Review: Windbound (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • Google Stadia

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Windbound
Format: PSN (906.5 MB)
Release Date: August 28, 2020
Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: 5 Lives Studios
Original MSRP: $29.99 (USD)
ESRB Rating: E10+
A code for the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
One of my surprisingly favorite moments while playing The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild a few years ago was finding a somewhat hidden island where Link was stripped of all his belongings and had to survive with next to nothing. I say “surprisingly favorite” because I am not a fan of survival games, but I’d like to believe that this gameplay enticed me, because the role-playing game fan in me enjoyed the concept of taking a character from nothing to something great in the purest respect.

That’s a concept that Windbound embraces. While the similarities to Breath of the Wild and even Windwaker are worn on the outside, Windbound takes that deserted island concept and makes an entire game out of it (the BOTW version didn’t allow you to save, so you had to complete it in one sitting).

After being swept off a small raft during a violent storm, Kara is washed ashore onto a small island. That’s where you take over. With nary a prelude to indicate your purpose, save for a few survival tutorials, you begin your journey to simply survive by living off the land.

I found it amusing how my own morals as a player changed throughout the game. Whereas my initial few hours wandering the nearby islands allowed me to survive by collecting berries and leaving the native life (consisting of boars and squirrel-like creatures) alone, desperation took over when berries were simply not enough, and I had to hunt and fish to keep my energy levels up.

Windbound has multiple difficulty levels for every play style. I’m a softy and prefer not to lose everything when my character dies, but the higher difficulties are less merciful, perfect for those who really enjoy the high survival challenge. I found a happy middle ground and did my best to survive, while still enjoying that this was a video game where the penalty wasn’t permanent if I made a mistake.

Windbound isn’t purposefully difficult in any case, and there is a very strong sense of serenity as you explore the islands and uncover their mystical secrets. But, while getting from place to place can be accomplished with a small craft, exploring further will require some resource management in order to develop better equipment for exploration and survival. And it’s this Zelda style of gaming that kept me coming back for more.

The crafting system is easy to learn, but complex enough to make you work for certain items. At no point did I feel frustrated, and although Windbound doesn’t hold your hand through its adventure, its tutorials are clear enough and always explain what a new item does and how to create it.

Surviving is also more than just eating, as not all native life is passive, and you will need to defend yourself. Melee and range weapons can be created early on and used for both hunting and self-defense.

Overall, Windbound‘s gameplay is pretty solid, but I did find some glitching in both the animation and collision detection when climbing, where Kara appeared to grasp the edge to a cliff, only to glitch away from it and fall to her death. Other bugs didn’t affect gameplay but were distracting. Often, Kara’s running animation would simply not kick in, so she would slide for a few seconds, and I had to stop running in order for her to return to the appropriate motion; otherwise, she’d slide around the entire time.

Visuals:
Apart from the glitches I mentioned above, Windbound is a beautiful game. Basking in its minimalism, it shares more in common with the aforementioned Wind Waker and Breath of the Wild, wearing its simplicity with pride and choosing to relax the senses with sound and color, as opposed to overheating your console with ray-tracing and hi-def textures.

The result is a visually-solid game that evokes a sense of serenity while not feeling dates or retro in any way.

Audio:
Most of Windbound‘s atmosphere is created by the sound design that relies heavily on natural sound effects and little on music and fanfare. The wonderful blend of visual and sound is why this is a perfect game to escape with.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is single-player only, with no online component.

Conclusion:
I chose to review Windbound because I wanted to break from my comfort zone. I’m not into survival games, but I found myself enticed by that small island on BOTW. So, this seemed like a perfect evolution for my understanding of this genre.

Aside from some minor visual issues, this game opened up a new interest in my gaming pallet. I’m not quite ready to jump into The Forest just yet. but I now have a soft spot for these more serene survival games, and I have Windbound to thank for that.

Score:
8.0

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

Twitter Digg Delicious Stumbleupon Technorati Facebook