Resident Evil 7: Biohazard Review

Developed and Published by: Capcom
Platforms: PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Nintendo Switch (Japan Only)
Release Date: Out Now


Jumping from prequel to most recent sequel, this time around I am reviewing Resident Evil 7: Biohazard, continuing my comprehensive but not-very-chronological reviews of the horror franchise. Now, this is a scary one. Yes, I know, it is Resident Evil – but all the others I played before this have a different, more cinematic horror; they are in third-person and offer you a bit more perspective. However, for this entry there is a switch to first-person and an intense, heart-pumping terror akin to hits such as Outlast and Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It is a departure for the series in many ways, yet also maintains a distinct Resident Evil-ness as it experiments with the new approach. So, how do the results of said experiment turn out?


No Turning Back

Along with such a change in gameplay, Resident Evil 7 also brings with it a very different story predominantly focusing on brand new characters. You play as Ethan Winters (Todd Soley/Hidenobu Kiuchi) who has suffered for years due to his wife Mia (Katie O’Hagan/Akari Higuchi) being missing and thought dead. However, he then receives a message – supposedly from Mia – beckoning him to a rural location in Louisiana, southern USA. Even with any suspicions this may incite, it makes sense that Ethan would go – I mean, there is the possibility his wife is alive! How is he to know this is the world of Resident Evil, and he is walking into a literal house of horrors… We join Ethan in first-person as he drives up to the address, and immediately there is an uneasy atmosphere present. The history of this part of the USA, combined with the foreboding too-quiet rural countryside, creates an anxious feeling that strengthens as you begin to enter the house.

Transitioning from sunny outdoors to shadowy and disturbingly unkempt interior has a tone of inevitable descent; you can feel the opportunity to turn back quickly falling away as you pass by dirty kitchen utensils and empty rooms. This opening section definitely has the sort of impending dread that games such as Outlast have permeated so well – you just know that you are walking into something awful, but it has not arrived yet. At multiple points in the story of Resident Evil 7, videotapes are a means to view and literally play through prior events, and the first of these is found during these early explorations; you witness a small crew filming for a haunted house-style series getting much more than they bargained for in the very same space you are watching the videotape. It is a very effective way to suggest to the player how unsafe they are, but with Mia still not found, Ethan presses on…

Which nice family might live here?

As you may be able to guess, doing that lands Ethan into a world of trouble. These initial struggles effectively teach us how certain Resident Evil mainstays have been adapted to first-person. You still have familiar weapons, from melee attacks to firearms, but the feel is markedly different in first-person. The viewpoint involves you into the moment in a very immediate way, viscerally putting across each hit (and much worse… ) that Ethan suffers, and similarly your efforts to retaliate can feel more erratic as you desperately try to get your weapon or hands up to defend. Running away is often a very viable option, particularly early on! Amongst all this, those familiar aspects I mentioned act as a slight comfort blanket; healing is still done via herbs and first aid, and the inventory remains familiar, with examining and combining items still a key element of puzzle solving.

Your efforts to escape are cut short when you finally meet the reason why the film crew disappeared – the Baker family. Upon being captured, you wake up at a disturbed version of a family meal (featuring rotten food and dismembering), but before you are fatally harmed they are distracted and Ethan gets an opportunity to slip away. It is not long until father figure of the family Jack Baker (Jack Brand/Kazuhiro Yamaji) is trying to track you down; with a lack of weapons, you are depending on stealth to escape. On the scariness scale, this is where the game was at its peak; picking the right moment to make your dash past Jack and bolt for the door is heart-racing stuff, and when you are spotted, his chase of you is terrifying. Jack moves at a similar speed to you, and your limited means of defense leave you scrambling for safety – which could be in the form of a save room or the next progression point.

Stop! I will do the dishes next time, okay?!

Again, familiarity arises in the actual puzzles themselves – finding pieces of an emblem to open a door, gathering keys that grant access to new areas, and discovering new firearms are classic Resident Evil activities. I appreciated this; it meant that even with all the changes in 7, it never felt as though it had split off too far to the point of not being a Resident Evil game. On the other hand, as the story progresses, the balance of this goes off-kilter. You see, the anxiety and uneasiness of avoiding Jack – and other enemies – fades as you start to get more and more firepower at your disposal. Now, you would expect this to a degree, but at a point this see-saw of tone tips over too far. Particularly towards the latter stages, the tension felt so strongly early on largely disappears – in my opinion, this does not match up well with the game they were trying to make, even if I am personally sort of grateful for the reprieve (I did not handle Jack chasing me well, haha!).


Keeping It In the Family

Of course, it is not just Jack you go up against. The whole Baker family are out to maim and kill you in their own specific fashions, and you run into them one by one as you open up each new section of the estate. To be honest, a bit more creativity in how you go up against each of them would have been welcome, as the sequential one-after-the-other way the majority of the game is structured breeds predictability and, in this case, predictability is not scary. It does not help that none of them get anywhere near to being as intimidating as Jack, partly due to the power creep I mentioned before, but also the way they act is not as direct and gives you more urgency in how you respond. Wild-haired mother Marguerite (Sara Coates/Maki Izawa) throws a few jump scares at you, but otherwise her swarm of insects are more annoying than downright scary; and whilst the Saw-esque vibe of the traps hooded son Lucas (Jesse Pimentel/Setsuji Sato) puts you into had the potential to give you trouble sleeping, they are either too straightforward or illogical to the point of stagnation.

Living conditions in London flats were getting out of hand

Sadly, it does not get better with the Molded, who act as frequent, wandering enemies in similar style to the zombies in other Resident Evil titles. The black, gleaming aesthetic of them and surrounding surfaces is disconcerting and certainly creepy – that is not the issue. No, it is how prevalent they are and how few other creatures are mixed in; there are variations of Molded, generally getting bigger and hitting harder, but they all have the same visual style and, as with other elements of the game, get progressively less scary over time as a result. Set piece fights against Jack, for example, are so much more engaging, with the cat-and-mouse elements sidelined for improvisational and gruesome fights featuring cars, chainsaws, and more. It is disappointing to me that 7 becomes much more of a shooting gallery in the climactic stages – this could be satisfying to some, but is not really where I think the strengths of the game lie.

For all the flaws, though, there are plenty of those strengths, and environment design is one standout. The shadowy, twisted take on a family residence is excellent at providing blind spots and hidden alcoves for either you or unfriendly adversaries, and any concerns of it getting repetitious are quashed as you move through a greenhouse, docks, and more. It all has a high production value sheen that a Resident Evil can bring where perhaps, say, another such as Outlast cannot – for example, character models are detailed and expressive, immersing you into exchanges with them. Furthermore, it is not only the actual design of the world, but how you can explore it too, with those aforementioned videotapes pre-empting Ethan entering multiple sections. Seeing and playing through how others have suffered in those same spaces constructs an immediate ominous atmosphere. In addition, as you backtrack out of necessity, there are slight but striking changes peppered through that can frighten when you least expect and stop you ever being fully comfortable.

Nope nope nope

I have so far mentioned quite a bit how the gameplay escalates as you get deeper in, but how about the narrative? Well, there are mixed feelings for me. In my experience playing through the Resident Evil series this year, a significant part of my enjoyment has been getting to know the likeable characters, from personal favourite Jill Valentine to other series mainstays such as Ada Wong and Chris Redfield. With 7 making the bold decision to almost entirely avoid continuity connections, there is the risk of low player investment into the transpiring events. It is testament to the story of 7, then, that I was quite engrossed by the fun revelations and reveals into why this was all happening – though I admittedly was missing those friendly faces and hoping they would appear. Ethan Winters, perhaps due to how the first-person perspective puts you in his shoes, was someone I was rooting for as he earnestly tried to get Mia and himself out of this awful situation. Mind you, the attempt at multiple endings does not really work very well.


Did You Hear That?

Sound design has always been an area where the Resident Evil series excels, whether it be the corridor moans of the original, the animalistic roars of Nemesis in 3, or the creaking and shuffling in the ship of Revelations. The first-person approach brings with it a sort of first-person sound as well; as you can see less of your surroundings at any one time, there is this heightened sensory aspect where you are listening for audio cues on approaching threats, all mixed in with the ambient sounds all around – the whistling of the wind, the glistening of Molded discharge, the buzz of insects… It all goes together to leave you unsettled. Communications devices are either analogue or in disrepair, leaving you feeling disconnected and vulnerable, and even the choice of licensed music track to open the game – a new cover of Go Tell Aunt Rhody – has an air of conspiracy and deception.

A setting for secrets and scares

Everything is just so grimy and dirty in this game. It is the details that emphasise this, such as how you messily throw first aid medicine over your wounds, or the way blood splatters over the screen to impair your vision when hurt. Ethan does a lot of sickening things out of a lack of alternatives, the sort of stuff that makes you physically recoil when playing, and it is evident Resident Evil 7 knows what it is doing in that regard – walking through these disturbing sequences can end with catharsis when you find your way out. If anything, 7 could have leaned into this more. More face-offs with the family and less Molded time-padding would have gone a long way, as would less means with which to defend ourselves.

Speaking of which, I shall also mention that I find gunplay in Resident Evil 7 unique in the weight and feedback sent to the player. Guns are held very high on the screen and are quite clumsily jostled as you move, as though Ethan is not used to handling them (which I would guess he is not). It is not bad, but is a bit uncanny and unwieldy. This could be down to the switch from third-person to first-person and a lack of development experience. Considering that this is not a full-on first-person shooter, it is okay to work around – some of the time you are picking up items, collectibles, or otherwise, so you do not have a gun equipped one hundred percent of the time.

Do you remember VCRs? Taping over one of your other recordings was genuine horror

Another area Resident Evil 7 feels noteably different – and not in a positive way – is the extra content packaged in with the campaign. Which is a means of saying that there is arguably not any of it before any DLC downloads. This is in contrast to, say, Resident Evil 5 and 6, which have an impressive amount of side modes for either solo or multiplayer. As well as this, with much of the approximately 8-10 hour core campaign dependent on the surprise of unexpected obstacles and reveals, it does not encourage repeat playthroughs in the vein of Resident Evil 3. There is one free DLC pack that is over all-too-quickly, and a handful of other content too which I have not played and will not be factoring in here. Similarly, I have not played the VR version of 7, so do not take this as a review on that version. Whew, playing this game in VR would be, um… Very frightening, I imagine!


Final Thoughts

After the mixed reception to previous games, a large-scale revamp for Resident Evil 7: Biohazard makes sense. The new perspective and a focus on ground-level, rustic horror is very effective at supplying chilling conflicts, but as the game naturally shifts back towards the slightly more action-oriented gameplay the series has always had, it exposes a few mismatches where all does not come together as cohesively as hoped. Really, 7 needed to commit fully to either the early intense stealth horror or the louder gunplay it veers into, so that there was more time to develop the ideas of each. Instead, it does have the vibe of a very high budget extended demo or experiment, which it essentially is as Capcom sees where this franchise might go into the future. Taken that way, it proves two things to me: one, that Capcom can create a very proficient first-person Resident Evil game; two, that I personally prefer the previous third-person entries…

8/10

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Let’s Chat: One Week With the Xbox Series X

Sound the klaxons, light the fires, and make your joy known; the new Xbox and PlayStation consoles have arrived! It is an exciting time right now, with many new games releasing alongside the new consoles too. For upcoming Let’s Chat articles, the topic of conversation is going to be hands-on experience with the new devices – given how tricky securing even one of the consoles is right now, it is great that Let’s Chat allows various voices and their different console choices to contribute – it means we can get a clear picture of each new system. To start off, Ashley Harrison and I are going to be talking Xbox Series X; Ashley is the one who successfully ordered for launch day and has been playing it since, testing out the new Microsoft machine. How is he finding it? Time to find out, complete with photos from Ashley of various aspects of the console!


William Robinson: Hey Ashley! Here we are, in November, and the new consoles are starting to arrive. Further to our previous discussions, one of us managed to get an order placed – and subsequently you now have an Xbox Series X! The plan is for Let’s Chat to go through the new consoles one at a time, with an article for each where we discuss our initial impressions. So, with Microsoft releasing their consoles just before PlayStation – and as I have not managed to order an Xbox Series S yet – the Series X is an apt place to start. First of all: how did you manage to get one?!

Ashley Harrison: Yes! Somehow, amid all the madness that was the preorders for both Series X and PS5, I managed to get a Series X at launch. Basically, the long story short is that I saw someone Retweet a post onto my Twitter timeline saying AO had stock of the Series X in stock, and I just happened to be online at the right time to grab one. Although, it was a surprise I got one; the product page that was linked in the Tweet did not show an “Add to Basket” button, and as such I thought they had sold out instantly – but it turns out you just had to do a search for the console and there was an option to add to basket there instead which worked.

WR: Well I am glad one of us got a console, or this Let’s Chat might’ve been a bit awkward… Aha! This is essentially going to be asking you a bunch of questions on your first 7 days with the Series X. I guess the first part was actually the unboxing and then setting it up. From a hardware and software perspective, was this all straightforward? You did not have an Xbox account before this, right?

AH: Genuinely, the whole process was the simplest I have ever had with a console. There is no extra padding or anything in the box itself, so you open it and you are instantly greeted by your console, and all the accessories are in a separate compartment just behind it. Admittedly, I had already set up an account beforehand so that I could get my Game Pass Ultimate sorted out (shoutout to the upgrade for £1 that just stacks on top of the Gold you already have, so £90 for 3 years of Game Pass Ultimate) – it was a case of simply logging into that account on the console, but I was still surprised at how quick it was and how easy it was to get to downloading Game Pass games.

WR: It all sounds very streamlined. So, the console itself – opinions on the way it is designed? Microsoft has gone with very sharp and clean lines for these Series consoles – the Series S in particular is beautiful – that are quite a contrast to the PS5! It is different seeing it in person though, I imagine? How does it blend into your set-up?

AH: Honestly, I do not have a great living situation at the moment and therefore not really a “set-up” per se, but it definitely seems as though it would fit into one without sticking out like a sore thumb. I know the memes around its reveal were comparing it to a fridge, and whilst I can see that for sure, it is so much smaller than I was expecting it to be, and far more visually appealing. The context of it just being a cuboid does not really seem all that visually appealing upon hearing about it, but the minimalist look works for me, plus the fan on the top of the console looks incredible with the green highlight in it. Such a small, insignificant detail that adds so much to the overall presentation.

WR: Speaking of, did you see the literal Series X fridge they sent out? I saw the one that iJustine received, incredible aha! I did not know there was a green light, that is awesome. No smoke appearing I am guessing? The videos people have been staging blowing vape smoke up the Series X to make it seem as though it is smoking, blimey… Not particularly subtle.

AH: I still can not believe I saw the official Xbox Twitter account put out a PSA saying not to blow vape smoke into the console. Like, what the hell is wrong with people that they get a new £449/$499 console, and they think “you know what? I’m gonna potentially ruin the whole console for the Twitter clout.”

I have not heard a single noise out of the console whatsoever

Ashley Harrison

WR: In terms of that, from the games you have played so far – which we shall get on to – how has the console been running? Any issues with heating or noise?

AH: I have played a decent handful of games to test the console for noise and heat and see how it responds, and I am SUPER impressed. Whilst the console does get warm when playing games, the massive fan is more than powerful enough to cool it down, and I have not heard a single noise out of the console whatsoever. Genuinely the only sounds I have heard the console make are the ping noise as you turn it on, and the whirring of the disc drive when you put one in. Other than that, it has been completely silent for me.

Very technical analysis: the dog and Series X comparison shot

WR: That is great to hear! I am intrigued to see how the Series S compares when I get one. As we are talking hardware, it seems right to segway to the controller, which you have been very positive on in our discussions prior to doing this Let’s Chat. Why is this, considering you have previously played much more on PlayStation than Xbox?

AH: Honestly, the main thing it comes down to is how “clicky” the buttons are; it is so satisfying to hear the sound – especially as you press down on the d-pad. Whilst I still prefer the layout of the PlayStation controller personally (I am not a huge fan of the offset analogue sticks on Xbox controllers), I can definitely say that the Series X controller is one of the most comfortable I have ever used. Ergonomically, it is perfectly designed to fit in my fat hands, but also there is a nice amount of texture on the controller shell itself, as well as on the shoulder buttons to provide a bit of grip whilst playing. It is small design points like that that really make me appreciate the controller.

WR: To wrap up on the hardware, is there any issues or areas you would change? Does Series X still use touch-controlled on switches?

AH: Nope, it is all actual buttons thankfully! There are only 3 (power, eject, and sync) buttons, but I will take a button over a touch-controlled switch any day of the week.

This controller is gonna do a lot of gaming in the years to come

WR: Phew; I do not get why companies persist with touch-controls when it can lead to accidentally switching off the console. Right, onto actually using the Series X. How are your initial impressions of the UI? It seems that it has been much improved and decluttered.

AH: I am not going to pretend that the UI is the best thing that I have ever seen because it is nowhere near it, but it is serviceable enough. When you load up the console, your most recently played apps appear in a line as the first thing your cursor will be on, then directly underneath is a tab to access the rest of your Games & Apps. As you scroll down below that, you have sections of the UI for (in order because I have just loaded up the console) – Xbox Live Gold, Game Pass, Store, Entertainment, Events, Community, Suggested Apps, and then Add More. It is definitely a huge upgrade over previous Xbox interfaces with everything bundled together into logical groups, but I still prefer the UI of Nintendo’s consoles personally.

WR: Is that due to the simplicity of say, the Switch UI and how clear it is (though I would welcome themes). The Microsoft UI seems very modular, but would you say they overcomplicate it? The idea of Suggested Apps, for example, seems a part you could take out.

AH: More than likely, yeah. The Switch UI is just so simple and clean, there is nothing there on the home screen that does not need to be, whereas with the Series X they have got everything on the home screen whether it needs to be or not, even if 99% of the time you do not need to move off the initial “Recent” screen.

WR: How much have you found yourself exploring these areas day-to-day? I guess Game Pass and Store might be the ones you are in the most.

AH: Honestly, I think I have loaded up the store once, and you can get to the Game Pass section using the Games & Apps icon on the “Recents” screen, so I can definitely count on one hand the amount of times I have actually purposefully explored past that, because there is basically no need to do so.

WR: You had some complaints on the aesthetics of the Store, right?

AH: It has taken a while to get used to, but I actually do not mind the store now. Reloading it up now, it seems like it has been cleaned up a bit and everything is nicely laid out – in my opinion, much more clearly than that of the PlayStation Store. It gives you the “big” new release as the main feature (at the time of writing, it’s showing Assassin’s Creed Valhalla) then a couple of icons for Deals, Sales, and other featured games. I have also just found out that the store has a section that even lets you order consoles, controllers, and accessories straight from Microsoft which, whilst not a feature I will use, is still a pretty cool option if you ask me.

WR: Use your Series X to buy a Series X, haha! Onto those games, then. For those reading, which games have you so far purchased physically, and which have you gotten through Game Pass?

AH: Right, so I have Watch Dogs Legion physically in terms of actual Series X games, then I also have The Witcher 3 Game of the Year Edition and LEGO Harry Potter Collection for non-Series X optimised backwards compatibility testing. Through Game Pass I have mostly been playing Forza Horizon 4, which got a Series X upgrade on console release day.

WR: Do you notice the difference in how the games run? Visually and framerate-wise?

AH: See, this is unfortunate in my game choice. With Watch Dogs Legion being my “main game”, there is not much visual improvement over previous generation consoles, as it only runs at 4K/30FPS. However, with Horizon 4 now running at 4K/60FPS, it runs so smooth and looks absolutely insane – this is the standard I would have expected for next-generation launch games. It is such a jarring experience going from Horizon 4 to Legion and experiencing that frame rate drop; it actually makes me feel quite underwhelmed about the latter.

It is not a surprise that it [Forza] is the franchise showing off the visuals so well

William Robinson

WR: That could then perhaps be more down to Watch Dogs than the system itself. I am glad to hear such positive thoughts on Forza – it is not a surprise that it is the franchise showing off the visuals so well! It makes me more excited to play it myself! Does Watch Dogs very much have that Ubisoft visual level we have been getting accustomed to over the years? Plays fine, but a bit glitchy and rough around the edges?

Now on the new Series X/S and Game Pass is Forza Horizon 4 and the technical prowess it shows

AH: Yeah, it is another Ubisoft open world. Nothing revolutionary, but at the same time, that is not a bad thing generally. I do not think there is really much else to say – you know what you are getting before you even buy it, and it is obvious whether you are going to like it or not.

WR: As we have mentioned Watch Dogs Legion so much before; aside from the visuals, have you been enjoying it? Even if it is another Ubisoft game, it has that much-marketed London setting. Has it delivered to your expectations? Still enjoying strolling around Camden?

AH: Oh, absolutely I am! Even if it is (obviously) missing stuff like the Electric Ballroom and The World’s End, it is still insane to go around Camden and say to myself ”oh hey, that’s where this building should be, and there is a generic club/pub etc. there instead, but I have been there in real life!” As I said in quick discussions before this Let’s Chat, my highlight so far has been driving around London doing the missions, then completely out of the blue ‘Recovery’ by Frank Turner came on the radio in-game and it just brought me into the world even more.

WR: That is very awesome; I did not live far away from there when I lived in London either! Now you have settled into the rhythm of the Series X, which games are you considering next and into early 2021?

Explore the streets of London in Watch Dogs Legion

AH: I have Cyberpunk 2077 pre-ordered ready for whenever that releases, although with the rate of delays it has already had, that is looking like it might be a 2077 release rather than December 10th like it is currently. As far as games after that, honestly I am not sure at the moment, I am quite content with the amount of stuff that is on Game Pass and EA Play!

WR: Yeah, you should be more than busy for years aha! Here is a question: Since getting the system, are there any particular elements of the Series X that surprised you? Beyond that green light that is, aha!

AH: It is not that it surprises me as I have long been aware of the benefits, but for sure it is the SSD (Solid State Drive) in the console. Everything just loads so fast compared to previous generations, and when you turn the console on it is basically instant. For all the graphical prowess that the new consoles boast, for me it is definitely the SSDs which are the biggest and most needed improvement. It hurts so much now going back to my PS4 and waiting minutes for it to properly load and be able to access the store, when it takes about 5 seconds to do the same on Series X.

WR: Nice! Yeah, the Store on PS4 is quite clunky, so having a more responsive interface sounds brilliant. As we get to the end of this Let’s Chat, the final topic to go into is your overall impressions now you have spent a decent amount of time with the Series X. Are you glad with you decision so far?

AH: I am definitely glad for sure because as well as Series X games to play, I also have access to games from every previous Xbox generation, so I always have something to play. I just wish there were more launch games that actually took advantage of the power of the Series X properly; it should not be already-released games getting patches that show off the console, in my opinion. I definitely can not wait until a year or so from now when we are properly seeing what the console can do – the first year always feels like a kind of “beta test” to me.

I definitely can not wait until a year or so from now when we are properly seeing what the console can do

Ashley Harrison

WR: Yeah, the situation with Halo Infinite is disappointing. That was supposed to be the shiny new launch game that did just what you are describing, but with the delay into 2021 we are going to have to wait a bit longer. However, hopefully the delay helps the game in the long run. I think this cross-generation section of time is going to go on for a while, considering how ingrained the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 player bases are. It sounds as though the Series X is really delivering, just the games are not quite there yet. Now, that has been a criticism of Microsoft for a while, but with the Series consoles I feel it is less of an issue; we know the exclusives are on the way, whether they be Fable, Everwild, Avowed, or one of the others that have been announced. For Series X, how are you planning to split your game choices into those you buy physically and those you get on Game Pass?

AH: Honestly, it is just going to be whatever appeals to me like a normal game would – even if it does get a Game Pass release then I will still pick it up physically. For example, Everwild is 100% going to be on Game Pass because it is a first-party title, but I am absolutely going to be picking it up physically anyway. If it is something that catches my interest but I am not completely sold on it, then that is when I will play it through Game Pass instead. Also, if it is something independent like The Gunk, I will pick that up physically too rather than playing through Game Pass, just to help support the developers more – and because Image & Form are great. Of course, that might completely change yet, but at the moment that is what I am thinking.

Everwild is an exciting prospect for the future

WR: That makes sense to me, a nice balance of collecting and ease of use. We have covered a lot already, but are there any other standout elements of the system you would like to bring up?

AH: Honestly, no, not really. I think I have covered everything I had planned to talk about. Just want to shout the SSD out again if anything, that is a real game changer for sure.

WR: OK, nice! The SSD seems a significant leap for the consoles. In breaking news, thanks to Ash sending me a link of a Microsoft restock, I just finally got a Series S after days and days of trying to get one. Finally! So it is happening: I should get a Series S soon, and we can follow up with a comparative Let’s Chat to see how they compare. Time to get myself Game Pass too…

AH: Congratulations on the new speaker! Hopefully you will enjoy the Series S as much as I am the X. Definitely get Game Pass sorted as soon as you get the Series S, I genuinely can not sing its praises enough.

WR: I mean, Game Pass is surely the way to go – especially when you have not got a disc drive haha! Through the Series S I can try out many games I have not experienced in recent years. Right, I guess I should let you get back to your Series X now. Any final comments?

How will Series X/S fare in 2021?

AH: I guess my only final comment is make sure you play Forza Horizon 4. Even in 1440p/60FPS I know it is gonna look insane.

WR: With Game Pass it is literally there for me to play so I shall do that! I also reckon we can get some pirate action going in Sea of Thieves. Before we go on that tangent, I am gonna close this out… See you next time!

AH: See ya Will!


Hopefully you enjoyed this overview of the Xbox Series X. If you have got a new Xbox or PlayStation, let us know in the comments! There will soon be another Let’s Chat covering the PlayStation 5 in a similar format, and one for the Xbox Series S when mine arrives. In addition, you can read more Let’s Chat here! Have an amazing day!

Thank you to Ashley Harrison for supplying photos for this post!

Let’s Chat: Pokémon Sword & Shield’s The Crown Tundra Spoiler Talk!

Recently, the second and – bar a surprise – last of the Pokémon Sword and Shield DLC packs, The Crown Tundra, launched on Nintendo Switch. Prior to the release, a Let’s Chat was published here where Stephen Brown and I discussed the prospect of this DLC – so, now that it is out and we have had a chance to play it, we are going to offer our opinions on how it turned out. There are spoilers in this, so if you haven’t played The Crown Tundra yet, be aware of that!

-WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE CROWN TUNDRA AHEAD-


William Robinson: Hi again Stephen! After we did a Let’s Chat in the run-up to the release of The Crown Tundra, it seems right that we do another post-release! Straight into it, then; when you first got off that train and started exploring this area, how were your initial impressions of this new space they have created, especially in comparison to The Isle of Armor?

Stephen Brown: Hey William! Thanks for inviting me back, I am always happy to discuss Pokémon with anyone willing to listen. My first thoughts were that The Crown Tundra seemed more barren and closed in comparison to the openness and variety of environments on The Isle of Armor. I guess, in some ways, this is fitting as The Crown Tundra is supposed to feel more mysterious and secluded, with a prominent theme of exploration and discovery. It is not until you get past the initial first area and village that The Crown Tundra begins to open up more and really shine as a labyrinth of twists and turns hiding secrets in every corner.

WR: Personally, I am of course a fan of the snowy setting, but as you say, it often felt more enclosed than The Isle of Armor, especially the water section – the invisible wall seemed to arrive quite fast, which disappointed me. An area I appreciated was the village of Freezington – it helped The Crown Tundra feel lively with a sense of community. Speaking of which; we quickly encounter Peonia and Peony, two of the new characters. OK, here is your time to praise Peony…

SB: I agree, there are a couple of water areas that felt more like barriers and could have been better integrated. I do, however, appreciate the upgrade to cave systems. Compared to the main game, the DLC offers more elaborate caves with twists and turns that leave you scratching your head as you try to find your way through. The Wild Area was a great starting point for a more open world game and The Crown Tundra has elaborated on that, developing increasingly unique and interesting areas. I really hope they maintain this level of detail moving forward. Well, what is not to love about Peony! The man is a kind, caring soul who only wants to hang out with his daughter and give her the very best (like no Dad ever haaaas). With mountain Dad jokes and a need for legendary adventures Peony was an instant favourite to me and many others in the fandom… He is also very handsome.

WR: Considering we sort of take the place of his daughter on this expedition to search for Legendary Pokémon, I am not that convinced on his parenting skills. He is enthusiastic, though, and has a team of Steel Pokémon, which are two factors that endear him to me! After the intro, we are then tasked with these various leads on Legendary Pokémon, which is where The Crown Tundra felt closest to The Isle of Armor in my opinion, exploring, finding the new returning Pokémon, and learning your way around.

SB: She is a rebellious daughter, he knows when to give her space and not punish her for being independent. Also, if she had not run off, I would not have got to spend all that 1-on-1 time with him. Anyway, yes, you receive three clues from Peony, and shortly after are given a task by Professor Sonia, who makes a returning cameo. Although this is done to offer freedom to the player and allows us to chose which task we take on first, I felt a little overwhelmed with where to start on top of having a whole new area to explore. I think I preferred the more linear build up that The Isle of Armor offered. What about you, do you prefer the freedom of big adventures or do you prefer doing little tasks that build up from one another?

WR: Yeah, I think The Isle of Armor felt better structured, leading you from one task to another, while here it is all presented to you at once and leaves you to figure it out. To me, that is not as rewarding. The actual quests themselves were great and a step up from The Isle of Armor, just the way you played through them was not as well put together. Professor Sonia turning up was an amazing surprise! Her quest was separate to those Peony gives you, which again was a bit of a disjointed way to ask us to choose where to go. The first part I did was the Regi storyline, you?

SB: It was great to see Professor Sonia again, but I agree that her segment of this felt a little disjointed to the Legendary quests of The Crown Tundra. It could have been better connected, maybe something like Peony contacting Professor Magnolia for help and her sending her granddaughter who has excelled in the field of Legendary Pokémon studies since she helped with the Darkest Day legend. Just a thought. I ended up doing the quests in a linear order, so I started with Calyrex – the signature Mythical Pokémon of The Crown Tundra – and helping them to restore their power.

WR: Ah okay, the Calyrex story seemed to be the lead thread of The Crown Tundra and was certainly… Different? Possession, Riverdance, new Pokémon that join together… Yeah, this was something. Ultimately, I enjoyed the spectacle of it, particularly the finale, but the puzzles were all quite straightforward and it could be done quickly. That is a theme of this DLC really; it is over too soon.

SB: Yes; appearing on the official artwork and in the logo for The Crown Tundra, Calyrex was the main focus. I kinda loved that they were so bizarre – although a lot of the gameplay was a simple fetch quest, there was much info added to Calyrex and the lore of Galar. It is refreshing to see the DLCs take an intricate, story-focused approach to new Mythical Pokémon and stray away the Mystery Gift default. The result is the Pokémon are built up to be special, and makes me want to use them more than when given via download. Although both DLCs can be completed in a rather short 3-5 hours, I am not mad about it. It is the first time that Pokémon has had DLC, and if you ask me, they have done a really good job. Although the stories themselves are short, they offer more beyond that, with new Pokémon and characters to battle and compete with.

It is refreshing to see the DLCs take an intricate, story-focused approach to new Mythical Pokémon

Stephen Brown

WR: One of the few surprises not revealed in the marketing was that were two new Pokémon added alongside Calyrex; Spectrier and Glastrier appear partway through. I did not expect these to be included, and the specific way they combine with Calyrex was a dynamic we have not seen prior to this. I just think that giving us a bit more narrative would have gone a long way, as there was a distinct brevity to it all. The Pokémon returning in the Pokédex is fun, but that doesn’t feel as fresh considering we have seen them before – meeting new Pokémon has a certain appeal, and more of that would have been welcome.

SB: It seems Pokémon have learnt from the Sun and Moon marketing to not reveal all of their cards, which is good. We have seen Pokémon combining before, with Kyurem and Necrozma fusing with the Legendary Pokémon on the box art of their respective games. However, those were more of a fusion, whereas here Spectrier and Glastrier remain separate Pokémon. That is reflected in their new ability As One, which allows Calyrex to have two abilities at once. I agree that it would have been nice to maybe chase them and find clues to discover where they were hidden instead of Calyrex telling us where to go. It felt like we did not get as many returning Pokémon as we did in The Isle of Armor, but that could be due to the more baron landscape. Either way, these returning Pokémon did not add too much excitement for me. Furthermore, besides Galarian Slowking and the Galarian Legendary Birds, we were not given any more regional forms. They have become very favourable within the fandom recently, and with areas as diverse as those in The Isle of Armor and The Crown Tundra, I would have liked to have seen more regional forms exclusive to the DLC.

WR: I certainly did not get the same feeling as with The Isle of Armor, where it felt as though there was a lot of longevity in exploring and catching the numerous returning Pokémon, as well as raising the level of my new team at the same time. In The Crown Tundra it felt very much Point A to Point B without as much to do along the way. Indeed, more new Forms could have helped with that. On the other hand, I am very excited to see the return of particular Pokémon, such as the Beldum line! The focus on Steel Pokémon in this DLC was great for me.

SB: Exactly, I think that is partly due to The Isle of Armor focusing more on battles and training, whilst The Crown Tundra leans towards exploration and capturing Legendary Pokémon by solving very linear clues. I thought you would be happy about the return of Steven’s signature Pokémon! We also saw the return of many other strong and rare Pokémon, such as pseudo Legendary Pokémon and fossil Pokémon, who are now apparently very much alive and in abundance in The Crown Tundra. One group of Legendary Pokémon known for riddles is the Regi line. Along with the familiar trio we now have another two to choose from, Regieleki and Regidrago. What did you think about ‘The Terrible Titans… Lurking Locked Away!’ quest, and the puzzles we had to solve to encounter them?

WR: The idea of new Regi Pokémon is fun, and the designs are creative, but I felt as though some of the mystique of that group of Pokémon was not as well portrayed here. In Ruby and Sapphire, the Braille quest to unlock the caverns for Regirock, Regice, and Registeel was complex and had intricate steps – here, though, opening up each Temple is quite simple and not presented in Braille. For a 2nd DLC I would have preferred them to up the challenge, not lower it. You?

SB: Agreed, I felt the clues were too simple and not enough of a challenge considering that the reward is a Legendary Pokémon. I understand that Nintendo probably want everyone to enjoy the Regi Pokémon and that now we are older puzzles are easier in some ways, but still, I would have liked more than “whistle and the door will open”. Still, it was fun capturing all of them again and testing out the new moves and abilities of Regieleki and Regidrago.

WR: Which of the new Regi Pokémon did you go for? How do you feel on the subject of having to choose one or the other?

SB: I went with Regidrago; the fact that they are unfinished and just a floating head was funny, what about you? I will admit I sort of expected there to be a choice considering they shared a temple, but the marketing made it seem as though we could get both. Alas, keeping it as a choice fuels one of the key features of Pokémon games which is trading with friends.

WR: I went with Regieleki! The energetic design and enthusiastic movement are brilliant. The third quest for us to mention is capturing the new Forms of the Legendary Birds, Moltres, Zapdos, and Articuno. A cutscene at the towering Dyna Tree in the south shows them battling it out before they leave to the mainland Wild Area, The Isle of Armor, and elsewhere in The Crown Tundra. We then have to try and follow them in the overworld and catch up to battle them, a new spin on the way roaming Pokémon have worked in previous games – actually seeing them as you follow is awesome. Personally, the new Form for Articuno is my favourite of the three, but I appreciate the difference in design across them – Zapdos is quite a change, running instead of flying!

SB: Yes, the Galarian Bird trio is fantastic, some really clever designs that reference the originals, and with their new types it adds a refreshing take to these familiar Pokémon. It looks like my prediction in our last Let’s Chat was right then! We see the return of roaming Legendary Pokémon, which in the landscape of an open Wild Area is thrilling, exciting, and less tedious than games of the past. There is still a challenge in finding and encountering them, particularly Zapdos with how fast they run. It is well worth the time chasing them down and a lot of fun seeing them evade your movements in the overworld. I love all the new designs, but if I had to pick one? Galarian Moltres, those red flames against the dark feathers are wickedly cool!

WR: Indeed, you were right! It sort of emphasises how we were saying more Forms in these DLCs may have improved matters; the ones they have done are creative, I wonder how many ideas they have that have not been used? So, of the three Peony Legendary Pokémon quests, which did you enjoy the most?

SB: Exactly, the simple addition of regional forms has done wonders for Pokémon in terms of expanding lore, being reflective of real world animals, and giving some less popular Pokémon a chance in the spotlight. Oh, probably tons, if the creativity within the Pokémon community is anything to go by. I think for me my favourite was definitely the bird trio, “A Legendary Tree of a Legendary Three!”. Chasing after the birds in all the different areas was exciting and felt more of a unique journey than going to places because Calyrex told me, or opening relatively easy to find temples. What about you? Which quest did you most enjoy?

WR: Mainly due to the great designs of the Legendary Birds, the same one was my favourite of the three – again, though, it was over too quickly! Can I also just note how amazing the illustrations for the clues are, haha? I wonder who drew them for the game!

SB: Maybe it was all over too quickly because we are just so pro at Pokémon haha, I agree though that there could have been some more exposition and build up to the chase. Overall, I have to admit it felt like we spent less time in The Crown Tundra compared to The Isle of Armor. It felt we had more returning Pokémon in the first round of DLC and more story focused on the new areas, whereas the second pack is more centred on the Legendary Pokémon from past games met through the new Dynamax Adventures. How do you feel about Dynamax Adventures William?

WR: Dynamax Adventures are an extensive new feature, where you go through consecutive Raid battles to get to the Legendary Pokémon at the end. If you then emerge victorious, you get to catch them! With so many Legendary Pokémon returning, this lasts a long time (as we know, we are going through them now!), and there is significant challenge with mandatory rental Pokémon; improvising to get a suited set-up for the final fight is very tactical, and we have not always won out. As was my concern beforehand, whilst Legendary Pokémon are there to catch, they are ones we have seen before and it subsequently does not feel as fresh. In that way, it is similar to Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire and the way Legendary Pokémon were a part of the endgame there. However, I did catch a Shiny Cresselia through Dynamax Adventures, so I am not going to complain too much!

Improvising to get a suited set-up to the final fight is very tactical, and we have not always won out

William Robinson

SB: I think it was a really clever move on the part of Pokémon to make you use rental Pokémon, stopping you from steamrolling through with teams of Legendary and perfectly trained Pokémon. It makes things more challenging and think more strategically whether swapping Pokémon would be good now or later into the adventure. Like you said, it requires more tactical thinking and it is not guaranteed that you win, especially when teamed up with NPCs who make questionable decisions! Whilst the Dynamax Adventures are fun and challenging, the reward of Legendary Pokémon will not excite everyone – I suppose many have caught these Pokémon before, and will simply transfer them over from HOME. However, it does offer an opportunity for new players to gather them all, as we have seen in other games such as Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon. Additionally, it gives a chance to Shiny hunt and add another level of difficulty. Or you can just be lucky like you were, I am definitely not jealous haha.

WR: Maybe you’ll find a Shiny Legendary Pokémon too! Could happen. Yes, the CPU choices are, well… I mean, the combo of Helping Hand and Metal Sound is just so, so effective, right (can you detect the sarcasm?). You make a great point, for players new to the franchise this is an amazing opportunity; not everyone has Legendary Pokémon from past games. Dynamax Adventures are keeping us playing, too – like you say, if we were with our teams, it could be tiresome going through the process again and again, knowing you are set up to win. With rental Pokémon, you have to stay attentive. Away from The Crown Tundra, there is also another new feature with the Galarian Star Tournament! This was marketed beforehand, so we know there would be this double-battle tournament against characters from all over the region – and with such an all-star cast, it is a joyous experience. Have you unlocked all the characters who can appear?

SB: Huzzah! The Galarian Star Tournament! It is great pairing up with beloved characters from across Galar as well as unlocking lots of new dialogue between certain match-ups. I have just recently unlocked all of the possible partners; it was great being able to battle with some of my favourites, including Milo, Piers, Bede, and of course Peony! However, I will say that the tournament suffers the fate that Dynamax Adventures avoids. For me, going in with my high level, perfectly trained team, I found myself getting tired of the constant winning. I was just battling for the sake of completing a run with a certain character. Still, it allows you to experience new interactions and rake in more Poké Dollars than ever before. It is an alternative to repeatedly defeating the same Elite Four and Champion for extra cash like in previous games.

WR: After a while, the Galarian Star Tournament does suffer from repeated voice lines and animations, but overall I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are some characters in Galar that could have been amazing entrants and accentuated this as a final flourish for Sword and Shield; as is, the final characters you unlock are actually underwhelming considering the time investment. The monetary rewards are less impactful as late on as we are, so that felt a bit hollow. Marnie was the pick for me – I did battle once with every character. Now I have done that, there is not as much motivation to go back… Which has me return to the Dynamax Adventures as the last part to do now we have finished the Pokédex. You reckon you are finished with the Galarian Star Tournament now?

SB: Agreed, it would have been great to get more of a payoff considering the time put into playing, but like you said it was still fun and it is always good to see Pokémon do new things. Yeah I am the same; I have no motivation to go back to the Star Tournament now all the characters are unlocked. I would much rather continue doing Dynamax Adventures for the strategic challenge and quality time I get to spend playing with you.

WR: Awh, aha! Outside of the topics we have discussed, how did you feel in terms of the other introductions, such as the new Ability Patch for changing to the Hidden Ability of Pokémon? Again, there were less of these quality of life additions than in The Isle of Armor, where there was Max Soup, a more plentiful selection of new fashion items, and more.

SB: Honestly, I am disappointed at the fashion options introduced in The Crown Tundra. There are some Team eyewear pieces you get from Peonia, and I think it would have been great to go one step further and have full Team Rocket, Team Skull, or Team Galactic outfits. I just feel that The Isle of Armor delivered a lot more. Items like the Ability Patch are a great addition, yet I feel like they purposely held back on a couple of these, as well as Galarian Slowking, just so they could include them in this DLC. If they included more into the second wave along with a new regional Pokémon, they could have put both Galarian Slowpoke lines in The Isle of Armor and not separated them to maintain excitement.

WR: Yeah I agree, it seems the DLC was very front-loaded on that vein of new features. The fashion options in particular; more cold-weather choices would be awesome. To me, that is an overriding theme of this DLC; the ideas and setting are intriguing, but it all feels very quick, as though there is not much to keep me venturing around the area. After The Isle of Armor, I was hoping they would kick on from that solid base and give us at least a similar amount of content, developed to have more complexities, but that didn’t really happen. Perhaps more returning Pokémon would have helped with this?

SB: The Isle of Armor was so chock full of story and Pokémon that maybe there was less time given for this second wave in terms of story, Pokémon, and items. I agree, I think more content like returning Pokémon would have helped, but we still got quitet a lot in terms of the Legendaries and two new battle structures. Additionally, if we compare both the DLC Wild Areas to that of the main game, it is incredible to see the progress made in such a short period of time in terms of assets and aesthetics. I do appreciate that we go both these areas as DLC, and were not resold the same game in some form of a sequel. Although there could have been more done, I think the first step into DLC was really successful, and I look forward to what the future brings. Who knows, maybe work for the next generation has begun!

WR: This is their first time with this approach and it has predominantly been a success, even if we have reservations and areas for improvement. Them each being entirely Wild Area is to me a hint for the future of the series. I am not sure on their plans for a potential 2021 game, perhaps it shall be Let’s Go Johto? For future generations of Pokémon, I reckon DLC is going to be a mainstay – perhaps in place of third games.

SB: I think they are definitely working towards a more open Wild Area approach moving forward. Considering the popularity and the amount of assets they now have, it is more than likely we shall see this expanded upon even further. 2021 will be the 25th Anniversary of Pokémon, so we can expect big things next year! I think DLC will definitely take the spot of any future sequels, due to its popularity and feeling more optional. Also, with the recent release of physical copies of Sword and Shield with the DLC included, people who can not access DLC digitally still have the opportunity to play this new content.

WR: Beyond finishing the Dynamax Adventures, are you going to keep playing Sword or do you think this will be the end for you?

SB: I think beyond Dynamax Adventures and any future events/gifts – such as Gigantamax Melmetal – this will be it for my Pokémon Sword playtime, but hey; 340+ hours is not bad! What about you?

WR: Aha, a snappy 340+! I may still go back to finish finding the Diglett and battling through the type trials in The Isle of Armor, and more, but it does feel as though it is getting towards the end. I very much doubt there shall be more DLC, so other than other Raids and such, we could be seeing the complete package here. I really have enjoyed my time with Shield – it is my 2019 Game of the Year – with the vibrant characters, attention to detail, and fantastic music. Where they go next is an exciting proposition!

It feels as if we are entering a new era of Pokémon that will only continue to grow and expand similar to the DS/3DS era

Stephen Brown

SB: I thought we might get one more DLC pack, but with the physical release of the game with DLC I doubt they would release more. Pokémon Sword and Shield are amazing games that have made a huge impact. Along with breaking into the field of DLC, it feels as if we are entering a new era of Pokémon that will only continue to grow and expand similar to the DS/3DS era. I can not wait to see what the future holds; needless to say, there will be even more open-world aspects and great new adventures ahead! Let us just hope they include all the Pokémon next time.

WR: Oof that final sentence, aha! To me, it has not been much of an issue; there are plenty of Pokémon in the game and it has actually changed the meta depending on which are available. They are still a way off all Pokémon being in the games, so I am not sure we shall ever see them all in Galar. By the time of the next generation I imagine they will all be around.

SB: Haha, me neither, but I know the topic was of much debate/argument within the community. I have thoroughly enjoyed Sword and Shield and not found any decline in quality due to the lack of certain Pokémon. Exactly, we will probably not see them all in Galar, but there is hope for the next generation and even if they did not include them all again, I have no doubt they would still be amazing games.

WR: Well then, just as we are reaching the end of our playtime with Sword and Shield, we are reaching the end of this Let’s Chat. Unless there is particularly any other point you have in mind?

SB: Nope, I think we have covered just about everything. I could happily talk forever on Pokémon but we had best wrap things up now.

WR: OK, thanks for joining me again!

SB: Thanks for having me, it has been great!


Thanks for reading Let’s Chat! Have you played The Crown Tundra, and if so, how do you feel about it and the additions brought to the table? You can let us know in the comments! Also, for more Let’s Chat, you can go here. Have an awesome day!

Bastion Review

Developed by: Supergiant Games
Published by: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, Supergiant Games
Platforms: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
Release Date: Out Now


After recently playing the superb Hades from Supergiant Games, it pressed home the need for me to amend a severe gap in my gaming portfolio – you see, Supergiant are a developer I regard very highly, through time with Transistor, Pyre, and Hades, but for some reason I had not played their original 2011 breakthrough hit Bastion. Until now! After purchasing it digitally for Switch, I got to witness the awesome way it interweaves a distinct narrative approach, wonderful art direction, and gripping action gameplay. Those are all aspects which Supergiant is known for across their games, so seeing the origin is fascinating. At the same time, comparing it to their later efforts does shine a light on certain rough edges within Bastion which are perhaps understandable given it being released earlier.


I Woke Up Like This

An immediately striking aspect of Bastion is how it presents the narrative; as in, it literally has a narrator. You start the game off waking up as the Kid – the protagonist – on an isolated floating platform, with a vague concept of the world having suffered a catastrophic event that split it apart. As a survivor, you are battling through the aftermath in order to uncover what caused this Calamity and how to potentially fix it. The Kid is mainly silent; the Narrator (Logan Cunningham) is the one giving context as you progress, talking over your gameplay with a poignant but witty tone befitting the Supergiant style. Paths form underfoot as you move, emphasising that this is a crumbling world you are piecing together. Narration continues in tandem, everything encouraging you to keep moving, keep playing.

This initial stage of the game is efficient at teaching you all you need to know – from the third-person isometric movement, to which parts of the environment you can traverse/destroy, to the combat. Make no mistake, whilst there are RPG elements, Bastion is first and foremost a real-time action game. The first weapon you encounter is a hammer, reliable for dealing damage in a direct way; you soon start to find alternative weapons, such as the bow (my favourite, shock), a machete, guns, and many more besides – there is a real creative feel to the sheer amount of choice. Furthermore, by picking up Black Tonics you are granted access to special moves you can deploy – such as a spinning attack for the hammer.

Social distancing maybe going too far

When you finish this tutorial-esque area, you get to a hub location, the Bastion itself. Rebuilding it is core to rebuilding the world; when you first reach the Bastion, you actually meet the narrator himself in person: Rucks, a sort of guide for the Kid. He explains the state of the situation and how, in order to potentially bring back all those lost, you must venture throughout the world to collect Cores that will revitalise the Bastion. By doing this, you additionally open up new facilities: for example, for upgrading your equipment with collected fragments, viewing your collections, and more – it is a very rewarding gameplay loop that means you eagerly anticipate returning after each outing. The end goal is that if you continue to do this, eventually you shall fully restore the Bastion…

As you are led through initial excursions, the feel and flow ingrain naturally – fast-paced but never overly chaotic. If that reminds you of my description of Hades, that’s apt. However, as you would perhaps expect three games on, that comparison makes Bastion seem lacking in certain areas. Movement stuck out in this regard; there is an option to roll that helps with evasion, but it is a bit clunky and can feel ineffective. Similarly, when you are hit, sometimes you are sent into the air with the option to recover and land on your feet, but the way this is animated against the background can make it difficult to judge. These are certainly small issues, exacerbated by how later games from Supergiant have improved in this department; the majority of combat in Bastion is responsive and energetic. Also, there is an impressive balance – it consistently ups the ante on challenge, striking a fantastic note of giving just enough initiative to keep you in control of whether you succeed or fail. Take your health – it and the health tonics for replenishment are not plentiful, but there are enough dotted around to keep you teetering on a fine edge.

The Bastion itself, which you can build up over time

You can have two weapons equipped at once, so mixing and matching in the arsenal to find your ideal combo allows much choice and personalisation. For example, with the bow and the machete, I had ranged and close-quarters scenarios covered. As you get deep into the game, some quite outlandish weapon configurations pop up that surprised me and help to make Bastion stand out from other action games with more reserved selections. Here is where I have another small gripe though, as when you find a new weapon, you are forced to equip it at the expense of your current loadout – at times this was a bit awkward as I had taken time to choose my weapons and now had to wait to change back. I get that it ensures you try them all out, but a prompt to ask you whether you would like to revert to your previous set-up would have been welcome.


Cast Your Mind Back

Working across the world map, your ventures get increasingly precarious. Not only the enemies you face, but the environments too; tangled grass or falling ground can quickly put a new spin on battles against adversaries you were previously comfortable against. This is done within vibrant yet melancholy graphics, everything very stylized, with bold colours yet a high level of detail. It is an aesthetic that means even when a lot is happening on-screen, you can judge the positions of others and yourself clearly – though, as mentioned before, certain backgrounds do run into perspective issues when you are rolling or in mid-air. Enemies themselves are delightfully varied to further keep you on your toes – close-quarters and ranged attackers are joined by shielded plants, teleporting fighters, flying birds… They all have distinct traits that give them personalities of their own, emphasised by the comments of the Narrator. In terms of tightly honed action scenarios, Bastion is brilliant at keeping it fresh.

Don’t get any closer

It isn’t all action though, as more narrative-driven moments are peppered in to break up the flow nicely. You will meet the charming Zia (Ashley Lynn Barrett) in a beautiful musical sequence, complete with lyrical track – yes, this is the beginning of Supergiant incorporating beautiful original songs! Later on, you also encounter the mysterious Zulf (Darren Korb), who causes much suspicion, founded or unfounded… By presenting items you find to them when back at the Bastion, you unlock new dialogue and info fleshing out their characters and the lore of the world. It’s another way that Bastion rewards you for your adventures, contributing to that momentum driving you on. For me, the character of the Kid is the one slight disappointment, being more of a player avatar and less of a character of their own than the protagonists in Supergiant releases since.

The rhythm of gameplay, setting out from the Bastion to find items and returning to improve yourself, is complimented by other side quests. As you move along the Mario-esque world map, the path splinters at several points, with Proving Grounds along the way for each weapon. In these, you are put into an arena specifically tailored to a particular weapon, and then tasked with completing it as efficiently as you can, with 3 different rewards you can unlock depending on how well you perform. For those really trying to hone themselves on their weapon of choice, they are fun asides; on the other hand, with so many weapons in the game, I found myself going past some of them in favour of the main story levels. As intricate trials of your proficiency with different weapons, they are very effective, but they do lack the extra story element the rest of Bastion is so great at weaving in.

Those popcorn-dispenser-style contraptions spawn enemies until you take out the source

A side quest I enjoyed more was Who Knows Where, an occasional arena where the Kid battles through waves of enemies to uncover details on a character. As it continues on, the Narrator delves further into the memories, the gameplay simultaneously getting more intense as you progress. I think why this is more successful than the Proving Grounds is that it maintains that combination of narrative and gameplay that makes the majority of Bastion work so well, and is a key skill of Supergiant Games. Still, the extra twists on the formula these extra levels provide give the player more options and add more richness to the overall experience.


Let’s Go Again

Bastion can be played through in 5-10 hours, but as with many fantastic action games, a lot of longevity can be found in the different ways to play through the game. Beyond the core story, there are plenty of collectibles that unlock new illustrations and pieces of lore, extensive upgrade paths for each weapon, and a Level system running alongside it all. As well as this, a way to significantly alter the game is at the shrine, where you can invoke up to 10 idols of the Gods. Each makes the game tougher in certain ways, but offers more rewards in exchange. Another way to switch it up is in repeat playthroughs, whether that be via a higher difficulty or speedrunning. There is so much to do within a quite compact story!

From all sides!

I mentioned the lyrical music earlier, but before my Final Thoughts, I need to discuss the audio more. Throughout, it is amazing, kicking off yet another Supergiant staple. In tone, the soundtrack leans towards up-tempo tunes, pumping you up for the battles you are walking into, with quieter moments also tailored to with soothing sounds. This soundtrack is one of those that you consciously note and appreciate whilst playing. Considering that you are often in complex combat, with weapon impact sounds, enemy sound effects, and more, that is impressive!


Final Thoughts

Going back to Bastion has been intriguing, finally seeing where Supergiant Games started – and it is evident why this kicked off their success story, with many core aspects that have been carried over into their 3 games since. The focus on a smartly-told narrative and action-packed gameplay and how the two can combine seamlessly is delightful, delivering on each simultaneously and never feeling as though one is pushing the other back. My main complaint is that parts of the combat feel a bit unrefined, as if Supergiant was still finding their feet a bit within this art style and perspective. The overriding reaction from playing through to the end is one of immense enjoyment, having experienced a cohesive and compelling creation with inviting art direction and awesome combat. Imagine the games this developer could do next! Oh wait…

8.5/10

Rating: 8.5 out of 10.