STAFF REVIEW of Windscape (Xbox One)

Thursday, May 2, 2019.
by Adam Dileva

Windscape Box art I enjoy when developers create something that clearly had a strong influence from other games, as you get to experience a different take with their own spin and creativity. Windscape is one such game, as it’s abundantly clear that it had some massive influence from legendary titles such as The Legend of Zelda and Skyrim. I’ve come to fall in love with some indie games in recent years, as they are generally a completely different experience than your typical AAA titles with multi-million dollar budgets. You can tell that many games like Windcape were crafted with love, even if the end product isn’t near as exciting or fun as maybe it was originally intended.

You play as a young kid who lives a humble life with your parents. Once you begin your journey and set foot outside to do some simple errands for your parents, you’re made aware of the unique world of Windscape almost instantly, as there are many floating islands in the sky. But all is not well, and these islands are starting to crumble and fall, so you set off on a journey that will no doubt put you in the role of world savior. It’s a very thin overlying story that gives you a main purpose, but there’s nothing very interesting throughout, as most quests are small jumps from area to area to guide you on the right path.

Played in first person, the first game I instantly wanted to compare it to is Skyrim, as it feels much like the same type of adventure where you fight monsters, explore, gather materials and craft. Sure, it’s very low poly models and world obviously don’t compare, but as an experience, it really felt like a 'My-First-Skyrim' playset of sorts. If you’re going to emulate and draw inspiration from a game, it might as well be one of the most beloved.

As you explore the world, you’ll venture across vast fields, deserts, castles, forests, graveyards, dungeons and much more. Handfuls of enemies inhabit these areas, and you’ll be faced with numerous sword fights, puzzles and bosses along the way. Towns will be filled with NPC’s that can be talked to (in a Sims-like gibberish with captions), merchants and of course, quest givers. Many of the opening quests are simple in structure, having you do mindless fetch quests that are actually quite far in distance. Couple in the fact that you walk at an incredibly slow pace and have to hold a button to run, it becomes tiresome when I see a quest marker in the far distance.

As you pass specific totem poles, your progress with automatically save and your health replenished. These obviously come in handy when low on life, but are spread quite far out from one another, usually one in each of the main areas you need to venture in, dungeons included.

After picking up an axe and pickaxe, you’ll be set to start gathering materials. You can cut down nearly any tree you see for wood, mine metal nodes for ore, gather plants and more. All the materials you collect can eventually be used to create items in a surprisingly vast crafting system. Enemies will drop materials too, so it pays to defeat them since there’s no real leveling up system in place.

While I was cutting down every tree in sight in the beginning, I eventually became too bored waiting for the small timer to count down as I did so. Earn enough gold and you can simply buy the majority of the materials you’d need from vendors. I crafted the first few of the best items I could in the beginning but never really felt that much stronger. Going from a wooden club to a handmade sword, I assumed would make me much more powerful, but certain enemies still had to be hacked away at for much too long.

Each crafting station will display the recipes you can create items for and the ingredients required to do so. Armor and weapons will have a few different stats to take into account, like the damage, or resistance, to cut, smash, etc. I think the game wants you to see what enemies are weak to, indicated on their health bars, and use the best weapon for maximum damage, but that’s too much of a chore to do in the thick of battle, even using hotkeys.

Combat is as basic as it gets. Right Trigger to attack, hold it for a more powerful smack, and Left Trigger to block. AI is about as braindead as it comes, as the majority of every enemy, and even most bosses, can simply be defeated by circle strafing as you swing away wildly. You do have a health meter that needs to be watched, and this is where crafting potions and food comes into play to restore yourself, but you shouldn’t need to rely on it too heavily due to the non-existent AI.

If you were to simply look at screenshots of Windscape, you most likely wouldn’t be impressed with the low-poly graphics, but there’s a certain way its cel-shaded filter reminds me of Zelda in a way. Sure it’s not traditionally pretty to behold, and the world can be quite bland and barren at times, but it has a certain charm to it. The same goes for the audio, as it won’t do much to impress you with its basic attack sounds, pings from deflections and overly loud creaks of opening a chest, but the soundtrack is quite good and fitting for the world that you’re currently adventuring in.

Windscape was an odd experience for me. While I enjoyed the Skyrim-like feel to many of the mechanics, it simply felt like a poor man’s Skyrim for the whole adventure. There’s nothing inherently wrong or poor with Windscape at all, it simply didn’t do anything to impress me and I never really got that sense of vast accomplishment, even when completing a dungeon and defeating its boss. Windscape is completely average, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s tough to keep your attention in the long term.

Overall: 5.3 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 5.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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