In 2011 Bastion was released on Xbox Live Arcade and Steam to widespread critical praise. However, this was an age where I had not yet taken to digital gaming and Bastion and many other great titles flew under my radar. More and more of these hit indie games are being ported to the Switch, and many gamers like me are getting a second chance to play them on a current generation machine. Add in the convenience of portability and many of these games get a much-needed second wind.
Bastion is an action/adventure title where you must explore a decimated world and try to rebuild for the future. You awaken after a catastrophe known as The Calamity strikes down and has destroyed most of the world. You play as “The Kid” and you set out to find the Bastion, which was a predetermined meeting place in the event of a disaster. The Kid has no name and is your classic silent protagonist. In a unique, but very cool manner, the story is told by powerful narration even as you play! It’s a really awesome idea that I’m surprised hasn’t been copied in many other games, since the play-by-play of the adventure is often entertaining as well as informative when it comes to learning about the history of the world or even details about new areas and monsters.
Although most of the world has been destroyed and people have turned to ash, there are fragments of land scattered about. The viewpoint is isometric and the stages take place on a floating plane. As you navigate the area, more pieces form around your character opening up new paths. The Bastion is a safe area and free from monsters and other hazards. You’ll find it rather early on in your adventure and it serves as your hub world where you’ll be able to access other stages via the Skyway. You’ll be able to build up to six different structures that can help you along on your journey. A forge will be able to upgrade your weapons and the distillery will change up your special attacks. As you explore the various areas you’ll sometimes come across some survivors that you can send to your safe haven.
The stages are very action-packed and most have a Core piece to collect. When you find this, it grants you access to new areas once you bring it back to the Bastion. The levels are also filled with weapons and materials that can be used to upgrade them, as well as helpful things like potions, special items, and currency. Of course they’re also packed with monsters to defeat, traps and environmental hazards to avoid and the ever-present danger of falling of the edge of the world to your death! When you locate the Core piece, there will usually be a difficult beast or horde of enemies that will swarm you – or the stage will begin to collapse, requiring you to race back to the Skyway. Every area you explore is unique in nature and the narrator does a great job of explaining events that have taken place. Each section is rather short, meaning you’ll only need a few minutes to conquer each one – assuming you don’t get stuck on a difficult enemy encounter.
The combat reminds me a lot of Gauntlet, as you’ll do plenty of hacking, slashing, and shooting. You may have two weapons equipped at once, which you can switch out at an Armory. There are over ten weapons in the game, but early on you’ll have access to a hammer, rifle, bow, and machete. By gathering the necessary materials and enough fragments (currency) you can upgrade them for more devastating and faster attacks. There are many powerful special attacks and skills to discover, which you can equip in the Distillery. The game features great controls and its smooth to alternate between various weapons, special attacks, and healing. Killing enemies gives you more XP, which will eventually level up your character and open up a whole new round of upgrades. There’s never a dull moment here!
The bonus stages, known as the Proving Grounds, are extremely fun and not only give you valuable materials upon successful completion, but provide great combat practice. Each Proving Ground will focus on a particular weapon and you’ll have a specific goal. For example, in one instance you’ll need to use your rifle to shoot as many targets as possible as the stage collapses behind you. There will be three different prize possibilities based on your success level.
The hand-painted levels are beautiful; despite the fact the game takes place in a destroyed world. The different sections all have their own flair and the color designs make a very positive impression. The use of the narrator is an interesting one. The voice actor is terrific, but sometimes his comments seem like they’d be more appealing to a teenager than an adult gamer. However, I love this method of storytelling for an indie game and it’s a welcome change from flooding the player with text or long cutscenes. The soundtrack is quite unique with the tracks divided between instrumentals and songs with lyrics. The music itself has very high production quality and there are a lot of drum-heavy acoustic rock tracks. The music and lyrics fit well in this lonely, apocalyptic world.
Although highly touted for its time, Bastion still ended up being a pleasant surprise on the Switch. I really loved the sense of discovery and world building found throughout the adventure. Entering a new stage was always fun and I looked forward to finding the secrets and bringing the core back to the Bastion. The variety of weapons and the upgrade system is a perfect touch. Really the biggest nitpick is that the game isn’t all that challenging, with the exception of the Proving Ground levels. Also, the variety in enemies is lacking and the music could be hit or miss depending on your tastes. Still, there’s a beautiful world to explore and if you haven’t played it already, the Switch version is a great place to experience it!
Final Thoughts: GREAT
Bastion is a steal at $14.99 and wonderful to play on the TV or in handheld mode. The fun factor is really high and there’s a lot of value here since it’s not an overly short title. If you missed out on the original release, now’s your chance to fix that oversight!
Bastion was reviewed using a final retail Nintendo Switch download code provided by the publisher.
Aaron got his NES in 1991 and has loved and collected video games ever since. In addition to gaming, he enjoys Stephen King novels, Twins Baseball, and his cats.