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‘Bastion’ for iPad game review

To RPG fans, the game Bastion is no stranger. Released back in 2011 for the Xbox and PC and eventually for Chrome, OS X and Ubuntu, the game was an instant hit with gamers and critics alike.

Developers Supergiant Games have now brought the same experience to mobile and the game is now exclusively available on the iPad. We decided to take a look.

Title
Bastion
Developer
Supergiant Games
Platform
iOS
Release Date
August 2012
Content Rating
12+
Size
540MB
Price
$6.49

Premise

The game takes place in the city of Caelondia, which has been destroyed by an event known only as the Calamity. The protagonist of the game, known only as the Kid, is one of the few survivors, along with an old man named Rucks who also narrates the game. The game has you travelling distant lands and collecting shards to rebuild the city of Caelondia.

Gameplay

Bastion is a 2D, third person game with an isometric camera view. To move the player around, you have two options. Either tap at a point on the screen and the Kid will move there or use the traditional controls, which include an on-screen joystick.

In your quest to find shards, you will come across many different types of enemies. To fight them, you have two primary weapons. You get a choice of multiple weapons as you collect them, from hammers, to crossbows and guns, but you can only carry two at a time. You collect objects within the game that can be used as currency to upgrade your primary weapons.

You also get a special ability that you can perform a limited number of time, such as dropping a mine or doing a 360 degree spin attack while surrounded. Once again you have multiple choices but you can only choose one. You get the option to change your weapons before a level and occasionally also within a level.

Other than these, you also get several magic potions that give you special abilities, such as inflicting additional damage after your health reaches a certain point.

Attacks are done automatically with the default control system as soon as the enemy is within reach of the particular weapon but the attack will be focused on the enemies the Kid is directly facing.

The gameplay in Bastion is very simple, in that there is not a lot of variety in the things you have to do. You move the character around and once he is close enough to the enemy he attacks. You can dodge enemy attacks or use your shield to deflect them. The game makes up for this simplicity by having a variety of enemies with different attack types and often by throwing a lot of them at once towards you. This can lead to some very tense battles, especially when there is a chance that the floor you’re standing on could collapse any second. While some have criticized Bastion for lacking depth in gameplay, for me, it just had enough variety to not feel repetitive or boring.

Death in the game is not a big deal when you consider you reanimate instantly after you die and continue from where you left off. This happens for a limited number of time, after which the level restarts, although you can enable infinite lives from the settings. I must say, though, the most number of times I died was not due to an enemy but rather by falling of an edge. Believe it or not this is a problem in the game and you can just walk off any edge and die, often repeatedly and frustratingly. Also, in one level where the floor was collapsing, the Kid would reanimate on a tile with missing surrounding tiles (that is, they had already fallen off) so you had no way to move until the one beneath you also collapsed, after which point he’d hopefully reanimate on a tile that did have surrounding land.

Graphics and Sound

The visuals in Bastion are one of its most praised features. The game features beautiful designed levels that look as if painted using watercolor. The game features floating levels that often form right under your feet as you move your character. Each level has a distinct style that is conveyed even through that small view you get of the world at a time.

Complementing the level design are the character design and animations. The enemies all look significantly different and while some look menacing others are endearing, that is, until they try to kill you. All their attacks are also well animated.

But what takes the cake for me is the sound and to be specific, the narration in the game. As mentioned before, the narration is done by an elderly character and this has to be the best narration I’ve heard in any game. The narration not just fills you in on whats’s going on and often, what happened before the game but it’s also extremely interactive, which means it reacts to whatever the character is doing on the screen and not just a fixed narration for a level. Every tiny decision you make in the game is mentioned and it just feels absolutely wonderful to hear it. Completing that is the terrific background score (on sale here) that just complements the action so well and sets the right mood for every level.

Going back to the graphics of the game, the game supports both the iPad 2 and the new iPad (sorry original iPad owners). The game boasts of Retina graphics for the new iPad but I noticed the visuals weren’t as sharp as they should be, which meant the game was running at a resolution somewhere between the resolution of the iPad 2 and the new iPad, as some games do. This did detract a bit from the amazing visuals of the game as it made things a bit fuzzy, which puts more strain on your eyes.

Conclusion

I never played Bastion on other platforms before, mostly because I’m not a huge fan of RPG games but having played the game on the iPad I now realize why it is so heavily praised. The game has a lot going for it, from the amazing visuals, brilliant sound and narration, an engrossing story that makes you want to keep playing to find out more and exciting gameplay.

The only downsides as such are the slightly blurry visuals on the new iPad’s Retina display and the annoying ease with with you can just fall off the edge of most levels. Also, the game is only available on the iPad for now, that too just the iPad 2 and the new iPad. Then again, this is a game for the big screen and it’d be no fun even on the biggest smartphone display. Considering the developer’s penchant for being multi-platform, you can expect a version for Android tablets soon.

Bastion is currently being sold for $6.49 on the App Store ($4.99 in some markets) and although it might seem a bit steep, it’s well worth the price, even if you’re not a fan of RPG games in general. There is not much new to see here if you have already played it on the PC or console but for others this is a must buy.

Rating: 4.5/5
Pros: Great visuals, brilliant sound, fun gameplay, engrossing story
Cons: Slightly blurry visuals on the new iPad, makes falling down the side of the level very easy

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