Tuesday, March 26

Review: Windscape [Nintendo Switch eShop]

When you’re an indie developer, making games inspired by iconic AAA titles is always a risky proposition. Especially on a budget, and with a miniscule fraction of the resources of companies like Nintendo, you can’t possibly compete with the big guns. What you can do, with some luck, charm, and an abundance of heart, is create a similar experience on some level but then ensure it is infused with a spirit of its own. The first-person adventure Windscape has obviously been influenced by games like The Legend of Zelda and even Skyrim (insert arrow in the knee joke here), but having been created by a solo developer it’s obviously a much less elaborate affair. That said, if you’ve been looking for a more casual adventure to simply relax with and enjoy the ride with it’s well worth knowing more about.

Taking control of a young girl named Ida, you’ll embark on a journey that will take you into crypts and dungeons, riding in an airship to new lands, and engaging in pretty basic combat along the way. Similar in multiple ways to the combat-free adventure Yonder that came out last year, the emphasis in the game is more on exploration and discovery than fighting. The story isn’t terribly complex, and your journey is very linear, but I’ll freely admit that its simple charms sucked me in.

While you’ll encounter some puzzles along the way, they often aren’t terribly complex, and can be worked through pretty quickly as a whole. Gathering materials is definitely important, since pretty well all of your weapons and armor are ones you’ll craft, and for the most part the resources are pretty abundant once you get to the right area. For the most part combat is a circle-strafing affair, though you’ll need to experiment to get to know which weapons work best on which enemies. While they have indicators that will clue you in on which weapons to use against them I generally learned that if something is taking too long to die to change things up. Whether that means a sword, arrows, or some nasty magic you should get comfortable using each since eventually that versatility will come in handy when you actually hit a more challenging enemy like a boss.

Even though I found the game charming I’ll readily admit it has its weaknesses. In particular, I found the desert stage dragged on a bit too long for its own good, with you needing to frequently cover a lot of ground that was mostly empty. While there aren’t too many platforming sections there are a few, and one in the crypt where you need to stay with an orb lighting your way was particularly annoying. Jumping around and landing reliably isn’t too challenging for the most part once you get the hang of it, but there’s also no denying it’s a bit awkward judging your landing at times. Finally, and this is another thing it has in common with Yonder, the economy is quickly shown to be broken as you’ll be walking around maxed out at 99 coins with absolutely nothing to spend it on pretty early on in the adventure. It doesn’t outright harm the game in any way, but it’s just one of those things that sticks out as an unfortunate flaw in what’s overall a solid experience.

In the end I feel a bit conflicted on how to score Windscape. I like its concept, most of its simple but workable design, and how much of it plays as a whole. At the same time there are sections where it drags a bit and details that don’t quite work as well as you’d hope, and these collectively add up. I’d say the more interested you are in a casual adventure that isn’t too demanding, and that you can just enjoy for the sake of the experience, the better a fit it will be for you. If you’re in search of stellar presentation and an abundance of thrills though you’ll end up being sorely disappointed. Windscape is hardly perfect, but it does enough right to be fun over a pretty impressive overall length if you’re in the right mindset for it.

Score: 8

  • A charming and more casual adventure in a Zelda-esque style
  • While there are some tougher battles in general combat is basic enough to make the game very accessible to younger or less experienced gamers
  • Overall the world is quite a bit bigger than I would have assumed

  • The in-game economy is set up pretty poorly and you’ll quickly have no real used for money at all
  • In some larger sections (the desert) and smaller sections (the crypt where you follow the lit orb) the pacing issues and quirks of the game become more apparent
  • Combat is serviceable but lacking in technique, especially when some enemies will simply get stuck clipped into a door or structure