STAFF REVIEW of Windbound (Xbox One)

Monday, September 14, 2020.
by Kirsten Naughton

Windbound Box art I love adventure and exploration in video games, as nothing makes me happier than spending hours and hours in a world that isn't this one that we all live on and share. I'm not going to lie, I find happiness in zoning out to a good game and forgetting all my problems for a little while. From the second I saw the trailer for Windbound, my first thought was Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild meets Moana. Being a huge fan of the Legend of Zelda, my expectations went a little high but I felt that there was still hope that Windbound would knock the wind out of me... see what I did there?

Windbound starts off as a girl is sailing solo on her wooden raft with people on nearby wooden rafts. The girl then gets caught in a storm, the waters get rough and she gets separated from her group of people. Then, a big giant creature comes out from underneath the sea. You don't know what it is and it disappears again only for you to end up losing your boat and washing ashore some form of an island. Now, your adventure begins.

Windbound's overall gameplay can be described as a survival exploration game. My experiences during my adventure was a mixture of confusion and uncertainty. I'm all for a learning curve during the first few hours of gameplay as I learn the mechanics, but unfortunately it never really went away, even after a handful of hours, which eventually led to frustration. As you enter the world of Windbound you are given a very vague tutorial on the gameplay mechanics and how to navigate around. When I say vague, I mean that you might as well not give me a tutorial unless its on the crafting, sailing and other action heavy pieces of gameplay. The tutorial was absolutely lacking detail and didn't really help all that much.

Most of my time with Windbound was wondering "Why?". Why am I collecting these items? Why am I travelling island to island? Why do I have to activate these things resembling a podium with a blue glowing artifact around it? Why can't I put more items in my inventory? Why am I so weak while battling enemies? There were way too many "Why" questions and not enough "How can I?" instead. Now, I understand that Windbound's story isn't its strong point, but you're left with no choice but to wander around and find out the hard way. As it's a survival game, I get that it's more than likely how the development team deliberately designed the gameplay, but without the main bread and butter of a strong narrative, why bother playing Windbound? No matter how many questions I had and the amount of frustration I had playing Windbound, I gave it all I had.

The two bars up at the top left of the screen are your hunger (red) and your stamina (yellow). It's a pretty straight forward explanation; if you deplete your hunger, you'll starve to death. If you deplete your stamina bar, depending on where you are, you'll likely collapse on the spot or drown in the ocean. I found this part honestly the hardest. If I'm standing still or walking normally, not moving a muscle, my stamina depletes slowly, if I sprint, I lose stamina temporarily. I find this puzzling. If I'm standing still, I shouldn't lose any stamina, but that's just my opinion. I feel like more explanation would have been helpful as it's such a critical part of Windbound and this girl's survival.

Upon your journey, you'll learn that you must collect a number of different items to craft items for your survival such as weapons, boats and boat accessories. By the way, the game doesn't tell you that you can't collect every single thing you see and hoard your items, as there is a limit. That was a bummer, but I get it. I found that the easiest way to keep things simple and easy was to collect only what you absolutely needed. In the event you need a lot of things for a crafting project, you need the space and need to plan accordingly. I would have thought that having a hoard of items in your inventory would be an advantage. Apparently not.

The goal at the end of your journey is you have five islands to travel through in each chapter, with a total of five chapters. The level system doesn't need to be there and found it unnecessary. It should be a constant flow of islands all over the ocean, as we know our oceans can go on for hundreds of thousands of miles. Windbound would have flowed a little better and gave you the sense of purpose as you sail to island to island if this was the case instead.

The main menu where you craft your items and keep track of your inventory is a tad clunky. I personally wasn't a fan. Crafting the items was rather easy and straightforward thankfully. Collect needed items, craft said items, rinse and repeat. Crafting is absolutely crucial in Windbound. Your grass canoe you start with in Chapter One will only take you so far before you need something more sturdy that can withstand the perils of the sea. As you explore the islands you'll collect items from enemies you kill and things you find on the ground such as tall grass, rocks and twigs. Crafting is one of the highlights of Windbound that I found was the most rewarding.

For most of your journey you'll be sailing the seas on your boat, and I found this rather relaxing. Even if I was sailing trying to find islands for a half hour I was alright and happy. However, when I am trying to find an island after about an hour and a half, I start to get irritated and feel like it's too repetitive for me. I simply want to enjoy the gameplay and have fun.

I had a hard time with understanding the purpose of Windbound. The concept set forth is relatively easy to understand but the execution fell flat and left me with more questions than answers. Aside from the graphics being gorgeous beyond expectations, Windbound wasn't a game that I found I enjoyed thoroughly. Some gamers may appreciate the survival mechanics and the overall style though. Windbound for me isn't a game I'd jump on my raft and cross oceans for, so I think I'll set up camp and chill on my island.

Overall: 5.0 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 7.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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