Windbound Review (Nintendo Switch)

Published on August 28th, 2020 by Gervais D.

Windbound Review (Nintendo Switch)

Windbound aims to take the survival genre in a new direction, mixing exploration, crafting, boat building, and nomadic hunting with rogue-like elements. These combinations make for an intriguing take, but can the gameplay deliver enough to maintain interest?

Story

Shipwrecked and separated from her tribe, Kara finds herself on The Forbidden Islands. She will have to use any means of survival to make it back to her tribe in one piece, and for her to do that, she must fight, gather, craft, and most importantly, satisfy her hunger by eating.

Windbound is definitely not a story-driven game. It focuses more on gameplay and the challenges that come with it. There is lore to uncover while progressing through the game, but it doesn’t make a significant impact and can often go ignored.

Gameplay

Stranded on an unknown island, you must find any means of survival by scavenging food and materials, crafting items, and sailing the seas to uncover new areas. Foraging the land is always relaxing, but upon encountering a foe, caution must be taken.

Windbound Gameplay Loop
You’re going to see this regularly during the game.

Even though the game is split into several chapters, the gameplay formula does not drastically change. You’ll be stuck in a loop attempting to accomplish the same primary objective throughout the game. The procedurally generated map does help, but it doesn’t completely break this repetitive circle. It’s a bit disappointing because there was room for many ideas to improve the flow of the game.

Difficulty

The game has two difficulty modes — survival and story. Survival takes the game to the extreme while story mode caters to casual players who may prefer to have smoother sailing with the challenges ahead. What sets them apart from each other is how story mode retains chapter progress, prevents the loss of any acquired items (in your held item inventory, at least), and has slightly easier combat. The survival mode resets you back square one upon death, making every action made critical for the sake of survival.

As islands are procedurally generated, they’re designed to offer a somewhat new experience with each encounter. Regardless of that, it doesn’t feel too different and can still become repetitive even though it’s better than exploring the same map layouts after each death. Besides that, it excels in replayability when challenging oneself to overcome the hurdles it proposes. If it gets too tough, the Story difficulty breaks the chain and drastically improves the speed of progression. This is because of the likelihood of possessing all of the necessary materials in order to focus on the main objective.

Survival Of The Fittest

Thrown into the unforgiving world, Windbound demands that you make survival your best friend. You must search the environment for materials and food. Tools must be crafted to extract resources from the land. Beasts must be subdued and hunger must be conquered. Managing your HP and Stamina, you must overcome all of the challenges tossed at you.

Neglecting the consumption of food makes you hungry and will eventually eat away at your max stamina. This can be remedied by foraging edibles, cooking meat for a meal, and interacting with specific objects that increase your maximum HP/Stamina. Stamina plays a crucial role in Windbound, and because hunger persistently reduces your maximum stamina, food is indispensable. As simple as it sounds, food doesn’t stay fresh forever; it will degrade over time, making you put thought into when to slay foes and store consumables.

Attacking a beast with the spear in Windbound
This is surely going to hurt.

Combat gradually becomes tougher the further you get and is often exhilarating when engaging an enemy in battle for the first time. The attack patterns of enemies must be observed to claim the advantage during battle. Each foe moves and attacks in a different manner. Learning their movement sand patterns makes fighting them significantly easier with the proper gear. Viable weaponry must be crafted and used efficiently to deal adequate damage, or you might as well be staring death in the eye.

Types of Weaponry

Windbound has several types of weapons to help demonstrate who is on top of the food chain. The variations and ammo types are commendable. The game can be played with your favorite throughout the story; however, using both combat and ranged weapons would help you get the most out of the game. The controls are ever so comfortable too. Quickly swapping between weapons comes naturally after getting accustomed to the gameplay.

All of the weapons in the game are simple to use. Motion control may have helped with aiming on the console, but it doesn’t become a nuisance to shift the right analog stick considering you’ll be using it often to position the camera angle for the 3D environment. That and enemies lack the range of motion to be good at dodging after learning their patterns.

Bow and arrow in Windbound
Using one of the bow and arrow in Windbound.

Weapons don’t come without their durability or limitations. Ammo must continuously be obtained or crafted for ranged weapons that require their usage; melee weapons eventually break. Each weapon has its own benefits and disadvantages, and it’s up to you to figure out which best suits your playstyle. This adds to the game’s realistic aspect and the challenges that accompany it.

Beast Variety

The game lacks a wide range of enemies. Familiar faces will frequently be seen but usually in scarce amounts, making it difficult to reap the rewards. The tougher enemies will unveil themselves the deeper you get in the story. The game would have greatly benefited from a larger number of enemies, possibly rotating randomly to fit with the rogue-like elements seen in the game.

Soaring Through The Seas

The sea itself offers its own difficulties. Once you’ve built a boat, you can traverse the seas to confront the various challenges they contain. As the game progresses, you’ll need to make upgrades to your boat to survive the fearsome waves, the dwelling creatures, and numerous rocks within the water. Careful observation is imperative in looking out for nearby islands. Mastering the wind is also essential for safe travels throughout the ocean. Not knowing how to properly maneuver your boat when waves get rough and the wind isn’t in your favor can be detrimental.

Sailing in Windbound
It’s important to always be on the lookout for land.

Upgrading your boat may not seem like a simple task, but it’s as easy as finding the materials necessary to build it. You’ll have to scan the lands for the required materials, and while one island may have what you’re looking for, it may not be sufficient. That means you may have to further explore and discover new lands to scavenge more materials to build up the best boat you’re capable of at the time. It sounds laborious, but that’s where the enjoyment resides. People who love exploring, gathering materials, and hunting will find a place for Windbound in their heart.

Sailing can be hard in Windbound
Losing parts of your boat can make traversing the seas more difficult.

The game does an excellent job of offering an extraordinary sailing experience. It’s easy to tell that the developers tried to make Windbound’s sailing feel as realistic as possible, and it achieves that goal in comparison to a majority of other adventuring games on the market. Various obstacles affect how well you traverse the waters and it can become frustrating at times; however, beating the odds leaves behind that fine taste of accomplishment.

Blessings

At the end of each chapter, you’re given the option to choose between two Blessings that can be bestowed upon Kara, the main protagonist. These blessings can only be set one at a time and they improve her performance when setting out into the world. Some of these improvements include inflicting the bleed status on enemies to constantly lower their HP for a set timeframe and reducing stamina usage while sprinting or swimming. These blessings aren’t necessarily remarkably helpful during the story mode difficulty, but can be the whole world of difference in the game’s tougher survival difficulty.

Graphics and Performance

Although the opening cutscene’s animation quality is poor, Windbound is mostly made up of beautiful visuals and vivid colors. The completion of each chapter rewards you with stunning yet mysterious tribe-like artwork, but that may be the most distinctive sight you come across in the game. There aren’t many unique sceneries to appreciate other than what’s been put on repeat.

Windbound Gameplay
Movement in Windbound feels good.

Aside from its long opening loading screen, the game runs smoothly throughout the majority of the game. There is rarely any lag, a possibly rare sight for an open-world game with 3D environments. While a large portion of the game tries to feel as realistic as possible, this cannot be said when falling off of the boat. It looks like it was amateurly implemented and can sometimes even form into a glitch where the protagonist levitates while sailing.

Soundtrack

The game’s soundtrack consists of tunes that are soothing to the ear and music that gears you up for battle. It’s fitting for the type of game Windbound is, and works great for when it is played. There are times when the game leaves you with moments of silence. It isn’t too bad, but calming tunes played at those times may have added more charm to the gameplay.

Conclusion

Windbound delivers an exceptionally great yet seemingly realistic sailing experience with challenging survival gameplay that also caters to casual gamers. It feels more worthwhile to challenge yourself with its survival difficulty, and shouldn’t cross 10 hours of gameplay for a casual playthrough. Unfortunately, it falls victim to a repetitive gameplay loop. Despite its minor graphical issues, the game had opportunity for a lot of improvements, but failed on that aspect, making Windbound feel more like a prototype rather than a full game.

Windbound gets a 6.5/10.

Gervais D.

About Gervais D.

Gervais is a Nintendo fan who loves to play a good game. His first owned Nintendo console was the NES, and he currently owns a blue 3DS XL.