iPad Game Review: Bastion for iPad 2 and 3rd Generation iPad Review
Reviewed by Tom Slayton
Bastion is a blisteringly fun, visually stunning, and aurally superb single-player action RPG. Until recently, it was only available for consoles. However, if you happen to own a 2nd or 3rd generation iPad, buckle-up because you're in for a treat.
Bastion is an action RPG set in a post-apocalyptic world (although, they call it the calamity). The game begins when you (AKA: The Kid) arrive at the designated survival zone known as The Bastion, where you are to begin your quest to right wrongs, kick butts, and ultimately fix the world. I know there's a dumptruck full of games out there with this same basic storyline, but take heart, because even though the premise may seem familiar, the game, most assuredly will not. From the very beginning, you will hear the grizzled voice of what sounds like an old cowboy narrating. This narration is nothing short of superb, and not only adds a great deal of atmosphere, but is extremely helpful as well, due to the way it gives subtle hints, and cues scripted events and battles.
Two of the biggest problems with most console ports are the hastily adapted controls and interface. It is far too common to find fantastic games buried behind layers of nested menus and squirrely controls. Bastion suffers from none of this. When the game launches, it defaults to a touch-based control scheme that is perfectly suited to the iPad. It is accurate, fast, intuitive, and dead-simple to learn. If, however, like me, you prefer a virtual D-Pad for games like this, fret not because that option is available as well. Both schemes work very well, so spend some with both of them to figure out what you like best. Once you get settled-in, it's off to battle. Combat is what you'd expect from an action RPG, however, not in a bad way. That is, yes, you will be ambushed by swarms of enemies, but due to the game being balanced to the micron, emerging victorious will require clever and skillful gameplay, and will leave you with a smugly self-satisfied feeling of accomplishment. Of course there are tons of weapons and upgrades available, all requiring different play styles. Lastly, Bastion fully supports Game Center Leaderboards and Achievements.
As much as I tried to come up with new adjectives to describe the graphics of Bastion, I invariably found myself circling back to tried and true favorites like: polished, high production values, and beautifully animated; everything else just seemed to fall short. You see, it's not just that the cell-shaded graphics look great (they do). It's the fact that the folks at Supergiant Games went out of their way to set this game apart from the competition in every way possible. For example, new areas are not drawn instantly. Instead, objects drop in to populate the terrain as you enter, giving you the distinct impression that you are momentarily punching through the third wall, and are watching a scene change expertly performed by invisible wizards. Does it affect gameplay? Not really. Does it make the overall game experience richer? Absolutely. Bastion is full of little graphic touches like this, and they really make the game a pleasure to play. On a 3rd Generation iPad, Bastion looks nothing short of fantastic due to the game's support of its retina display. If you have an iPad 2, however, don't worry because it looks great on that device as well.
I absolutely loved the music, sound effects, and narration of Bastion. The soundtrack is a bit quieter than the sound effects so you never get the feeling that they are competing for your eardrums. Further, the music is nicely varied, and changes according to what is happening on-screen. The sound effects are so good you don't even think about them. Instead, you sit back and let them mingle with the music, narration, and even the graphics in order to produce an audio/visual experience rather than individual and discrete audio and visual experiences. Lastly, the real linchpin for this game is the narration. This is a pretty bold statement for me when you consider how much I normally detest narrated games. This one not only works, it works beautifully.
In-App Purchases (IAPs)
Bastion currently offers no IAPs. Hopefully, if any are introduced, they will consist of additional content because I will gladly pay for the chance to keep playing.
Bastion is the best action RPG I've ever played on a mobile device, period. It's original, fun, beautiful, and full of personality; and I recommend it unreservedly.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
Graphics: - 5 - Fantastic graphics. Notable not only for their quality, but also for the game's overall presentation. Sound: - 5 - The sound effects, narration, and soundtrack work perfectly together, and complement the visuals in every way. Controls: - 5 - Two control schemes, both of which work very well. Gameplay: - 5 - It's the best action RPG available for iOS.
Playing Hints and Tips:
Be sure to pick the right upgrades for each weapon. Each has five available, but there are only two slots. Choose wisely... Weapon upgrades are hidden in levels and the blue crystals you need to perform the upgrades are obtained by smashing things and killing enemies. The strongest stock melee weapon is the spear and the strongest stock ranged weapon is the calamity cannon. If you are stuck using something off the shelf, look for these two. Pay attention to the special abilities and upgrades of weapons. Some are better than others!