Video games trigger the imaginative portion of our minds to not only embrace a fictional world but to take part in it. Artistic visual, audio, narrative, and mechanical design are the pillars that – when executed well – pique gaming enthusiasts’ interest. For me, Bastion did exactly that in all four categories. If nothing else, the game is an artfully-crafted, quirky affair full of color, character, and addictive ingenuity. The thrill of this title is its enchanting ability to produce the sensation of reading an epic children’s fantasy book. Furthermore, Bastion will speak to the action RPG crowd as it combines great combat with upgradeable gear to fight the nefarious forces that have overtaken Caelondia.
The development studio Supergiant Games, in conjunction with Warner Bros. Interactive as publisher, launched Bastion far back in 2011. Since then, the storybook indie title has graced numerous platforms, and now it’s the Nintendo Switch’s turn. My playthrough on the Switch was my first hands-on experience with the game, so this review is a genuinely newfound reaction to the title without extensive prior knowledge.
A tale unlike any other
Bastion begins with little introduction as the gravelly narrator, Rucks, tells the story of “the kid’s” (the protagonist) journey to save what’s left of the city of Caelondia. Part of the charm of this title stems from the narrator dramatically recounting just about every action the player takes. An apocalyptic event, known as the Calamity, destroyed much of the city. It’s now broken into several floating pieces, each section being its own unique level and environment. The kid wakes from a slumber and begins to journey toward the Bastion. All the while, the narrator is telling the story behind what the boy is seeing as the aftermath of the Calamity. Moreover, we learn that the Bastion is somewhat of a safe haven from the Calamity. It’s the piece of land where the kid meets Rucks.
From here, the kid transports to different parts of Caelondia to seek out fragments known as cores and shards. These will help power the Bastion and enable the kid to build structures such as the Arsenal or Distillery to offer upgrades to weapons, health boosts, and much more. While the presentation of the game suggests a sense of levity with its beautiful 2D environments, there are some dark themes here as the kid quickly discovers much of the population has turned to ash and that he is one of a few select survivors.
The game’s rich narrative is supported by world-building mementos that can be found throughout each of the game’s levels. After finding a memento, each of the survivors back at the Bastion can comment on the memento, adding to the history of Bastion. Furthermore, a challenging feature located in the Bastion allows the player to defeat wave after wave of enemies as the narrator explains the origins of the kid. In the end, the game’s heart lies in the story.
It’s dangerous out there
The enemies in the game present different challenges. The kid is initially equipped with a melee weapon and soon finds a ranged weapon that fires darts. The kid can also quickly dodge. Players must use a combination of these actions to defeat enemies effectively while minimizing damage. Some enemies such as the black blobs called Squirts are fairly simple to combat. Other enemies like the hooded ghost-like characters known as Gasfella will swiftly lunge, forcing the player to dodge. Attack patterns only escalate from here. Eventually, the player will also find a shield that enables the blocking feature. When executed at the right moment before an attack, it not only deflects the attack but also returns damage back to the combatant.
While the game is simplistic by design, it offers an array of challenges. Players can engage challenges specific to certain actions or weaponry that provide rewards. As the player finds more melee and ranged weapons, they can be upgraded to perform varying functions with materials found in the world. The player will also be able to harness a special attack that can only be used with tonics collected by traversing the worlds. Deploying a companion Squirt (an enemy turned friendly) to aid the player or even chucking a devastating grenade at enemies are just a couple of the options available. Furthermore, players have a single-button healing option that draws from your medicinal inventory, which adds to the strategy of combat.
And if you’re seeking an even greater challenge, players have the option to use a shrine to invoke various gods within this world to empower enemies. Each god will affect enemies differently. But while the enemies may become tougher, the player will earn bonus XP and more of the game’s currency (fragments) as a reward for squashing enemies.
It’s hard to find many faults with Bastion. I have minor gripes, such as my inability to hear the voice of the narrator over some of the louder musical pieces and sound effects during combat sequences. Also, while some might feel like the game’s simple combat mechanics are part of the game’s charm, others might long for more depth. It becomes a matter of personal preference, but I fall into the former category.
A game at the top of its class
Simply put, Bastion is an indie masterwork. It fits right at home on the Nintendo Switch, being exactly the type of game suitable for mobile play. The gameplay’s simplistic nature makes it an easy game to hop in and out of on the go. And the optional challenges highlight the game’s thrilling and addictive combat, making it easy to come back to over and over again. My only regret is that I didn’t acknowledge this game sooner. Any gripes I might have towards Bastion seem nitpicky at this point. Seven years ago, Supergiant Games delivered a solid action RPG title. Now, it gets another chance to bask in the sun thanks to the Nintendo Switch.
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Release Date: September 13, 2018
Category: Action, RPG
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Developer: Supergiant Games
A review code was provided by the publisher.
Accountant by day, video games enthusiast by night. Somewhere in between all of that, I’m a husband, dad, and generally a giant man-child, too. If a game is all about action, there’s a safe bet I’m playing it. I started laying waste to virtual worlds as a youngin’ on the ol’ Atari and haven’t stopped since.