Windscape (Switch) Review

Game: Windscape (version 1.0.0)
System: Nintendo Switch
Developer: Magic Sandbox
Publisher: Headup Games
Age Rating: 7+ (UK & EU) | T (US)
Price: £15.99 | €19,99| $19.99
Release Date: 27th March 2019
Also Available On: Steam, Xbox One & PS4

Review Code kindly provided by Headup Games

Time for adventure!

On a peaceful family farm, floating high in the sky on Evergreen island; a young girl named Ida is about to embark on a life-changing adventure.

What starts out as a simple delivery, turns into a quest to save the island from the forces of evil – good luck Ida!

Screenshot - king

Gameplay & Controls

Windscape is a first-person action-adventure RPG, with multiple game mechanics seen in open world adventure games.

Stew glorious stew…

Before going out into the wild; Ida must first make some stew for her family. The task itself is straight forward, introducing players to the collecting and cooking aspects of Windscape. Stew is a vital aspect of the game, as it’s the main source of healing Ida when injured.

Screenshot - totem
Totems save the game and heal Ida when near them – weird looking but very useful!

The fun really begins when you leave the farm – there’s plenty of things to see and do. There are fields to roam, mines to explore, islands to fly to, and with the right tools/items; you can chop some trees, mine for ore, forge weapons, create potions, and even develop magic abilities to aid you in your adventure.

There are of course dangers to be wary of – so you have to keep an eye out for attackers!  You start with a wooden club (a nice gift from Ida’s Father), but later in the game; can use swords and shields, maces/hammers, bows (with unlimited arrows), and a number of magic attacks (such as fire and ice).

Some enemies are weak against certain weapons, so depending on what you are fighting; a sword may deal more damage than a blast of fire, or a whack from a hammer!

Screenshot - fire vs floating skull
To burn, or not to burn; that is the question

To battle we go!

Although Ida fights enemies on her journey, they don’t plague the world and their behaviour is rather predictable – some enemies do take a fair bit of health off Ida mind! It’s not too difficult to work out their attack and movement patterns, but patience and persistence is key against the larger foes. 

The battle system itself is rather simplistic; you can charge up an attack to do more damage with one hit, or use multiple weaker attacks to slowly chip away at an enemy’s health. Timing is important, as charging an attack leaves you open to hits.

Inexperienced gamers should be alright with the combat elements of Windscape and could serve as a nice introduction to the genre.

The wider world

Although you start off on Evergreen island, eventually you can fly an airship to the other islands (with their own unique environments/terrains). It keeps the experience interesting and changes things up quite a bit. 

Screenshot - island
Who needs a Loftwing when you have an airship!

Windscape feels like an open world game due to some of it’s mechanics, but it’s a lot smaller and more restricted than games like Breath of the Wild or Skyrim. Typically you have to speak to specific people in a set order, or the game won’t let you fulfil a quest. Example: You make stew in the beginning of the game, but until you tell the mother, the father won’t recognise that you have completed the task (even though the mother just refers you to the father).

Quests that force you to talk to a specific character when the task has been done, unfortunately spoils the flow of the game, and results in less freedom for the player when it comes to carrying out quests. It’s not a big deal if you go along the intended path the creator intended, but if you like to wander off and explore; it can lead to some confusing moments.

A lone adventurer 

Windscape is a single player experience with no multiplayer functionality; adventures are great fun with friends, but lone adventures can feel more personal – a lot like most Zelda games in that regard. Working alongside a friend through a game though, can have it’s benefits, “two brains are better than one”. 😛

screenshot - desert ruins
Where is Frank when I need him? My Maaki Desert symbol reading is a little rusty.

Windscape uses the joy-cons and has pro-controller support, but no touch screen functionality. Navigating the title screen and the inventory,etc is done by sliding an arrow around. Although you can change the arrow’s speed; it feels rather sluggish when selecting items – touch screen would of been great for the menus.

Graphics, Designs & Soundtrack

Where most modern games opt for smooth curves and textures, Windscape goes for a more simplistic, low-poly pointed look. It certainly has a charm about it; with certain environments looking brilliant, and a number of characters looking interesting – but there are some rather creepy characters (them not blinking doesn’t help matters lol).

screenshot - mill
Low-poly and simplistic, but has a charm that really shines through at times.

The soundtrack works nicely with the environments; adding a gentleness to some areas, or an eerie atmosphere to others – makes exploring all the more enjoyable/interesting. 😀

Additional Comments

When it comes to the dialogue of the characters; it’s very limited and most will just say the same thing over and over again. Some characters that are key to a quest, will also say some useless words to you until it’s the right time (in the quest) to speak to them. It can create some very confusing moments if you unknowingly stray from the intended path – some hints in the text would help alleviate confusion.

The AI isn’t very intelligent; some characters will walk into corners for no reason at all – perhaps they’re being punished for something? (lol)

screenshot - what's so great about that corner?
Capital punishment in Evergreen: Go to the naughty corner and think about what you’ve done!

The (regular) price of Windscape is the same on both Steam and Switch (which is great to see), but for £15.99; some gamers will likely expect a more refined experience. The Steam version seems to receive updates/patches, so hopefully the Switch version will also receive patches in the future.

Overall Opinion

My opinion and feeling of Windscape has been a bit of a roller coaster ride; started off steadily, then went rather high, then plummeted, leveled off, but then was thrown some highs and lows as I continued along.

The good

Surprisingly I quite liked the simple AI; made things a little different and entertaining in someways, when compared to other games. The limitations did make some battles feel rather repetitive, but I didn’t mind that and it went with the easy-going nature of the game – can’t see that being a plus for everyone though.

I really like the graphical style and the simplicity of everything. It has a nice, rather unusual charm to it’s low-poly design and the colours help bring the world alive. The style choice gives the game it’s own identity – I think it’s great. 😀

I also enjoyed the soundtrack; worked brilliantly at adding emotion to the game and worked well with the easy-going, laid-back feeling the game has.

Being a fan of The Legend of Zelda game series; elements that looked/felt similar to something from a LoZ game, caught my attention and added to the enjoyment of the game.

screenshot - door
Locked doors like this always make me think of LoZ 😀

The bad

Unfortunately, the story and dialogue falls short in having the same charm as the graphics and music. They often seem to exist out of necessity, adding little personality or purpose to most of the characters. Ida’s parents (as well as other NPCs) sound rather rigid/cold and the story doesn’t feel particularly significant. Neither of which affects the actual gameplay, but if you like adventure games for the story/characters; Windscape would likely fall short with it’s entertainment value.

A minor negative in my view: On the loading screen there is no visual indication that it is still loading (it only has a still logo image in the corner). Unless you can hear background music, you can’t always tell that it is still loading. There were times where I wondered if it had crashed or not, but that may of just been me being impatient. 😛

The confusing

In the Maaki Desert I unknowingly skipped ahead in the quests, and because I hadn’t spoken to specific characters in the set order; nothing was happening. I saved the prisoners and the Elder, but that quest wouldn’t end. I went and completed the temple nearby; the pyramid key didn’t appear. I then went exploring to see if I had missed something and found two babbling characters along the way. So no clues to what to do and the quest was still saying escape with the Elder – it was very confusing.

Eventually I found the person I was supposed to speak to; got directed to one of the babbling characters, who passed me to the other babbling character, who then told me to find the elder. So I went back and saved the prisoners again. This time I was able to “escape with” the Elder, only to be told to meet him at his house…So I went all the way back across the desert again, to his house, for him to tell me to get the key for the pyramid (thankfully I didn’t have to do the temple again). It was very confusing and running across the desert repeatedly wasn’t fun – it reminded me of sailing across the Great Sea in Wind Waker (without the speed sail).

Thankfully I did manage to finish the Maaki Desert segment, but the quest to save the Elder activated again before finishing the area – there was one Elder in the house and one locked away; he was in two places at once! 😮

A game that allows freedom to explore and speak to who ever, should really be coded/designed to take the freedom into account when completing quests – the fact that Windscape doesn’t seem to, can unfortunately make things rather confusing.

Final thoughts

When the (metaphoric) roller coaster ride came to an end; I walked away feeling rather unsure at first. There was a point in the game where I liked it a lot, but the game’s quality isn’t consistent enough throughout for that to be the overall feeling – which is a great shame.

While saying that, the game was designed by a single person, and for one person to take on such a project is very ambitious and no easy feat! With some more work and refinement, Windscape could be a great adventure game for those looking for a little quirky world to explore and lose themselves in (but don’t want anything overly complex).

Windscape could receive updates in the future, so there is every chance of it improving. As it currently stands though; I like Windscape and think the creator has done brilliantly well in creating a simple yet interesting world to explore. I also think the soundtrack’s composer did well in creating music that works great with the environments and style of the game. However, I do feel that overall it falls short of it’s full potential unfortunately.

Would I recommend Windscape?

screenshot - merchant
Got a selection of good things on sale, stranger.

It’s a difficult one to recommend at it’s current price and overall quality. I do like Windscape and I really want to recommend the game, it has such potential to be a great little gem of an adventure game…but version 1.0.0 doesn’t seem to have that level of quality unfortunately.

If it goes on sale, or updates are released to improve it’s quality; I would definitely recommend giving Windscape a chance – especially if you are looking for a more simplistic, laid-back adventure/exploration game, or looking to dip your toes into an open-world-like video game. 😀

I like it!

Game Trailer

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