Developer: 5 Lives Studios
Publisher: Deep Silver
Genre: Survival, Exploration
Platform: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, PC
Age Rating: E10 / PEGI 12
Release Date: August 28th, 2020
Price: $29.99 / €29.99 / £24.99
A code was provided for review purposes.
With just a single trailer, Windbound captivated the minds of many gamers. As more news came out about this indie title, anticipation grew larger and larger. Developed by 5 Lives Studios and published by the illustrious Deep Silver, the journey known as Windbound has finally seen its release on today’s consoles.
Windbound was originally painted to be a role-playing game, but it’s much more of an explorative survival game than anything else. The player assumes the role of a young woman named Kara, embarking on a journey in the semi-open world of the Forbidden Islands. Past that, the story behind Windbound is shrouded in a lot of mystery, and it’s often difficult to follow. There is very little text or dialogue, which means the story is nearly exclusively built contextually. Basically, it takes a lot of attention to detail and a little creativity to maintain a steady pace with the game’s narrative.
Start From Nothing
Kara starts with next to nothing; therefore, the player must steadily yet strategically adapt to the surroundings and utilize what resources the game provides. Very early on, the player will craft a boat – that boat becomes the player’s best friend and most important piece of equipment throughout Windbound. The world is huge, but the majority of it is ocean, forcing the player to travel across the seas from island to island in order to find the resources needed to advance. Sticks and stones have never been so useful!
As the player progresses onward, particular resources become tougher to find but allow for the crafting of more nuanced items and tools. Additionally, the resources do not replenish very quickly, pressuring the player to explore other procedurally-generated islands for the necessary materials. Unfortunately, there’s a hunger bar that depletes over time and requires sustenance to recharge. Not only is this a big annoyance as a whole, but it also hinders the player’s ability to genuinely enjoy their exploration of the islands and worlds, constantly worrying if they won’t have what it takes to survive. Ultimately, there comes a point in the game where certain actions or goals feel redundant. Eventually, Windbound plays like a constant circle of the same objectives.
Combat plays an extremely minimal role in Windbound. Some of the beasts found on these islands will run away, but many will defend themselves from the threat that is Kara. Some of the weapons crafted later in the game help, but early on the bigger beasts are a grind. By the end of it, most beasts don’t provide that great of resources either. The entire combat system feels more like an afterthought, and Windbound would have benefited as a whole with some extra refinement and focus in that section.
Windbound is a glorious piece of art. It blends visual elements of the better Legend of Zelda games such as Wind Waker or Breath of the Wild mixed with the atmosphere and scenery of Disney’s Moana. That alone makes it a shame that Windbound isn’t a traditional role-playing game. The presentation is engaging and truly beautiful, and it’s easily the best thing about the game. Not to mention, there are no glaring technical issues or bugs that break the player’s captivation.
Windbound is certainly an ambitious game with a lot of promise, but the final product is hollow and unenthusiastic. What is otherwise stunning, vivid, and colorful is held back by boring gameplay that leaves little room for pleasure. It takes luck and a lot of patience to find the maddening loop that is Windbound enjoyable, which is truly a shame.