With Bastion, it's not just the challenging gameplay or the hand-painted graphics that make it fun; it's the narrator who deftly comments on the action and slowly reveals the story as you play.
Editors' note: The regular price for this game is $4.99, but it is on sale for a limited time for 99 cents.
Bastion is a faithful iOS port of the award-winning artistic action RPG that first came out for the Xbox 360 in 2011. Now you'll be able to explore the strange world of The Calamity on the go, and solve the mystery of the catastrophe that shattered our world (literally) into pieces.
Enter a broken world
You play as the Kid, an adventurer trying to piece the world back together by finding crystal-like "cores" and bringing them back to the "Bastion" that acts as your base camp. With each core returned, the Bastion rebuilds itself. As you explore in search of cores, you'll battle several different types of monsters that require that you choose the right weapon for the job. Fortunately, you'll find a number of different upgradable weapons around the world to help you in your task, but even with your formidable arsenal, the game is still very challenging.
There are special buildings in the game that you'll come across and later be able to build at your Bastion. At first you'll run across the Arsenal and the Distillery for switching weapons and drinking magic potions that give you bonuses. But later the Foundry lets you upgrade your weapons with special items found around the game world. Once you're able to build each of the six available buildings at the Bastion, you'll always have them close at hand, but in the beginning part of the game, you'll have to seek them out to make changes.
Superb graphics and audio
Bastion is incredible both in its visuals and its audio. The hand-painted graphical style makes it stand out from other games in the genre, and the landscape is strikingly colorful as you explore the world. You watch the action from a 3D isometric perspective, letting you see the world assemble itself into paths and scenery as you seek out the cores and bring them back to the Bastion.
The audio is exceptionally good in this game as well, with the ambient sounds of nature providing a perfect backdrop. But the best thing about the game might be the dynamic narration that reacts to the actions you take. The gruff voice of the narrator not only comments on what you're currently doing, but on monsters you're seeing on screen and even your mood when the game gets particularly challenging. The game suggests you use headphones, and I agree it's the best way to play. The narration and ambient audio add to the immersion in this mystical and strange world and perfectly complements the onscreen action.
Choose your controls
The default control system takes advantage of the touch screen with touch-to-move controls and auto-attacks, but you also can go to the settings to change to a gamepad-like setup. I decided to use the gamepad style because I've played Bastion before on the Xbox 360, and while the touch screen is not as good as tactile controls, I was able to get around pretty well. You also have buttons for attacking, using special abilities, and switching weapons in the lower right of the screen. A roll dodge button becomes one of the more important controls, letting you dive out of the way of attackers, and is especially useful when under attack by some of the stronger monsters. It takes a while to get used to the controls, but after playing for a bit, it became second nature.
The only issues I found with Bastion were the somewhat confusing weapon upgrade system and the way new weapons automatically replace your current weapon loadout. Also, it takes a little bit of trial and error to apply an upgrade because there are no onscreen directions (check out the slideshow for more details). Once I figured it out, it was easy, but be prepared to randomly hit buttons until you get the hang of it. The other issue is a bit more annoying. When you find a weapon, it becomes active as one of your two slotted weapons and the only way to change it is to find an Arsenal building. This can get frustrating when you can no longer equip a favorite weapon while battling out in the world.
Even with these minor annoyances, Bastion is a fun and strange adventure with plenty of action, all while a narrator comments on everything that's happening. If you want a one-of-a-kind immersive gaming experience, you should definitely download this game.