A game that has Zelda amongst its inspirations with screenshots that look like a cuter version of Skyrim seems as if it can't possibly lose. Luckily, I'm not a betting man as I would have lost a fair amount on this one.
Adventure, crafting, exploration, and combat; if you give me a game with those four things in it, I'll almost definitely count the days until it releases. As games that mash these glorious aspects together have become more popular, more of them have released as a result which is both good and bad. Unfortunately, Windscape falls a bit more into the bad side than good.
Windscape starts off as a simple enough game. You play as an ordinary girl named Ida performing random fetch and delivery quests around the kingdom. That all changes when the King learns that you're immune to the mind control of a vicious foe; thanks for throwing me into that situation in the first place, buddy! This means that you're clearly special so it's up to you to save the world.
Windscape's campaign is mostly made up of running around, foraging supplies, and battling enemies as you travel between objectives. Its world is split into areas and each has a few objectives before you can face off against its boss and progress to the next. Most areas have lots of extra space so you can go out of your way to explore for treasures and forage for goodies. As you progress through an area, you'll come across workshops and craft healing items and equipment with improved weapons, armor, or magic added in each area.
Foraging is incredibly simple as you merely walk up to an item, hit the Y button, and let the animation do the work. I was surprised at first that it lets you cancel out of foraging but quickly discovered that it's for when enemies show up and start hitting you. Combat is almost as simple as you can block, hit enemies, charge your attack, and you'll almost definitely spend the majority of your time running around while trying to dodge. Probably the most positive thing I can say about Windscape is that you can run in any direction and when I discovered that, it was a game changer. My review score would be much lower if this wasn't implemented as well.
Windscape's gameplay loop is dull at best and often painfully tedious. Areas are so large that you'll have to do a lot of running and you run by pressing the left Joy-Con stick in and holding it or holding down the L button. The joystick is incredibly unpredictable and I stopped running frequently even when I used my Xbox One controller. The L button worked far better but with the Joy-Cons attached to the console, it caused me to develop a bit of a claw that didn't fully relax until a day after I was done playing.
Foraging isn't fun either and in most areas, you'll quickly find all of the items that you need to craft the new equipment so you'll just run past them after that. In the more expansive areas, I found myself getting lost frequently since there's no way to mark custom waypoints. The quest location circle was frequently impossible to find or didn't even update to the new location thus making it worthless most of the time. This led to lots of running around aimlessly while trying to find what to do next and fighting the same enemies over and over. Enemies drop foraging items and coins but there's no experience or leveling system so combat quickly turns to a slog.
Additionally, the stats aren't balanced between areas. In one area, you'll take a substantial amount of damage and enemies will require lots of hits even with the best equipment while other areas let you cut through foes like butter without even having to block. There were enemies in the last level that did one point of damage out of 175 after I crafted the best armor in the game.
Windscape has boss battles that are potentially epic, combat that relies on various types of damage (such as bashing, bladed, fire, ice, and piercing), and loads of items to craft with but it generally falls short and simply feels like it was never fully completed. More specifically, the ending is one of the most lackluster endings that I've ever seen in any form of media and combat mostly involves hitting enemies a couple of times then blocking or running around them in circles while slashing away.
The last area (which is probably the biggest) doesn't even have a map. Worst than that, you can't forage to craft healing items in most spots and the shopkeeper is mysteriously missing from at least 2 major save points before bosses (including the final boss) as well as an entire area. This means that if you use all of your healing items, you'll have to run your butt off back to the incredibly slow airship and fly it to an area with a shopkeeper then go all the way back to where you were before. That's at least a 10 minute process when you're at the save point right before the bosses which makes me wonder if there were supposed to be forage items for crafting improved healing items in later areas since you only have the same 2 nearly identical recipes for food throughout the entire game.
In the end, at least Windscape's graphics are fairly snazzy and you get a super-cool shield to pair with your weapons when you craft them. The maintenance wrench actually has moving parts and the shield that it comes with has a giant gear around it that moves in sync with the wrench. If the entire game had that level of love and finesse, it could have been a real gem.
- + Numerous varied environments
- + The animations for the maintenance wrench and its shield are very cool
- - Simply doesn't feel complete
- - Combat is repetitive, dull, and lacks any need for strategy
- - No fast travel or custom map waypoints