Windbound from publisher Deep Silver and developer 5 Lives Studios has been on my radar for some time for several reasons. The art style is one of them as it immediately reminds me of games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Wind Waker. Another reason is because you get to sail around on the sea which I usually enjoy in any game that gives me the freedom to do this. Yet it also has something I’m not very fond of in games I play and that’s survival mechanics. To my surprise I didn’t too much mind them in this thanks to some options the game presents you with.
Windbound is a third-person survival game where you play as a girl named Kara. At the start of the game Kara and her tribe are sailing on the seas but an attack from a sea creature causes Kara to be separated from them. When she comes to, she finds herself washed up on an island. You must help her survive and try to find a way back to her tribe. What story Windbound has is told entirely through cutscenes that feature no talking at all. Despite the lack of voice-acting the game does a good job of conveying what’s going on much like something like Journey.
While I went into Windbound worried about the survival mechanics I was happy to find upon playing it that it has an option to not have to deal with them as much. You can change difficulties to make it so that when you die you don’t lose everything. This is great for players like me who just want to enjoy this game without all that tedious loss of progress stuff. For those who do enjoy that in their games you can absolutely play it that way if you choose. When you start off in the game you have little more than a knife to your name so you’ll have to hunt for food and search for resources. The game does a good job of explaining a lot of the basics of the game via their tutorials so I never felt lost on what I needed to do. Now while I chose not to play on the mode where I lose my progress if I die there are still survival mechanics at play here. For instance, you have to always keep an eye on your health and stamina meters to keep yourself going. The stamina meter will drain when you dodge enemy attacks, swim, or run but it will fill back up afterwards. What will cause it to drain consistently though is when your hunger sets in so making sure to hunt creatures and search out food is something you need to keep on top of. Meat can be gained from hunting animals and cooked for better effectiveness. There are also things like berries and such that you can find in the world as well.
The combat in the game isn’t the best but it’s functional as you can attack the creatures with either melee or long-range attacks. You can lock on to them to make your attacks more effective and dodge out of the way to avoid their attacks. It’s kind of mindless other than that as you just shoot or hack away at them when you get an opening. While not hunting for food or resources the other goal of the game in each chapter is to sail between islands and climb three towers to activate them. Once you do you’ll earn a new upgrade and get a bit more of the story before you move onto the next chapter and do it again. More crafting recipes, animals, and resources appear as you progress though so it never felt like I was doing the same thing over and over which was good.
The sailing is the last thing in the gameplay that I need to talk about and it’s what I enjoyed the most about this game. You can build different kinds of boats to sail on from tiny ones to bigger ones. Obviously, the bigger ones will be more durable and safer from attacks on the water but you might find that you don’t have the resources to build them and have to settle for a small vessel instead. The crafting in Windbound is pretty simple but some of the menus were a little cumbersome to navigate. Once I got out on the waves in my boat it took me some time to come to grips with how to adjust my sail for the wind. Once I spent some time and learned it I was relaxing and moving across the seas at ease. There is just something so relaxing about just sailing on a beautiful blue ocean and Windbound absolutely delivers on that front.
I already spoke about how the game visually reminded me of games like Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild but I can’t say enough how gorgeous this game is. The colors everywhere whether on land or sea are just so vivid and full of love. It does have some weird moments where animations didn’t seem to kick in right. The music in the game is a bit on the softer side which is perfect for when I was just sailing. Those interested in the trophies will find 31 of them here including a Platinum. You’ll have to beat the game in different ways to get it including finishing it without eating meat, only eating meat, and more.
Windbound blends gorgeous visuals, an effective soundtrack, and survival mechanics together to create a fun, mostly relaxing experience. While I went for the less punishing mode the game still presented quite a bit of challenge in managing my stamina. Some of the menu navigation, crafting, and combat could still use some improvement. When I was out on my boat just sailing those beautiful seas I forgot about those shortcomings though and that’s what I’ll really remember the most about Windbound.
*Windbound is available now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
- Has a beautiful and striking art style and world to explore
- Soothing soundtrack that matches what is going on
- Sailing mechanics take some getting use to but are really fun when learned
- Has options to make the survival mechanics less punishing
- Some some weird visual glitches
- Menu navigation is a bit cumbersome
- Combat isn't that thrilling