This BOTW-ish game called Windbound comprises a survival title with almost optional roguelike, bringing some aspects that really can be compared to Breath of the Wild, like the stamina bar or the crafting ability – or even more in look and feel. And don’t worry, it’s more than natural to get that stamina empty in a few seconds on your first try – since you’re not used to the mechanics -, and get died very early because you haven’t noticed that hungry icon next to it as well, which is consumed when you forget to eat anything and your life ends by starvation.
In Windbound you’re Kara, a woman who appears on an island after a shipwreck and needs to survive while finding out a way to get back to her tribe. At the very start, your main yet not directly told mission is to discover out all the Nautilus keys, some sort of sea shell attached to an altar in some high places above the stones mount, which is enlightened and emits light rays in the sky that was supposed to be seen from far distances, but it’s not always possible and I really don’t know if it’s Switch’s fault because of the low hardware power and poor draw distance capabilities or the game’s proposal. After it, the character needs to attach these shells to three altars found in a bigger stoned island, and finally watch a cutscene, be sent to a dark spiritual looking world, then set sail again through a water corridor with a lot of waves – and possibly containing enemies -, get a blessing using sea shards and get into a portal to proceed to the next chapter. And it repeats over and over.
The game and the world design encourage the player to explore a lot of the islands over the map, and this is really cool… at the beginning. You need to gather all kinds of material found in nature, supplies in order to maintain your hunger level quite low, to kill animals to get their meat – it’s better to cook it before eating -, skin to turn into leather and everything else. But don’t go looting everything you see, because your bag is limited, and only afterwards you’ll be able to expand it through a more advanced one. I must admit it’s a quite happy moment when you craft your first boat using grass cut on the first procedurally generated island, and at the first moments of sailing you’re going to be really eager to discover the world and to find out more about the gameplay, possibilities and all the stuff. But it gets annoying quicker than you’ve expected.
I bet you wouldn’t realize the second and the following chapters have the same loop of gameplay, where you need to find these shells again. And I wasn’t expecting it either, for real. Except for the fact that new fauna and flora is presented, besides a new sort of islands and items to gather that are going to be helpful to discover new recipes in your crafting menu, I got bored by the gameplay looping.
And you should not think this is going to be easy, because whatever difficult option you choose, there’s not much difference at all, except you’re only going to stop losing your bag and items stored on it. Some roguelite elements will be kept, the boat will disappear, the shells that you’ve found are going to be restored, and the game starts over again and possibly send you to the middle of the sea to die sinking – yes, there are a lot of bugs here. The sense of progression is totally destroyed because of these questionable decisions, since there’s a “story mode” designed for “players that want to enjoy the story only” and face a less challenging gameplay which actually doesn’t feel so true, despite it letting you to focus on survival elements.
Another bad news is you’ll catch yourself sailing a lot and being tired of seeing “too much water” – which initially was really cool -, because there’s no command to use the roar automatically. Something simple to do, but not applied here. Oh, you’re going to say to me “but it can be crafted into a mast to the boat and make use of the wind blow”, and it really is possible. But this veil depends on the wind direction, and you cannot use the row once the veil is built, resulting in your boat easily being stuck on high sea among the waves and the edges of the map. Got it? Bad game design choice. Do you want to row again? Not going to happen. So you got to dismantle the veil. Want to do that while sailing? There’s a glitch that won’t let you do this, and the character will simply get hurt and pushed to the sea as it was hit – at least when I’ve tested it. You’re really screwed if you were expecting something polished like The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker in terms of sailing. And there’s no minimap. You need to press the menu button every single time.
And I hadn’t talked about the crashes yet. Speaking of glitches, there’s a lot of them: some enemies can hit you after dying, it’s a common situation when the interface simply disappears, sometimes you’ll pause the game and it’ll get frozen, the save function doesn’t work, and so on.
But not everything is bad, because Windbound includes some brilliant and needed quality of life features that I personally like a lot. When you start to batch crafting anything, you can just keep standing in “crafting position” and keep doing that without the need to see the animation repeatedly. Also, there’s no need to see any picking animation when you’re looting items dropped from dead animal bodies or raw material found in nature.
Also, it’s still funny to notice that new tools recipes are added to your inventory once they’re needed to gather some material. For example, when you get your first interaction with a tree, an axe’s recipe is going to appear to you. Or on your first encounter with bamboo, you’ll receive every recipe related to bamboo. Although there are some quite annoying survival elements that got me mad. One that I most disliked was the food degradation. If you decide to store it for long periods, the food will lose its effectiveness, but there’s no visual indication of that, nothing that tells you how much time you have until your meal gets bad. Also, they brought up that annoying BOTW mechanic that breaks your weapons by using them. So you’re going to craft the same item a lot of times, and this can’t be changed even if you choose the Story difficulty.
Well, I was really eager to get to know Windbound since the first time I’ve seen it. But my expectations were very disappointing, because I wasn’t hoping for something too punitive or with these annoying roguelite elements, neither a gameplay loop that literally repeats the main task insanely. I didn’t want to finish the game, to be honest. Windbound really had potential. The songs are lovely and have a classical approach that let me feel the immersion at the most of the time, the controls are great and reminds me a lot of BOTW, the sailing was cool initially but the distances among the islands are too lengthy, the visuals are gorgeous plus have great performance, but the punitive game design decisions took everything from me – even on story difficult. Please stop the roguelike! Or let us choose deeper accessibility options.
In conclusion, I really wanted to write more about Windbound, but last time I played it, I died because of that monster that can turn invisible. The screen went black, the whole game froze and my save was deleted. Darn it. My 10 hours of gameplay has been lost. I won’t play again… or maybe someday.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Gameplay - 3/10
Graphics - 9/10
Sound - 10/10
Replay Value - 6/10
User Review( votes)
Windbound really had potential, but the mandatory roguelike elements and lot o bugs totally ruined it.