One of the first PlayStation VR games that I really enjoyed back when the platform launched in later 2016 was Windlands from Psytec Games. Swinging around in first-person using the game’s grappling system was just a different kind of experience in virtual reality back then and I craved more of it after finishing it. A few years ago, the team released a sequel, Windlands 2, but it was only released for Oculus and other non-PlayStation VR headsets at the time. Now around three years later, the team has finally ported Windlands 2 to PlayStation VR and it makes some nice improvements to the foundation the team laid down five years ago.
Since this is a sequel, I feel it’s important to start this review off by saying if you missed out on the first game then rest assured you are perfectly safe with just starting with Windlands 2. That’s because there really wasn’t much of a story in the first game and that’s one of the things that the team built a bit more of for this sequel. You play as a guardian in Windlands 2 and have to work to prevent an evil called the blood guardian from returning. Characters are voiced this time and while the story didn’t grab me so much, I appreciated that more of an effort was put into the narrative.
Windlands 2 can be played solo or with up to three others online. Control options including playing with the Dualshock 4 or by using the PlayStation Move controllers. Windlands 2’s gameplay is all about swinging around like you’re Spider-Man. A tutorial at the start will teach you the ropes on how to use your grapple hook. Basically, anything that you move your cursor over that turns green can be latched onto to swing from. The system feels good when it works right but frequent issues with tracking hurt the experience. Far too many times I would be swinging around from point to point only to aim at the next one and have something go wrong with the cursor and have me falling to my death. The PlayStation 3 era Move controllers just can’t consistently pull off what the developer was going for in this game. I didn’t play Windlands 2 on other platforms but from what I understand they don’t have the issues that the PlayStation VR version suffers from. Playing it made me wish that the PlayStation VR 2 and the new motion controllers were here already as I’m sure these will be non-issues when played on that. What I will say is that for a game all about swinging around I never once felt sick while doing it and that deserves props. There are quite a few options to go in and customize too when it comes to that.
Windlands 2 also features combat against various robotic enemies. For this the game gives you a bow and arrows to take them on but once again issues with the dated Move controllers rear their head. Trying to move around, aim and shoot at the same time can be problematic with shots missing even though it seemed like I had aimed perfectly. When it does work correctly though the feeling of satisfaction of nailing your arrow shots while on the move is so, so satisfying. There are also a few boss battles over the course of the game requiring you to swing around and find their various weak points to land shots on. I enjoyed them but sometime they felt like they dragged on too long as you’ll have moments where the battle is interrupted by waves of basic enemies that you have to dispose of first.
With all my issues with the tracking on the PlayStation VR version what helps a bit with it is playing in co-op with friends. Having four players in total swinging around and working together to hunt down these enemies is the best way to experience this game in my opinion. Making up your own fun with friends like trying to see who can reach a certain point first is a big part of the reason why I enjoyed it more in co-op. Getting an eye on and landing arrows on the weakpoints of the bosses is also easier when you have four sets of eyes to work with.
Visually the PlayStation VR version of Windlands 2 doesn’t lose much compared to the other platforms. The game uses a simplistic, cartoony, cel-shaded look that doesn’t have a ton of detail but manages to look good anyway. The areas are large and playing alone can feel kind of barren and empty which is another reason why I enjoyed it more when playing with friends in co-op. The audio design is also done well with the sound of swinging and firing your arrows making me feel more immersed. The voice acting for all the characters is solid and the music has some great tunes during heated boss battles and while just casually swinging around. Trophy hunters will find 26 trophies in total including a Platinum. Some of them do require you to play with others online while most of the rest include beating the game, finding all collectibles, and beating certain races under a time limit.
Windlands 2 expands on what the first game did well but is held back a little by the dated PlayStation VR controllers. Exploring and swinging around these large open areas is thrilling and landing arrows on enemies while doing so is very satisfying. It’s just when tracking issues rear their ugly head the experience is hurt by it. I also recommend playing it with friends if possible for the best experience. If this game gets updated to work on Sony’s next generation PlayStation VR unit then I’ll be coming back to it for sure.
*Windlands 2 is available now on PlayStation VR, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. PlayStation VR version reviewed. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review. ThisGenGaming is an official partner of vrgamecritic.com where you can find all of our PlayStation VR reviews.
- Swinging and combat mechanics are thrilling when they work
- Playing with up to four people is a blast
- Simple but pleasing art style
- Voice acting, sound effects, and music are all very good and help to immerse you more in this world
- PlayStation VR Move controller tracking issues can lead to frustration
- World can feel empty when playing alone