionist in 1080p but no less beautiful, and the industrial elements clash vibrantly against the naturalistic ones in ways that effortlessly sell Skyward Sword’s dual role as a series prequel and a culmination of the Zelda identity. This game is world as dungeon as you navigate mechanics and mythologies and in that it almost plays as a companion to Breath of the Wild; where that game's designers show their hand only at the macroscopic seams of the world, this one's do so almost immediately and shove the granularity of the construction into your face for nearly the whole thirty hours (Skyloft is the major concession to Zelda formula, as are the Divine Beasts, conversely, in BOTW). So, it's magical at times and numbing at others, but very accessible now and too good to write off anymore.