The kid played the game on his iPad. It played like a dream.
Bastion took the gaming scene by storm when it arrived on Xbox Live for the 2011 “Summer of Arcade” promo. The game had been developed for almost 2 years with tender-loving care from the small team at SuperGiant Games, and all the hard work paid off. Bastion has been reviewed over a hundred times (almost all favorable), and is currently available on Xbox, PC, Mac, and even as an in-browser game for Google Chrome. It has won over a hundred various industry awards, has delighted millions of gamers, and it is now available on your iPad 2 or newer.
Due to the fact the Bastion has been available for over a year, and has received countless glowing reviews from a variety of publications, I am not going to go as in-depth into this review as I would for a new game that launches on iOS. At this point there is no doubt the Bastion is a fantastic isometric action-RPG game, and I encourage you to look up any console/PC reviews of the game if you feel like proving me right! Like many other iOS versions of games that originated on consoles or PCs, the biggest question is this: does it work on a touch screen? The resounding answer to that question is YES.
Bastion is one of the most beautiful games I’ve played in a long time, and a lot of that beauty comes from it’s gorgeous hand-painted environments. The game starts when you wake up to find that your world has literally been blasted to the sky by an event that is only referred to as “the calamity”. Everyone you know is either missing or has been burnt into statues of ash, and it’s up to you to uncover the mystery that caused this mayhem and death. More importantly, it’s up to you to try to fix it. This is where the Bastion comes into play. It is a giant island-machine thing that will serve as your base of operations throughout the game. You will go here to upgrade weapons, equip stat-affecting tonics, access tough wave-based combat levels, complete weapon training grounds, and more. All of these features will hopefully help you discover the secret to fixing this whole “calamity” mess.
I won’t go much farther into the gameplay or story of the game, but one thing must be mentioned before I dive into how this game plays on the iPad. As you play through Bastion, your ears are treated to the deep, soulful vibrations of a character known as Rucks. He narrates your every move, and even reacts to various actions you take. I remember when I picked up the first weapon in the game and started smashing everything in sight, the narrator commented, “The kid decides to just rage for a while.” I was shocked. When I went
back and played the same part without smashing everything, I didn’t hear that phrase. This reactive voice-over is constantly brilliant throughout the game; it never gets old, even on multiple play-throughs. The voice actor who lent his voice to this game, Logan Cunningham, hasn’t had much voice work before this, but I really hope we hear/see more of him in the future.
Bastion is an isometric action-RPG that focuses a lot on various dodge/block tactics to take down your foes. That said, many people doubted that this game would be accurately playable on iOS devices. These people were wrong. For some reason, Bastion starts out with it’s tap-to-move mode enabled. I have no idea why so many developers are going with this method of control for console-like games on touch devices. This was a huge issue with Horn, which I recently reviewed, and the same can be said with Bastion. Tapping to move, dodge, and attack all at once is far too inaccurate, and made playing Bastion with any sense of control almost impossible. Luckily, Bastion lets you know that you can change the controls within the first minute of playing. When you do, you get the usual action buttons on the right side with a “slide your thumb anywhere to move” joypad on the left side. This works beautifully, and switching between weapons along with blocking and dodging is easy to control. I’m not sure why this control method isn’t enabled by default, but the fact that it exists allows me to forgive the tap-to-move controls!
The original Bastion featured an auto-aim system, but still included the ability to toggle between selected targets. This was an extremely important feature, particularly when it came to the game’s various weapons training levels. These areas feature different challenge for each weapon, with a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prize offered based on your performance, and generally require a high level of skill with each respective weapon. Sadly, while playing these on my iPad, the auto-aim of manual mode, and auto-attack of tap-to-move mode made performing well in these areas almost impossible. With so much thought put into every aspect of porting Bastion to accommodate a touch interface, I don’t understand how a feature like this was forgotten. Auto-aim is perfectly sufficient for most of the story levels in the game, but the training levels are a big part of unlocking new upgrades and abilities, and so far I don’t see a way to beat them without the controls being modified in a future update. (If I am somehow missing a major feature, feel free to correct me in the comments and I’ll update this review.)
Speaking of controls, I really hope that SuperGiant adds the ability to fully customize button size and placement in later versions of the game. Many game studios have started including customization touch controls in all of their games, and it really makes sense for a device like the iPad. The controls are fantastic, but I still had the occasional “miss-tap” which lead to rolling off the level or accidentally using a special ability. These mishaps are completely expected for a device without physical controls, but adding in button customization can help reduce the amount of problems that arise from buttons being too close to each other, too large/small, etc. The other thing that surprised me about this version of Bastion is the lack of a “use potion” button. Managing HP potions was a big part of Bastion’s enemy wave-based levels, which are arguably the most difficult challenges in the game. In the iOS version health potions fall from the sky much more often than in previous versions of the game. I’m assuming this is to make up for the lack of HP potions in your inventory, so rather then managing when you use a potion, you have to instead do your best to avoid the floating green vials until you absolutely need them. I suppose the developers didn’t want to add another button to the screen, but I feel like this should have been an option for those who want an extra challenge rather than something that was completely thrown out.
Aside from the lack of target toggling, Bastion pretty much does everything right. The game has been beautifully designed for the iPad, from the menus, to the music, to the high-res graphics. After you complete the game’s 6ish hour storyline, you’ll want to come back and play it again using the game+ mode that allows you to restart with all your XP intact. There are idols you can activate to make the game much more challenging, in-game achievements that actually provide in-game currency spend, and the aforementioned levels that feature waves of enemies to test your skills. Oh, and guess what? There isn’t an in-app purchase to be found. That’s right, for $5 you get a full game without any need to spend a penny more.
Bastion on iOS is an accomplishment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It proves that quality titles can make it on Apple’s mobile devices without compromising gameplay, graphics, audio, or any other aspect that makes them fit for consoles or the PC/Mac. Obviously not every genre of game will always work on iOS (see FPS), but Bastion really shines as one of those games that raises the bar for not only future ports, but future iOS games as a whole. It’s a shame that the omission of the ability to select individual targets effects the gameplay so much in specific levels. I’ll be honest, without this issue, Bastion would have easily received a full 5/5 score. Despite the one single flaw on iOS, Bastion is still one of the best games to emerge from indie scene in the past several years. Do yourself a favor and go buy it. You can thank me later.