When a console game is ported to a mobile operating system, you expect there to be some sacrifices somewhere along the line. But that’s where Bastion, an action-RPG for iOS, breaks the mould.
Previously iPad only, Bastion has just been brought to the iPhone – optimised for the iPhone 5 but available to 4S users as well. You’ll get the whole game almost exactly as found on a console – and believe us, that’s a whole lot of game.
You play as The Kid, who wakes up after The Calamity, a world-altering event that destroys the world around him, leaving it in tiny floating pieces. As you walk, the environment rebuilds under your feet, but brings with it a whole host of enemies and obstacles that you’ll have to defeat in order to progress.
At the beginning of the game you head to the Bastion, the survival zone of the world of Caelondia in any disaster situation. You find only one survivor, Rucks, who doubles as the narrator of the game, and learn you’ll need to collect cores and shards from across the land to start rebuilding the Bastion to its previous glory.
Moving around Caelondia is accomplished using the Skymap. There are usually a couple of options as to which level you take on next, with others unlocked as you go.
You acquire weapons as you walk around the levels, including hammers, bows, guns and grenades. Each weapon has its strengths and weaknesses, and you can carry any two at one time, switching them up in the arsenal between levels.
Fragments, which are collected through levels, act as the game’s currency, and allow you to upgrade weapons with articles you find on your travels. You can also pick up special moves to support your weaponry, though you’ll need black potions scattered throughout levels to power these for use.
These special moves are unleashed by touching an icon in the bottom left, but regular weapons are on an autofire system, activated automatically when in close quarters with an enemy. Your shield, however, is manual, as is the option to change between your two chosen weapons.
This touch-based system has been built from scratch for touchscreen devices, though on-screen console controls are still available if you prefer. A tap makes The Kid walk in that directon, while a double tap will result in a swift dash away from enemies. While we found the controls usable on the whole, they took a bit of getting used to – on more than one occasion we accidentally chucked ourselves off the edge of floating paths.
Once you're acclimatised to the touchscreen controls, the gameplay is excellent – and the levels are absolutely gorgeous in their design and execution.
Rucks, the dynamic narrator, adds an edge to Bastion, commenting on and reacting to things you do as you do them – meaning every player gets a different experience as they play. Throughout the game, he fills in bits of the storyline, makes humorous remarks and expands on the backstories of characters as they’re introduced, working as a useful mechanic for the game while also making Bastion unique.
Ultimately, we challenge you to play Bastion and not fall in love with it. Everything from the colourful animation to the clever level design has been carefully crafted every step of the way by its indie developers, making it a must-have for mobile gamers and RPG fans alike. While you need the iPad's bigger screen to get the full impact of the game, its move to a universal app provides a beautiful, engaging and fully featured RPG rarely seen for the iPhone, and serves as an outstanding example of how to make a console port a success on mobile.