Windbound Review – This Harsh Survival Game Might Be Beautiful, But It Misses The Mark In Terms Of Gameplay

Windbound Review – This Harsh Survival Game Might Be Beautiful, But It Misses The Mark In Terms Of Gameplay
Credit: 5 Lives via YouTube

Windbound took me by surprise. As a fan of Breath of the Wild, I picked up the game expecting something similar. What I was met with was a surprisingly harsh survival game, backed by one of the best soundtracks I’ve heard in a game this year.

The gameplay is focused on survival rather than puzzle-solving and quests. You cut down trees, hunt animals, and have to stay warm. There are two modes to play – the Survivalist mode (I recommend this mode) and the Storyteller mode. Pick Survivalist. If you die, that’s it. You’re back to the start.

This added element of risk is what makes the game so compelling (for a while, more on that in a moment.) As you explore islands on your boats, each randomly-generated area has new surprises, challenges, and monsters to defeat. You never really know what you’re going to get. It feels like a harsh rogue-like spaced out with peaceful sailing scenes, violin music flowing in the background.

I was amazed at how harsh the world of Windbound actually is. You need to constantly manage your stamina bar – and while this is sometimes frustrating in survival games, Windbound gets the balance correct.

There is this constant war between risk and reward. Eventually, you will need to make land and hunt animals, or you’ll simply collapse due to exhaustion. I can see why some reviewers dislike this part of the game, but it was fine for me.

And it’s not just the environment and its inhabitants out to get you. Sailing a ship around cluttered tropical waters is no easy task, and one mistake and your ship can run aground, leaving you stranded at sea. Yes. There are sharks. The music changes from soft violins to a steady drumbeat…and wow, the game is suddenly horrifying.

The boat exploration is by far the best part of Windbound, you can scale up your boat with better sails and rigging as you progress

All that being said, there are some problems with the game that become more obvious over the course of the game. The controls aren’t fantastic – several reviews have pointed out the problems with the lock-on system. Switching between multiple enemies is clunky. With a bit of experience, you can work around this, but it’s not straightforward.

Windbound is also fairly formulaic. Each chapter players out with the same steps each time, essentially flicking switching from island to island. I can imagine that after a few cheesy deaths, progressing through the game might become tiresome.

Plus, that’s before I even address the problems with content. Despite the game’s decent visuals and incredible soundtrack, most of the islands feel quite…barren. Beyond the repetitive monsters which get old after a few chapters, there isn’t much to be found. Sure, dotted around are secret chests, but there is no challenge to them. You simply walk up and open them.

In truth, Windbound doesn’t quite live up to the supposed hype surrounding the game. It’s not the biggest launch of the year, and if you can look past some of the problems with the game it’s still an enjoyable experience.