Windscape will instantly feel familiar for numerous reasons. It’s quite clearly inspired by Nintendo’s groundbreaking Legend of Zelda series and is also reminiscent of the free-to-play MMORPG RuneScape, which was released way back in 2001; for those of us old enough to remember. The question is, how does Windscape stack up against such cherished games? Is it a pale imitation or does it come across as a worthy successor?
This is a tale of adventure. You play as a farmer’s daughter who lives in a world made up of floating islands, yet there are some very strange goings on and an unknown evil is found spreading throughout the land. What starts as running an errand develops into a quest to find out the truth. Thankfully you can explore fairly freely, certainly in the overworld, however the game’s story and quests are pretty linear, which will keep you on the straight and narrow. Windscape really comes into its own when you play through the dungeons though, as there is combat, puzzles and loot to enjoy. You will also encounter bosses, which are pretty fun to fight against, even if they are a bit of a grind.
Although uncommon when compared with the traditional third person aspect for this type of game, I am a big fan of the first person perspective on things that Windscape runs with. It really helps to realise the game’s ambition of a huge, explorable world, just as an adventure game should. And it is as you are exploring, you’ll find yourself interacting with friendly characters – despite the speech translation being a bit iffy – and gathering resources from the word go. You’ll need certain tools to gather different types of materials, such as copper ore, which you acquire later on in the game, but as a general rule, if it sparkles, it’s yours for the taking.
As with many adventure games, the first few quests found in Windscape on Xbox One will have you learning the ropes, starting with how to make meals with what you’ve gathered in order to heal yourself. Shortly after you’ll meet your first enemy and begin to get to grips with the combat system. It’s pretty simple to begin with, so simple in fact you’ll find yourself just battering an old wolf to death with your wooden club; moving and swinging will see you coming out of the encounter relatively unscathed. You can also block with your shield, although you can get by easily without it – at least to begin with. However, as you progress, you’ll also be able to forge new weapons and armour, brew potions and hone magic skills, with this all hinting at the more complex battles to come. It’s at a place called Sky Harbour where Windscape really starts to open up properly.
And when it does all open it, you’ll get access to some treats. You can buy items in Windscape using coins, which defeated nasties will drop, or you’ll be able to collect them by smashing containers open. The various merchants that you happen across will sell useful tools and the like, so it’s worth collecting as many as possible. Further to this, your progress will be saved automatically as you pass the various totem poles scattered about the Islands. Rather handily, the save totems will also replenish your health – and that is always appreciated no matter what mission you find yourself on.
The pause menu is made up of your inventory, quest list, map and diary. Through the inventory screen, you can equip different weapons and armour, as well as use or discard items. Your quest list will help you keep track of active missions, and your diary will document key moments from your quest. The map is hugely useful too, especially should you play games in the same way I do, exploring every nook and cranny in the hope that you stumble upon something super interesting. Thankfully, for ease of use, you can press Y for the inventory menu and the view button for your map to instantly pop into view.
In terms of the rest of the controls, holding down the left thumbstick will allow you to sprint (the green bar below your health represents stamina), and it is also used to move. The right stick is used to to look around as you would expect, with the trigger buttons actioning attacks and shields, with a press of the RB seeing you jump. Use X to interact in the game world and the D-Pad will allow you to switch between weapons. The A button will focus your view on the nearest point of interest, ie an NPC or enemy, which comes in ever so handy during some of the more difficult battles you’ll find yourself taking on later in the game.
This is all brought together via Windscape’s cel shaded graphics, which are stylish, but fairly basic. If you draw comparisons with The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker for example, they are not nearly as detailed or polished, and that’s a game that was released in 2003. However, Windscape’s musical score consists of a sweeping, fantasy soundtrack which compliments the game well. If anything though, it’s an utter joy to listen to.
So far so good then, and with Windscape there is nothing particularly “bad” to say about it. That said, there is nothing special that stands out either – it’s good, but not great. In fact, if it does have a problem, then it is found within the AI with some of the NPCs walking into walls; a common affliction around Evergreen Island. Also, if enemies get too close they will sometimes stop attacking altogether, standing still and allowing you to hack away at them. It’s safe to say the folk in Windscape aren’t too bright.
With that in mind, the £16.74 asking price feels a little steep, despite there being a good few hours of gameplay to be enjoyed. However, even though it is not as polished and original as some of its rivals, Windscape has a certain charm that is impossible to ignore. That said, it’s a bit of a slow burner, which may put some off, but should you get through those opening stages will find a a solid adventure game in its own right.