Game Review: ‘Bastion’ for iPad


BastionDeveloper: Supergiant Games

Concept: A third person action/RPG where players control ‘The Kid’, one of few survivors of a ‘catastrophe’ that has destroyed the land and left pockets of it floating in the air. Along with an old man named Rucks the Kid tries to undo the disaster that has wiped out the world and turned the population to ash.

Review: Since the advent of Steam the field of independently developed games has become more accessible to the average gamer, meaning that high concept games with a strong artistic leaning made by two guys working from home can compete alongside multi-million dollar franchises with armies of developers even without the marketing department. Braid is the most prominent example of a game breaking the mold and becoming a smash hit and it woke many gamers up to the games that the indie market is now capable of producing. Games like Bastion.

Bastion actually straddles the line between artistic indie fare and mainstream genre entertainment in that it provides a very artistic setting, mixes genres and puts an emphasis on story and themes while providing plenty of traditional action and role playing game tropes.

Bastion

Focusing on the latter, the game provides a solid if simplified dungeon crawler that is much more suited to the handheld device than the home console that is was originally released on. There’s plenty of detail and customization to make it feel as though you have your options open and the level structure gives logical points to stop playing and get on with your workday (if you can stop listening to the narrator – more on that later). It makes it a great pick-up-and-play games that has much more substance to it than just flinging birds at pigs.

Although you can’t change the ‘Kids’ appearance or stats there is plenty of customization available. Over the course of the game you obtain a wide selection of melee and ranged weapons that includes guns, mortars, hammers, machetes and battering rams. Players can equip two at a time before beginning a level depending on their personal preference or general feeling (although after watching The Avengers again makes it hard to choose anything other than the hammer and bow). Tonics adjust stats and abilities and collectable items allow for weapons upgrades. As the game continues you also get optional tasks to complete for extra bonuses.

Bastion

What sets this game apart from straight up RPGs and parodies like Deathspank is the artistic design and story. There’s no intro or explanation, it’s up to the player to uncover what has transpired over the course of the game via the awesome narrator. During the game the character of Ruck talks almost constantly and has a voice like the love-child of Barry White and Johnny Cash. Most impressively the narration is tied directly to your actions, not just key story points. If you decide to try out a new weapon by wailing on some nearby breakables the narrator will explain that the Kid has flown into a rage due to the shocking events around him. He even has a dry sense of humour, cracking wise when you accidentally run of an edge for the umpteenth time. This adds plenty of weight to the story without it budging in on the gameplay. The strongest points of the story are in the first few levels, but it’s engaging enough to follow through to the end. It features a moral choice at the very, very end that does nothing but change the still images that appear under credits, which feels pointless, but there’s a penultimate choice that doesn’t change the ending but adds a poignant moment.

Bastion

The other unique selling is the landscape. When the Kid wakes up at the beginning of the game the only land is the meter or two surrounding the bed. When the player walks around the world fills in as chunks fly from the void underneath giving you the next step. It looks original and cool and is well supported by the original soundtrack. Along with the narrator this game provides your ears with more quality entertainment than the vast majority of gamer market.

With the jump to the tablet the game has provided two control schemes. The default involves tapping the screen where you want to go and what you want to hit, but seasoned gamers may want to switch over to the on-screen controls with a D-Pad and small collection of buttons in order to keep your reflexes sharp.

As far as iPad games, this is among the best.