“Critically acclaimed” is thrown around too easily these days. How often have you seen a game receive multiple accolades and plaudits, yet a few years down the line the mechanics and gameplay haven’t held up? This was my main concern whilst awaiting the Vita release for Bastion, which is actually more than four years old; that’s when I got my first experience of the game when it originally launched on the XBOX 360. Despite the game receiving a PlayStation 4 release earlier this year, I have been (im)patiently longing for this Vita release as you would expect – but I anxiously asked myself repeatedly; “would the game still be as glorious as I remember all those years ago?” Thankfully the answer is a resounding yes!
For those of you that haven’t heard of the game before, in Bastion you play as “the Kid” who awakens to find that the world has been afflicted by “the calamity” and disintegrated your home into multiple floating islands. It falls to you to recover the missing core shards and rebuild the “Bastion” to its former glory, whilst discovering many of the worlds characters and enemies along the way.
Presented from an isometric viewpoint, there are few that will deny that the game is stunning – with a beautiful hand-drawn style forming around you as you explore your surroundings. Vibrant, detailed and colourful, the landscape shifts from locale to locale and each different part of the world you encounter looks and feels different to the one you discovered before. All of this unfolds with some belated narration from Logan Cunningham, who explains what happens in the adventure as you do it. With over 3,000 lines of dialogue, his calming, dulcet tones sit alongside the game’s stunning acoustics. Even four years after it was originally released, this remains one of the most accomplished and beautifully crafted indie experiences that I have played.
The basics of Bastion are very simple to grasp, and soon after awakening from your slumber you will very quickly discover your first weapons – initially a melee and a ranged – and will begin your assault on the beasts that have invaded your lands. Some of these enemies won’t last very long at all, but many will require some evasive work by rolling away. You’ll also acquire a shield which, with some perfect timing, can result in a devastating counter attack at your foes. If these combinations are not enough, you’ll also discover your first “secret skill”, a special attack which although limited in uses can often prove handy in many situations.
How you play will come down to which weapons you enjoy using the most, and the game has a wide variety available for you to select from the arsenal, once discovered of course, and each tool has its own special attack as well. Not all of these are available to start with, they’ll be discovered as you progress through your experience. Every weapon can also be upgraded too, with two different options available at each level. Want more power or a faster attack? More range or increased target capability? It is entirely down to you, and thankfully you can change it if you want afterwards with a visit to the forge. By the time you come to the end of your first play through and have decided on the fate of the land, you will firmly have settled on your favourite combination and probably have maxed these out.
Completing the adventure probably won’t take you very long, but thankfully Bastion has more than enough to keep you coming back for more. For starters you’ll be able to start it all again in New Game Plus – and retain your experience, level, currency and weapons – or play in a new way with Score Mode, which, as you’d expect, will see you try to attain the highest scores possible in each level. Pro-tip – you’ll want to build your multiplier. That’s not all, within the adventure you’ll also have “vigils” which are set challengers and these will keep you occupied as you progress. The game also has multiple “proving grounds” and these act as specific weapon challenges. Successfully completing these challenges awards you upgrade materials for your weapons or even special moves. Your skills and abilities will be severely tested as you try to get first prize.
If you need your games to have a significant challenge, Bastion has you covered there too. Within your main play through you’ll be able to activate a maximum of ten idols (when discovered) from the shrine, which will significantly alter the way that your enemies play, with more health, less damage taken, no health drops and much more. There are also four trips to “who knows where” which are basically wave-based enemy encounters. Surviving to the end of these will net you a huge amount of experience and currency shards, as well as trophies. Which will all be needed on the way to that platinum.
It’s hard to find anything not to like in Bastion, and whilst almost all of the credit must go to Supergiant Games for their vision, ambition and execution, this Vita version was managed by the team at BlitWorks. If you love indie games on the Vita, you’ve probably played something that they have worked on – most notably FEZ, Spelunky and Don’t Starve to name a few, but this is easily my favourite game that they have worked on. It’s also worth noting that the original game was coded in C# – which is not Vita-friendly, so it has been a massive undertaking to get it almost perfect on the Vita.
And almost perfect it is. If you want a charming, engrossing and colourful game to keep you occupied for a while, you really cannot go wrong with Bastion. It has passed my expectations and is every bit as charming as I remember it being four years ago, which has to be some sort of accomplishment – feeling as fresh today as it did then and as deserving of that adulation as it ever has been. You won’t be disappointed.