Bastion, 2nd time’s the charm. (PS4 review)

The year was 2012. I was still living in Ohio, and working at a barbecue restaurant, attending college part time. For a few months, I wasn’t playing very many new games, just some old favorites and sports games with friends. The dust had settled after Skyrim and Red Dead Redemption and I was feeling disengaged. I had recently bought an iPad, and the time came when I had the itch to delve into something single player. I decided to check out the Apple Store and download a few games to see if I could stand the touch screen controls. After reading several lists of “The best games available on iOS,” I decided on a few games, Infinity Blade, Angry Birds and Temple Run were among them, but Bastion was what really won me over.

Despite having a good few hours with the game, I stopped playing. To this day I haven’t completed a significant single player campaign on my iPad. Even if it controls decently, it’s not the platform where I can get into meaty single player adventures. More power to those that can, but when I have the choice of a console or iPad, it’s going to be the console every time. My lowly 16 GB iPad ran out of space, and as it took up over 1 GB, I deleted Bastion to save space. I told myself I’d make space and download it again soon, but that didn’t end up happening.

I know, such a tragedy! There’s good news though; Bastion was released on the PS4 on April 7th, and I knew that it was long overdue, I needed to play it again. Despite having payed 10 dollars less for the game 3 years prior, I was willing to pay $13.49 to see Bastion in HD on the big screen (not to mention, ahem, trophies.) The game hasn’t aged a bit, and using the PS4 controller made the gameplay so much better than I remembered, and encouraged me to explore and experiment far more than before.

The top down view Action RPG is narrated by an NPC known as “The Stranger,” and that’s one of the game’s biggest charms and strengths. Fall off a ledge? He might chime in with a quip about needing to install guard rails. Choose dual pistols and a machete for your load out? He’ll have something to say about it. It boosts the entertainment value of the game considerably. He also unravels the story at an effective pace, but I would have liked to see other characters speak more. There is a lot of potential in the game’s world and story, and if it was fleshed out fully it could have been memorable in ways besides the creative narration.

Where Bastion truly shines is in the art style and its soundtrack. The game is beautiful, and the way levels create themselves in front of you as you traverse never ceases to me mesmerizing. Every frame an intricate painting with vibrant colors. It looks just as impressive in 2015 as it did when it was released years ago, and will years from now too. The music is also excellent. It does a perfect job of complementing the sci-fi western in the sky vibe. The first level showcases the best aspects of Bastion in action, check it out.

The gameplay is about 75% combat, 10% exploration, 10% item upgrading and management and 5% story exposition. With that much action, I have to bring up the battle system. For the most part, it’s engaging and satisfying. It’s a balanced mix between ranged and close combat, and everything works fluidly and looks great. There are times when it could be more dynamic or challenging. I found myself sticking with a certain weapon load out that I became comfortable with, and the enemies are usually susceptible to all of them. There were a couple of spots where I benefited from choosing a specific one outside my comfort zone, but it pretty much comes down to personal preference. This resulted in some portions that became a little repetitive. There’s quite an arsenal and it would have felt deeper if utilizing specific ones was a necessity for more encounters.

Despite some repetition, Bastion never feels like a chore and is satisfying all the way to the end, which does come too soon. When you reach a point where most of your weapons are upgraded and the story begins to feel epic, the credits roll and you’re left wanting more. The game does feature a New Game Plus mode, which does give it some added replay value. Additionally, to make the game more challenging for those inclined, the game features “idols,” optional items that when invoked increase stats like enemy damage resistance, but bolster your experience points as well. If you activate a few of these, the game becomes significantly tougher.

The time finally had come, after years of wondering if I’d ever get around to it, I’m glad I got the chance to play Bastion on my PS4. It’s worth playing for the visuals and music alone, but the addicting battle system will keep you entertained too. Despite a few shortcomings, Bastion is a must play, and if you’re like me and missed out four years ago, now’s your chance! Supergiant Games is proving itself to be one of the most exciting indie developers after Bastion and Transistor, I can’t wait to see what they do next.

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