Spoiler Warning: This article contains major spoilers to Bastion’s entire story.
Bastion’s story is mostly told through the narration of Rucks, one of its four main characters. He tells it in a succinct manner, omitting out a lot of details.
This leaves plenty of room for interpretation.
Even so, one can get the gist of it by reading between the lines.
For it’s a simple cautionary tale of tragedy, one that arose due to bigotry and exploitation.
It’s a story of two races and the result of their unwillingness to coexist. To understand it, one must first learn about their early history. Because just like what Rucks says in his opening line, “Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning.”
History of Caelondia
The Founding of the City
Caelondia’s history began when a group of people called the Caels braved the Boundless Sea.
They arrived on an unfamiliar land, and there they settled, building their City. It was also around this time that they met the two races native to the region:
- The Ura, humans with pale skin who lived underground in the Tazal Terminals.
- The Windbags, balloon-like creatures who can grow up to the size of a building.
At first, the Caels coexisted with Ura.
The Windbags — they dominated. They used them as cheap labor, which helped them expand the City.
As part of their expansionism, they later bought from the Ura the area that’d be later known as Burstone Quarry. They purchased it for a pittance, considering the riches the Quarry held. Specifically, it had a substantial deposit of Cores.
These crystals contained a vast amount of energy, and the Caels used them to power their City.
The Ura-Caelondian War
For 50 years, Caelondia prospered.
As it did, so too grew the greed of its citizens.
They had the means to exploit the Quarry. All they needed was a better way to haul their cargo by bulk. So, they began laying down the Grand Rails. They marked Point Lemaign as the hub of their railway network. Then they started connecting their holdings.
But their paths also led them deep into Ura territory.
The Caels’ encroachment didn’t sit well with the Ura. It was a violation of their territorial sovereignty.
The Rails also disrupted their way of life.
So they decided that if they couldn’t live in peace, then neither would the Caelondians. Thus, open conflict broke out between the two races.
The war was brutal but one-sided.
The Ura fought hard with blade and guile. The Caels… with cannons and mortar. The latter had more devastating weapons and tech. Plus, they also had the Rippling Walls protecting their City.
The Ura stood no chance against this overwhelming strength. They surrendered and retreated back to the Tazal Terminals.
Some of their people got displaced during the war, and had to seek refuge in Caelondia.
But when the hostilities ceased, the Caels refused to let them go. They didn’t want their secrets leaked outside the City. Allowing it would risk revealing their weaknesses.
Instead, the Caels gave the refugees a special form of citizenship in their City. They had to stay for life, and weren’t allowed outside the Walls.
Decades passed after the war.
The Ura refugees in Caelondia had managed to conform to their new environment. The competent ones even rose to prominent positions in the Caels’ guilds.
Even then, their customs still seemed alien to the Caels. Many were still treated as outcasts.
As for the Caelondians themselves, the war hardened them.
Some worked toward mending their relations with the Ura. Others became fearful of another war. They devised a plan to neutralize the Ura threat once and for all.
They’d build a weapon that could wipe out the Tazal Terminals. The ones who proposed this were the City’s scientists, the Mancers.
One of them was a widower named Venn. Though he was an Ura himself, the Mancers wanted him for his genius. It was the only job that would accept him. Plus he needed the money to raise his only daughter — Zia.
Venn didn’t talk much about his job to Zia.
In fact, he never told her anything about it at all. Neither did he teach her about her Ura heritage.
He thought it’d be better for her not to know these things. This lack of guidance did not prepare her for what was to come.
Her innocence was Venn’s downfall.
For when she met a Cael boy who claimed to know a lot about her people, she grew infatuated with him. She even agreed when the boy requested that he meet her father.
In truth though, the boy had been scheming against her. He framed the family. He told the Caelondian Marshals that Venn was selling state secrets to the Tazal Terminals.
Both Venn and Zia were arrested for treason.
Then Venn was offered a deal:
His daughter would go free if he returned to the Mancers and finished the secret weapon. He had no other choice but to accept it.
Before they parted, Venn whispered his last words to Zia. “Hurry home to the den and lock yourself in,” he pleaded to her. And she did.
She went down inside their Ura-style den, which went deep underground. There, she found her father’s journal, written in the Ura script.
Zia couldn’t read it, as she never had the chance to learn her native language.
Little did she know that that journal would be the only remaining proof of the Mancers’ project.
Meanwhile, Venn completed the finishing touches to the secret weapon. The only thing left to do was to activate it.
But unbeknownst to the Caels, Venn sabotaged the weapon. He rigged it so that it’d backfire on the Caelondians. He turned it on, and in an instant, all in Caelondia City turned into petrified ash.
Despite the malfunction, the weapon still ripped up the surrounding region.
It hit the Tazal Terminals too, but it couldn’t affect anything below the earth. Since the Ura slept underground, their lives were spared, only to awaken to a shattered world.
This was the Calamity.
Events Concerning the Bastion
One young Cael got lucky. He’s a kid who worked for the Masons — another of Caelondia’s guilds. Before the Calamity happened, he went outside the Rippling Walls to repair it.
So he was just out of range of the petrification effect.
He did have a front row seat to the devastation around him. He got knocked unconscious sometime during that awesome disaster.
When the dust settled, he woke up amid the ruins of the Walls.
The Kid started making his way toward the City.
For some reason, the Windbags were unaffected by the catastrophe. They ran wild and attacked him on sight. He had to fight his way through using his trusty Hammer.
He reached his local saloon, trying to find people he knew. He was able to pick up the barrette of a girl he fancied.
But its owner was nowhere to be seen. Inside the building, he found the bartender, frozen in ashen stasis. And as the Kid touched him, the bartender disintegrated into dust.
Then he remembered about the Bastion, where everyone was supposed to go during a crisis.
The Kid decided to go to the Bastion. On the way there, he found a Core at the end of the Wharf District. As he grabbed it though, the area around him began to crumble.
He ran as fast he could and reached a Skyway — part of the City’s air elevator system. It was another lucky break for the Kid, as he got on it right before the whole district collapsed.
Fixing the Bastion
The Kid landed on the Bastion’s outskirts. As he made his way toward it, he saw an old man waiting for him at the entrance. It seemed like no one else survived.
They never had a chance to react as they all got petrified in a flash.
The old man was already in the Bastion when it hit, so he got lucky too.
The man explained to the Kid that the Bastion currently lacks power.
It needs Cores to be fully functional again. “The Bastion would set things right again,” the old man said.
So the Kid placed the Wharf’s Core into the Bastion’s Monument. Then without talking much, he went on to hunt for more Cores.
One by one, he scavenged them off out of the various sections of the City.
It was during his trip to the Hanging Gardens that he stumbled upon something weird. Standing agape among the gray ash statues of the deceased was… another survivor.
So the Kid took him back to the Bastion.
His name was Zulf, an Ura immigrant from the Tazal Terminals.
The old man and the Kid introduced themselves to Zulf, and to each other as well. They hadn’t had the chance earlier.
After that, the Kid resumed his task of finding the Cores. Zulf and the old man — Rucks — talked for a while. Conversing was the only thing they could do in the Bastion.
Zulf said he was celebrating his wedding the night before. During the party, he fell down drunk in the cellar of the nearby War Memorial. When he woke up, he emerged to the nightmarish scene of the Calamity’s wake.
He found his Cael fiancee at her home. But when he touched her, she fell apart into nothing but ash.
Soon after, Zulf mindlessly meandered back to the Gardens, where the Kid had met him.
Meanwhile, the City was running out of active Cores to plunder. The Kid had to journey farther outside Caelondia to find more. He even had to sail along Langston River.
As he reached the River’s end, he heard a faint song. He traced the source of the sound to a campsite in Prosper Bluff. Singing in the center was a girl. It was Zia.
The refugees of the Bastion were in high spirits after having found another survivor.
All four formed a fast friendship, seeing as how they’re the only ones left.
Zulf in particular was happy to see a fellow Ura again.
They celebrated somewhat, but the Kid still had one last Core to get. So off he went again to finish his labor.
While the Kid was away, Zulf noticed that Zia held a journal. It was the one her father had owned.
She couldn’t read it, as it was written in Ura.
But Zulf can, so he offered her his help in translating it.
It didn’t take him long, but what he learned from it filled him with rage. The journal contained Venn’s notes about the Mancer’s project, about their plan to wipe out the Ura.
Angered, Zulf confronted Rucks, and the old man reluctantly confirmed the truth.
By the time the Kid returned with the final Core, Zulf was gone. He had tried to destroy the Bastion, but only managed to damage the Monument.
Then he left, vowing revenge as he went home to his people. “The Calamity failed, but I will not,” he said.
The Kid had to use the last Core to repair the Monument.
This meant that the Bastion still lacked the power to become operational again. The survivors would need to settle with using Shards, a weaker kind of Core.
The problem was that most of those were deep within the Wilds. That didn’t matter to the Kid though. Ever the stoic, he resumed his expeditions without hesitation.
A Message from the Rails
The Wild Unknown was an underdeveloped region filled with dangerous hazards.
Strange plants and predators lurked there. The biggest ones had even inspired legends about them back in Caelondia. Those gave the Kid a tough time.
But he was wily enough to snatch their hoarded Shards from under their nose.
As the Kid continued on, he arrived at Point Lemaign, at where the Grand Rails was built.
Much of it has been reclaimed by the Wilds.
But the Rails itself was still functional, albeit barely. The Kid picked up another Shard on the far end of the long railway.
Then as he exited the area, he thought he saw Zulf standing by a glade. But it wasn’t him.
It was an Ura man, who seemed to be waiting for the Kid. He was carrying a sealed note from Zulf.
But just as he was about to give it to the Kid, he knocked him out instead.
When the Kid came to, the note had been left on the ground near him. He picked it up and read its label, which only said “For Zia”.
Later on, back at the Bastion, the Kid delivered Zulf’s letter to Zia.
When she read it, the note simply instructed her to go east. If she does, she’ll learn the truth about the Calamity and her people.
That direction led to the Tazal Terminals.
Zia wanted time to think it over first. So the Kid gave her some space and headed off to find the next Shard.
The Raiders and Their Quarry
The Kid’s journey took him to Burstone Quarry, located on the fringes of Ura territory.
He figured that there might be a trove of Shards there or maybe even Cores.
Too bad that wasn’t the case.
The Quarry had been depleted for some time. Only inert rocks remained there. It was also infested with pests. The Kid had to fight them off to get out of there. He only found a single Shard for all his efforts.
After the Kid slew the last of the creatures, a voice called out to him, asking him if he was alright. It was Zulf. He came to meet the Kid.
He came to warn him of the siege of the Bastion.
He also advised the Kid to not go back there, that it was better to let it fall.
The Kid didn’t want to hear any of it. He passed by Zulf and ran to a nearby Skyway.
When he got back to the Bastion, he saw that Zulf was right.
There was a small cadre of Ura Warriors wrecking up the place. They also sealed up the entrance, which forced the Kid to go around the back.
It still didn’t matter, as he was able to drive them back.
With the remaining attackers dead, the Kid went looking for his fellow survivors.
He reunited with Rucks, and the two sat down to talk about what happened. Rucks admitted to the Kid that it was retribution for causing the Calamity.
Zulf had learned the truth from Venn’s journal, then went home to tell his people.
Understandably, it enraged the Ura and provoked their reprisal.
As for Zia, the Kid only found her harp guitar. The girl was missing.
The two Caels surmised that she got taken during the attack. The Ura must’ve brought her back to the Tazal Terminals, her rightful home.
There’s also the extensive damage done to the Bastion.
Once again, the Kid had to use the latest Shard to fix all of it.
As luck would have it though, they knew of another Shard, and it was in the same direction where the Ura retreated. The Kid would have to mount an expedition to the Ura homeland.
Into Ura Territory
It took seven days for the Kid to travel through the mountain pass called Urzendra Gate.
It was the only way to reach the eastern lands.
When he did, he saw the Shard right at the Gate’s doorstep.
However, the biggest Ura the Kid had ever seen appeared out of nowhere and seized the Shard. He was no mere Warrior though. He was an Ura General, possibly the highest ranking leader of the Ura remnants.
He’s spearheading the Ura effort to prevent the Bastion from becoming operational.
If they only needed to get the final Shard far away from the Kid, then that’s what he’d do.
The Kid had no choice but to give chase.
As the Kid infiltrated the Ura homeland, he got wind of where Zia was likely being held. She may be in Zulten’s Hollow.
It was an outpost from where the Ura had launched their attack on the Bastion. It would make sense that the Ura would’ve taken her there after their raid.
The Kid had deduced it right.
After smashing through the outpost’s defenses, he found Zia in the outpost.
Only she wasn’t there against her will.
It turned out that she followed the Ura on her own volition. She wanted to see for herself what had happened to her people. She needed to confirm what Zulf wrote on his note.
The Battle at the Tazal Terminals
Having seen enough, Zia went back to the Bastion.
But the Kid continued forward into the heart of the Ura region.
He still needed to track down the Shard, and the Tazal Terminals was the last place left to go.
During the Kid’s assault, the Ura threw everything they had to stop him. But he kept moving, making it hard for the Ura to converge on him.
Worse for them, the Kid chanced upon the Battering Ram.
The Ura had planned to use it to bring down the Rippling Walls. In the Kid’s hands, it became their bane.
Even their mighty General fell in battle against the Kid. He had on him the Shard, and with his demise, the Kid could finally take it back. As he was heading out, he noticed Zulf being beaten by some Warriors.
They thought that Zulf had betrayed them by letting the Kid follow him back to their home.
Note: At this point, the player can choose to save Zulf or abandon him. With the first option, the Kid has to drop the Battering Ram to carry Zulf. In either case, the Kid still has to fight through the last of the Ura blocking their egress.
Whether the Kid saved Zulf or not, he still managed to stumble back into the Bastion.
Weak from exhaustion, he walked up to the Monument to place the final Shard. This completed the Bastion at last.
After that, the survivors entered the Bastion’s control room, which was under the Monument.
Rucks then explained to the Kid their two options:
- They can activate the Bastion’s Restoration Protocol. It’ll undo the Calamity and reset the world to its previous state.
- They can initiate the Bastion’s Evacuation Protocol. It’ll function as an ark of sorts. They can sail through the skies and find safe harbor on a distant land.
Both Rucks and Zia gave the choice to the Kid.
He did most of the leg work after all. Regardless of their personal preferences, they’d support whichever option he chose.
Fun Fact: This is the only time in the game where the player can hear Zia’s actual voice. Prior to this point, Rucks was the one recounting her words in the narrative.
Bastion Endings Explained
With the Restoration Protocol, some form of energy will flow out from the Bastion.
It seeps throughout the land, working its magic on restoring the world.
As this is happening, Rucks bids farewell to the Kid and hopes they can meet each other again in the next world.
As the credits roll, the player can see images of the four main characters. These depict them as how they were before the Calamity:
- The Kid’s working on the Rippling Walls.
- Zia’s playing her harp, with the silhouette of her classmates in the backdrop.
- Zulf’s celebrating his wedding day with his fiancee. This image appears regardless if the Kid had saved him or not.
- Rucks’s reviewing the blueprint of the Bastion.
What this ending actually does is rewind time to when the Calamity hadn’t happened… yet.
None of the characters retain the memories of their journey together. Their knowledge of the Calamity is also erased.
This means that they won’t be able to prevent it from happening.
In the end, it creates a time loop.
The Calamity still happens. The main characters survive. They rebuild the Bastion. They choose which Protocol to initiate again.
The only glitch in the matrix is that Rucks experiences deja vu in the early part of his narration.
This also makes the Restoration ending canon in the game’s timeline.
Remember Rucks’s opening line, “Proper story’s supposed to start at the beginning. Ain’t so simple with this one.”
With the Evacuation Protocol, the Bastion lifts off and sails across the sky.
It’s carrying the main cast to lands unknown, possibly to the Caels’ homeland beyond the sea. Though this marks the end of the time loop, it also means a new beginning for the characters.
Rucks takes on the helm of the Bastion, since he’s the one most familiar with it.
He offers the Kid the position of first mate, and then the credits roll.
The player is then treated with images of the characters’ lives on the Bastion:
- An exhausted Kid is finally able to sleep. Rucks tucks him in and covers him with a blanket.
- Zia is admiring the view of the horizon. She’s finally able to smile and looks forward to her future.
- Likewise, Rucks is also standing proud and taking in the view.
- If Zulf was saved, he’ll be preparing food for the survivors. He’s covered in bandages, and he seems to have accepted his fate.
This ending breaks the cycle created by the Restoration Protocol. You could consider it the proper end to the story.
It gives the characters an opportunity for a real future, rather than repeating the past.
Thus, it reinforces the game’s moral lesson:
Let go of regret, accept that the past has happened, and move on.