by Quinn Levandoski
reviewed on PC
Keeping it Simple
Let me be very clear from the beginning of this review that if you’re someone with experience playing RPGs and are looking for something with depth or complexity in either narrative or gameplay this game is not for you. If you’re thinking of picking this up because you love Breath of the Wild or various titles in The Elder Scrolls franchise you’ll most likely find your itch left unscratched. Windscape is not the next big, breathing RPG world that’s going to swallow dozens of hours of your life. You won’t spend years exploring every nook and cranny. You probably won’t log handfuls of playthroughs trying out different weapon types and strategies. That isn’t to say that I don’t like it though, I just think that it’s a great game for a very specific audience. With its simple graphics, objectives, and combat, Windscape is a perfect “My First RPG” that I think will be great for young gamers or those not experienced enough with games to dig into something as deep, complex, and demanding as the big boys on the open-world RPG block.
Windscape is a relaxing game. In this bright fantasy world, islands float in the sky, and biomes are filled with popping colors and calming topography. Fittingly, it’s a relaxing endeavor to play Ida, our rosy-haired protagonist, as she journeys around running errands, solving basic puzzles, and beating back a variety of enemies. Simplicity permeates it all. Places in the world are clearly marked and easy to find. You aren’t going to accidentally wander into the wrong part of the map and be killed, and the different regions straddle the line between small and large. You can gather materials to craft via an incredibly straightforward and modestly-sized crafting/cooking system. Combat consists of little more than basic attacks, blocks, and moving out of the way of enemy strikes. It really is all that simple and, while that may be a turn off for some, I found my time with Windscape to be a satisfyingly relaxing way to zone out a bit.
Rough Around the Edges
That isn’t to say it’s without flaws, though. While the character models and animations benefit from minimalistic simplicity, for example, they’re also prone to glitching out. Fairly frequently NPCs would be stuck running into walls (or me), then shift and glide forwards alone their pre-determined path. Early in the game, a man was running around with a very long torso and baby-sized legs (which, I’ll admit, was hilarious). A few times projectile-firing enemies were able to shoot at me through solid objects (trees, mostly). These types of issues aren’t game-breaking, but they are annoying. I’d expect them in a pre-release title, but they’re off-putting in a final release. Overall Windscape is an impressive feat for its lone, single developer, but being short-handed doesn’t excuse shortcomings.
I had a few other issues with the combat as well, though not with the simplicity of its design. First, it’s strange that enemies make no movement noise. I thought it was a glitch, but even after restarting twice it’s still the case. They’ll make one repeated noise on attack, but that’s it. That means it’s hard to know when a hostile is coming after you. In areas with enemies, there were a few times where I’d start being damages, only to turn around and see a wolf right behind me going to town chomping. Some ambient noise would go a long way to add a bit more personality and player indicators to combat. Enemy AI is also sorely lacking. Again, I know that smaller-scale games aren’t necessarily going to have tactically brilliant enemies, but the slider is pushed a bit too far in the opposite direction for my liking. Enemies only advance straight towards the player and attack, and that’s it (though some attack in different ways).
Love it for What it Is.
Being disappointed by Windscape’s lack of deeply strategic combat or roleplaying options is a bit like being upset that The Cat in the Hat’s sentence structures don’t rival Anna Karenina’s. And, just as with our furry friend, Windscape’s simplicity doesn’t mean that there’s only fun to be had for beginners, just that they’re more likely to appreciate the experience for what it is. Windscape absolutely has flaws. Yes, it’s slow, and I wish some of the environments were more interesting to walk through. There are some janky animations and ugly models. No, the end-of-the-world narrative isn’t emotional or complex. Along with those flaws, though, is a game with a pretty world, nice music, and combat with a decent enough core to engage those not wanting to wrestle with weapon switches, parrying, cooldowns, or any other more advanced combat mechanics commonly found in similar games. While I occasionally found myself frustrated with my time in Windscape, I found myself relaxed and entertained more often than I wasn’t, and that’s all a game like this really needs to achieve.
Pleasing minimalistic graphics and color, relaxing atmosphere and gameplay, uncomplicated but effective crafting and combat.
Dull enemy combat behavior, animation and gameplay glitches, will be to slow and straightforward for some.