Blizzard has some astounding shorts pre-Overwatch and post-Overwatch, but “The Last Bastion” might just be my favorite. This short tells us more about Bastion through his interactions with a little bird that finds him in the wilderness. The most interesting parts of the trailer come from Bastion’s non-verbal interactions. Neither the bird or Bastion can talk. We have to rely on a series of beeps that we can’t exactly translate and other physical actions. Ultimately, what we have in this short is pure gold. The way that Bastion reacts to the bird with caring compassion and the way he reacts during a PTSD-esque scene is quite remarkable. There are no words and the animations are spot on.
The PTSD scene in particular shows that Bastion is a weapon and he can mow down a forest if he wants to. It really made me feel for his character. He’s not human, but he is a pretty advanced robot. We can gather this from how he reacts to the bird. The bird starts building a nest on Bastion’s shoulder. Ultimately, Bastion wants to help the bird build the nest. This isn’t something a stone-cold robot would do. Blizzard took good care to show us how human his AI is. After all, Blizzard has crafted a world in Overwatch with robots that are prime socio-political speakers. We saw that in the Widowmaker/Tracer short.
The Bastion short shows us a flashback of a war with the Omnics and the humans. In this scene Bastion sees the horrors of war. He marches on toward a directive displayed on his hud. This directive implies that his mission was to attack the far off city in the short. By the end of the trailer though, Bastion doesn’t want that. He chooses to stay in the wilderness and help his bird friend build a nest.
The short had me choke up a bit and I ultimately love Blizzard for moments like this. But, on a bigger note…more games and cut-scenes need this. Doom (2016) featured a mute marine who conveyed his emotions in fist-bumps with little dolls of himself. The Doom-Guy punched things and broke things. It was very clear he was an angry character. It made the player feel the hate seething within him. I knew the protagonist of that game way better than I knew Master Chief in the Halo series. That may seem like I’m stretching it, but I’m not. I felt more engrossed in the game playing as the Doom-Guy rather than I did with the Chief. Sometimes less words say more about a character than a full script does.
The same kind of non-verbal communication can be found in Blizzard’s other shorts. The animations are top-notch and will make you feel something. It makes me have an appreciation for all of the characters. Games that attempt to have as many characters as Overwatch just don’t feel lived-in enough. Paladins, a game done by the same group that did Smite, is one such game and I guarantee you that if you played a match of that and then looked at Overwatch you would know exactly what I mean. The characters in Overwatch feel like characters. The characters in other multiplayer games just feel like classes that I’m using in a game.