Approximate Time Spent playing at time of writing: 22 hours
Modes of play: Single Player, Online Leaderboards
Bastion looks & sounds really pretty and it’s quite novel these days to see an action adventure game from an overhead isometric viewpoint rather than a 3D one. This gives rise to more space related gameplay as it’s much easier to judge the overall action from your overhead viewpoint & play more tactically. Controls feel great although I would’ve preferred there be a bit more ‘heft’ to the contact in melee combat and a bit more obvious feedback when you’re taking damage. The weapons and special attacks you can make are, at least initially, quite varied and interesting too, as are some of the different enemy types.
However where Bastion starts to go downhill is with the lack of interesting challenge it offered me & the grindiness of the re-play and upgrade and unlock structure. When you’re mowing down all enemies with ease regardless of your weapon or the type of enemy, you’ve got stocks of unused health & special attack potions with more than you need dropping all the time, and you don’t really need to worry about positioning very much, a lot of the good points of Bastion start to become completely wasted. All of the weapons and enemies just mush together and become much-of-a-muchness. This is compounded by the fact there are too many weapons and many of their abilities start to overlap.
The same grind & unlock & upgrade structure that damages games like Bullet Witch is again sadly on display here, but thankfully it’s in a much reduced format. You only need to play through the game a bit more than one time to unlock everything, and the 2nd time around the game doesn’t actually get any more difficult, so it’s obvious you are going to waltz even more easily through everything. Instead of a difficulty setting there is the option to switch on “the Gods” in Bastion which act as difficulty modifers in various ways, much like ‘Skulls’ in a Halo title. But in the regular levels there’s little incentive to actually use these Gods, because although they offer you more money & experience points for using them, you’ll get plenty enough of both of those anyway by other means so it’s not much of a reward. It’s the same problem again as Bullet Witch et al, where you’re giving a player quite granular control over their difficulty setting, but then they don’t really know what it will mean from level to level. It’s also offset by the fact as you gain more money & experience, those levels then become easier again… so… yeah, it’s really just a bit of a mess. Still, I played the vast majority of levels with at least a few Gods on so at least I had some small level of challenge. Another problem with the game is, as you power up your weapons, many of them actually take less skill to use. For example the addition of ‘homing’ attacks on ranged weapons is extremely worthwhile & powerful, yet at the same time really dumbs down the use of any of the weapons. Almost all of the ‘weapon challenge’ levels in the game can similarly be made extremely easy by powering up the relevant weapons.
One thing however that is quite a fun challenge are the options to take trips to ‘Who Knows Where’. These are essentially extra challenge levels in the game that are unlocked as you go through the full campaign (and one can only be unlocked in your second run through) where you get many waves of enemies to fight. Unfortunately on the default settings these ‘Who Knows Where’ levels are still extremely easy and they mainly act as an area to practice with different weapons if you want to, and also as an alternative option to grind for money & experience. However where these levels do come into their own is that they do offer Achievement rewards for doing them with increasing amount of ‘Gods’ switched on. Some of these eventually actually get to be genuinely quite interesting and tough challenges, even once you’ve fully unlocked every weapon power-up and are at a max level character. In fact a couple of them got so hard I didn’t actually manage to complete them with all 10 Gods switched on. I suspect I could do it if I practised enough, but they were also becoming so punishing as well as so challenging that I didn’t feel I was enjoying them enough to be worth it. Often the best way to play them would be to play extremely slowly & carefully, yet if you fail, you’d have to repeat 10 minutes of constant battling with enemies, and because of this I realised the punishment levels were beyond my interest in these challenges. And much like with VVVVVV I can easily find more interesting challenges to take on than this, that test skills I find more interesting, in competitive games that would appeal more to me.
There’s also a Score Attack mode which I did not really investigate as it involved playing the whole campaign through again – and by this point I was rather too bored of Bastion to give it a try. If I ever come back to it and find there is a really interesting challenge tucked away here, I’ll be sure to re-review it.
…And that is only if you bother to get through the requisite grind and try to do the ‘Who Knows Where’ levels with multiple Gods on. Otherwise this would be edging towards one star.
Competitive Gaming Design Review:
Competitive Game Review:
N/A. The leaderboards on this game are actually pretty good, although it’s a bit of a mystery how some of them are scored, you can have a bit of fun competing with your friends scores etc.
The narrator tries desperately to keep you interested, but in the end the story is very basic and really kind of dull. The idea of using a narrator to tell the story whilst you’re playing is a good attempt to meld the fact that gameplay and great stories are pulling in opposite directions, but it still doesn’t really work.
Postitive. This is probably what’s made this game popular, as it’s very toy-ish and mongy & all about ‘the experience’ for players rather than any kind of challenging gameplay.
Negative. Quite a bit unfortunately.
I’m reluctant to give this my ‘recommended’ score as I can only really recommend this as a ‘mong’ game & for the very limited challenges of a few interesting ‘Who Knows Where’ levels. However the general control and mechanics are just so nice that along with the beautiful graphics and music, it just edges it for me. But it’s such a shame they didn’t do so much more with the decent base of this game.
2 thoughts on “Bastion – Review”
And to think I have been recommending this to you for ages.
I must say I do kind of agree with your review of the game; grind’y, although somehow it is still one of my favourite games in recent years.
I do love the main character and the narration character. They work really well together. In terms of the gameplay. I’ve only played this on the iPad, so my experience will be very different. I felt for my gamer abilities that the balance felt good. A slow ramping up of chaos, each battle and level bringing out bigger badder and more strange underworld type floaty things to hit and fire at. I do remember hitting a certain point in the game where things felt, more natural. Not easy, just a little more familiar to me as a player.
It is without a doubt a great example of a fantastically produced game, from both an artistic and audio “get your geek on” point of view.
The levels building themselves as you move around is an ace touch, and the use of greyscale and colour to contrast sections, position and status stands out really well. As an audio geek, well, that’s by far the best part of the game. The audio is truly sublime. From the sense of depth and personalisation in the narration, to the music tracks. Even the little details like for example when going into a menu whilst playing, the audio undergoes some lowpass filtering to make it sound like you have stepped out of the game and behind a door.
Personally, this game felt like it was developed for me rather than me having to try and get into the game (a very odd comment I know). It’s immersive, rewarding and easy to play in short and or long bursts. I agree that from a challenge point of view it’s a little narrow in terms of, well, challenge, and I do agree that the base game could do with some surprises and a little beef’ing out. Hopefully SuperGiant will bring out either a Bastion 2, or a new title that builds on the great parts of Bastion, and then adds a touch more great stuff to it.
Great read though Remy! I’m glad the fancy graphics and lovely audio pushed you to rate it 3 out of 5 🙂
Thanks Dan for an excellent comment 🙂 Yes, I think that playing on an iPad will be a fundamentally different experience – so much so that I cannot really begin to compare. This game could be an amazingly interesting challenge for me on a screen like that! As always though, I can only review my personal take & I played this on PC with a 360 controller.
Regardless of control scheme, what’s a great challenge level for someone else, might not be for me and vice versa. You only need to watch a 4 year old play “The Maw” to understand that. 🙂 But still, there is some really bad design in the way Bastion challenges anyone in terms of the grindiness and homogenisation of the weapons & enemies that let it down significantly for any challenge-orientated player IMO.
Supergiant are indeed working on a new game. Not Bastion 2 but it’s certainly very closely related, it’s called Transistor. Some more info here: