A new survival game has made its way to all major platforms by the name of Windbound, the title from developers 5 lives studio and publishers deep silver, arrived on UK shores late last month. How exactly does this title hold up against others of the genre? and does it have any identity of its own to set itself apart from the competition? let’s hoist the mainsail and chart a course as we set out in search of adventure.
Windbound sees you take up the role of a member of a seafaring tribe that attempts to cross the ocean on rafts, when tragedy befalls you and a huge monster emerges from the depths of the ocean and sinks your not so battleship. Adrift in the sea all hope seems lost when you awaken before a huge portal of some kind. Passing beyond this great portal you find yourself ashore on an island with nothing but your trusty knife and uncanny ability to turn grass, sticks and stones into a boat, and almost everything else one may need to survive.
For the most part the game requires some self interpretation due to having very little dialog in the main story, with only a handful of lines at most from the games storytelling scenes. While the core information is there, it’s not exactly fleshed out. This is normal for the genre as a whole, at least in my experience – I can hardly claim to have played them all but it was at least interesting enough for me to formulate my own ideas as I pressed.
Visually Windbond seems to take some inspiration from the Zelda series and while not photo realistic, can provide some nice looking locations for the most part. There are a few small issues with the visuals such as rocks being hidden under the terrain or dropping through the floor. While the former may be annoying, if you desperately need that one rock chances are you wont find yourself in that situation thanks to the fact most resources are bountiful to the point you will likely have too many.
The audio for the title is quite well suited, from sailing across a calm sea on a gentle breeze to the more intense moment such as combat or dodging jagged rocks in your little canoe. Even the sound effects work well and are perfectly timed making for an enjoyable audible experience, no matter what part of the gameplay loop you are in.
Game play seems to follow a loop of gather, craft, explore, repeat while progressing through the story by finding towers that seem to contain the history of the world and trying to stay alive by hunting the creatures that inhabit each island, I found this enjoyable at first as I made my first little boat after hunting down wild creatures to eat and make myself a spear. It quickly became repetitive as each chapter threw the same loop at me with the only real changes been the types of materials I could make items out of, and for the most part non of that even seemed necessary. Sure it would have made my life easier but it seems more than possible to simply go from one of the key locations to another and then progress to the next chapter.
Combat I also felt was under refined as new encounters could see you knocked flying only for the enemy to be on top of you ready to strike again before you got back up, leading to a swift demise. By the second encounter and beyond the combat starts to feel less rewarding as the foes have a limited number of attacks that are easy to telegraph.
To make matters worse fall damage seems inconsistent, with even minor falls causing you to get hit by large amounts of damage or just straight up shooting you up in the air, leaving you baffled as to what or why this was happening.
Overall I can’t say I fully enjoyed my experience with Windbound, but I could could have without the issues noted above and maybe a bit more to the story side of things. I could potentially have seen myself recommending it as a unique and interesting survival adventure, but with that said my current recommendation would be maybe wait until it’s on sale or at least until it has been patched to remove some of these issues.