Bastion does something that more games should do: it drops you in a beautifully realized world and encourages you to have fun. As you explore your surroundings and dispatch monsters, the story weaves together and your character’s abilities accumulate, and before long you realize that you’ve been neglecting your responsibilities in order to keep playing just a little longer. Bastion is that good.
Bastion takes place in a world that’s been decimated by an event called the Calamity, which wiped out most of the human race and left behind a whole lot of monsters. Whereas most post-apocalyptic games stick to drab color palettes, Bastion is about as colorful as you can get. The environments are dynamic, eye-popping, and oozing with beauty. If any game world is worth saving, it’s this one.
Stay on the path.
The game is an action RPG, so the focus is split between combat and character customization. You have two control methods to choose from, both of which work just fine. The default one has you tap where you want to go on the screen, and your character walks there, automatically attacking the nearest monster in reach. The other option is called ‘classic controls,’ and it uses an onscreen D-pad to move, and buttons to attack, block, dodge, and switch weapons. We preferred the classic controls, simply because we felt more, well, in control.
Your home base in the apocalyptic world is a floating island called a ‘Bastion.’ This acts as a hub world, with separate levels available for you to conquer one at a time. Like in any good game, the environments and goals of the levels are nicely varied. Some send loads of baddies after you, some have floors that crumble as you walk, some are set up as challenges made for specific weapons, and some we’ll leave for you to find out for yourself. Suffice it to say that the game always has something new and exciting up its sleeve for you to experience.
As you play, you unlock new ways to customize your character, from discovering new passive abilities and special attacks, to finding new weapons (each of which can be upgraded numerous times). One thing that sets Bastion apart from action RPGs like Diablo is that the game isn’t an all-out loot-fest. You only obtain a reasonable number of weapons and abilities, so you never feel overwhelmed by indecision.
It must be a seance.
And best of all, you can swap out your customizations at any time in the hub world. For instance, if your dual-wield pistols’ critical hit bonus isn’t working out for you, you can change it so they reload faster. You can equip any two weapons at a time, but usually you’ll want one for melee, like the hammer or machete, and a ranged weapon like the shotgun or bow and arrow. Each weapon has distinct pros and cons, so finding the right combination is important. It’s also fun.
Another fun thing to do is to listen to the narrator, a character with a smooth, warm voice, who explains what’s happening as you play. He discusses your character’s motivations, comments on the smart (or dumb) things you do, and even provides helpful hints if you have difficulty progressing. The music is incredible as well. This game is an audio-visual feast.
If you get even the smallest amount of pleasure from hacking through bad guys and customizing your weapons and abilities, do yourself a favor and download Bastion right now. It’s an incredible game on just about every level, and the developers have done a remarkable job of making it feel right at home on the iPad. It looks great, plays like a dream, and has enough depth to keep you coming back long after you’ve beaten it. It’s the kind of game you can get lost in– just make sure you remember to eat your meals and go to work.