Bastion Review

Bastion Review

A re-imagining of action RPG on the iPad

Sometimes there is nothing more engaging than immersing yourself in the world of an RPG, just to escape to realm of greater possibility and mystery. Its impressive to think that this no longer requires the player having sit in a dark room on their PC, but thanks to the ever-improving processing power of smartphones and tablets, escaping to mystical, sprawling worlds is possible even if you’re on a crowded commuter train, so long as you have a set of headphones.

Bastion is the perfect example of a game that instantly grabs you in every way; the hand-painted artwork that makes up the lush world you find yourself in is only a part of it, because this game sounds every bit as good as it looks. The musical score has already picked up multiple awards, and such is its popularity and demand that developer Supergiant released it as a standalone album earlier in the year. The real star of the audio show, however, is the narrator that follows you throughout the game, reacting as you play with comments and plot details as the action takes place. The narration is completely reactive, changing and evolving depending on how you tackle each situation.

The basic premise of the game sees you play at ‘The Kid’, who wakes up to find his world in pieces, literally, following The Calamity, a natural disaster of sorts. Your aim is to collect shards left lying around the place to power The Bastion – the structure that holds the world together – and rebuild your home.

There is real joy to be found in Bastion’s gameplay, where the level spawns before you as you move as though it is a living thing itself. It suddenly makes even the most mundane aspect of big world games like this – the movement – as engrossing as the combat. On the subject of combat, it is here that we see the only major change from the original Xbox Live Arcade version is that combat is now dealt with automatically as opposed to being user-driven. When you get within range of enemies, The Kid will open fire or start hacking and slashing at the various weird and wonderful creatures that make up the Bastion world. You can double-tap to order the Kid move quickly and avoid various attacks, but be careful not to overdo it and fall off the edge of a level – there is a big platform aspect to this game after all.

Each level will see you trying to fight your way to a shard to help rebuild the world, with health boosts and fragments – the game’s currency – littering the landscape for you to grab. This forms a big part of the gameplay as well, as you can use these fragments to purchase weapon upgrades and potions that offer health boosts and other upgrades. A lot of the upgrade system is dealt with between levels when you return to the Bastion, where you soon build an arsenal and distillery from which you can change your weapon combinations. To go alongside this archive of powers, there are special challenge levels where you can earn upgrades by taking out a number of enemies within a time limit.

The bar is raised on these challenges each time you take them on, with staggered rewards depending on the time you complete them in. The idea here is to keep you coming back. It works, and helps to break up the pace of the game nicely, reducing the intensity that builds up with boss-like battles that come at the end of each level.

Bastion also feels like a game that can take up a lot of your time, but without you feeling like it’s been wasted. You begin to realise as you expand outwards on the map just how big this world is, and how much there is to discover. It is easy to see why this game has been so successful on other platforms and indeed why it made the jump to iOS, the visuals were made to be seen on the Retina display of the new iPad, and the way the control system has been re-adjusted in order to suit the touchscreen deserves praise.

Rated 5 out of 5

Just a few minutes and you’ll see why this has cleaned up in the awards department.