Windbound is a Promising Survival Game With a Zelda-Like Undercurrent
Windbound creates a wonderful and enjoyable survival environment but it needs a little bit more to refrain from becoming lackluster.
From the creators of cyberpunk tactical strategy game Satellite Reign, comes Windbound – a brand new indie IP created by the team at 5 Lives Studios. Windbound lets you take control of the main character called Kara, a lost warrior who has found herself abandoned on an island in the middle of nowhere following a strange storm. With nothing to her name, it is up to you to guide her to her clan again. To do that you must learn how to survive the dangerous waters, forage for food, craft weapons, and make use of whatever you can find on the island. But, of course, you’re not alone on these sandy shores so you must navigate and do what you can to reach the bewildering, tall shrines to gather more information.
For this preview, I was allowed around an hour of playtime split into two separate chapters: Chapter 1 – The Lost Islands and Chapter 4 – The Tipping Point. Even though this was a relatively short time to get to grips with Windbound, what I experienced so far was promising. Before jumping into the game, I had the choice of choosing what type of difficulty I wanted to play out: Survivalist or Storyteller. Survivalist was obviously a little harder meaning that if I died, I would be taken straight back to Chapter 1 again without any of the held items I required in my inventory. Storyteller is more about the Windbound story which would allow me to retain items I collected before death and also start from where I left off.
Washing up on the shore at the beginning of the game, I found myself without any proper weapons or resources other than a small knife but finding items scattered around the island was straightforward and easy to spot. Long, thick grass covers the area allowing you to cut and collect them for weaving things later on. To keep yourself from starving, berries can also be found, but not as frequently as the grass. Thankfully, that’s not the only food available as wild boars and other animals roam around which are simple enough to take down once you craft a handy grass sling loaded with some rocks. To get yourself hardier tools and weapons, you’ll need to collect items such as bone, leather, and additional ingredients found as you explore.
While checking out the island, it’s not hard to miss the giant shrine-like tower overlooking the land. There’s nothing complex involved with climbing it nor any puzzle elements to activate it, just a few steps up some rocks will see you to the top. Here you’ll find a shell that when pressed, hands you a Nantilus key where blue fragments of its power flow into the necklace Kara wears to go along with an oar for a boat.
I’m not overly sure at this stage what the fragments mean or what it is for, but hopefully, as you further into the game, this becomes more apparent. I think I would have liked to see a puzzle for the player to solve to obtain this relic as it just seemed like quite a simple objective to have this majestic tower planted on the island but then for the player to just climb it and receive a key without any kind of effort. Due to this being a preview, later on, this may very well happen and it’ll give the player some kind of substance. But I feel without it, the existence of the tower falls quite flat.
From the top of the tower, you’ll be able to cast your eyes across the waters to find another island close by but swimming there won’t be the best idea. Not only are the seas full of deadly creatures like Hookmouths, sea nettles, and other nasties, you’ll use a lot of health, especially so if there is a greater distance to swim across.
Thankfully, putting together a boat is made very simple. Once built, all you have to do is hop in and sail across to the other side. The second part of my mini-preview saw me at a similar island but this time it was a lot lusher, bigger, and contained more creatures like a huge Gorehorn to tackle. You’ll also find things to smash that have sea shards in them that act as a sort of currency in the game.
Crafting a bow will allow taking down animals to be that much easier and getting yourself some arrows is as simple as cutting down some sticks found poking out of the ground. There’s also plenty of bushes for you to lay in wait and hide in as you find the perfect time to take aim and bring a Gorehorn down. Their horn is valuable to you, but remember, these horned beasts are pretty strong so finding a way to maneuver out of its way is key.
Some other things like a fire can be built to cook meat from the creatures you’ve killed by chopping and gathering wood. It’s great for when your hunger meter is starting to wear thin. You’ll also have the ability to craft a spear, hammer, more powerful bows, and other useful items. One thing to remember is that your boat is a part of you — it’s the key to get from one place to another so keeping it in good shape is a priority. If you end up bashing it off of a rock or damaging it in some other way, you’ll have the opportunity to craft a tool that will allow you to repair it. As well as that, you can also customize it by making it bigger and more powerful whilst adding all sorts of bits and bobs to it.
Windbound is a very pretty game visually. The ocean and weather system are particularly striking and bold. Throughout my short preview, I certainly could see a few similarities between Windbound and the Nintendo classic The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker mixed in with the survival and roguelike gameplay of Don’t Starve, but I have yet to see if this game holds up as well.
So far, I’ve enjoyed my time with Windbound but I do have some concerns about its longevity to keep players interested and engaged as you can probably only do so much crafting and climbing mundane shrine-like towers for so long before wanting something with more bang for the buck. Still, I will say is that it holds a lot of promise. I’m looking forward to seeing what the full game can offer me when it releases on August 28, 2020, for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.