Review: Windbound

Go on an adventure and sail across the sea to discover different islands and their secrets to open the way to new secrets. In Windbound you do it all and it's not as mysterious as it seems.

In Windbound you take on the role of Kara. You wake up on the coast of an island and from here the game passes the baton to you. You don't really know what it's about yet and you are mainly encouraged to explore. As you play, the game explains to you that you can craft objects. While playing you unlock new blueprints by, for example, picking up new objects. Your ultimate goal is to find islands with towers to activate the crystals. These crystals activate your passage to the next chapter.

The game has about 5 chapters and each chapter is roughly the same. A large sea with islands in it. There are only three islands with a crystal tower. The remaining islands are optional to explore. The game mainly encourages you to explore because there are no markers that tell you where to go (although it's not very difficult to figure it out).

In terms of appearance, the game may remind you of games like Breath of the Wild or Windwaker. The comparisons remain here, although the game is more like Windwaker than Breath of the Wild, except for the same drawing style. Windbound is really a survival discovery game and for the first few hours it feels very Sea of Thieves (in a good way). You want to explore, you want to visit every island to know what there is to find.

Out and about

Windbound focuses very well on discovering as you are told as little as possible. In the first chapter you already see a new island on the horizon that you can sail to as soon as you have crafted your first vessel. In the following chapters, as the areas get slightly larger, this is no longer the case. Then you really have to sail a bit before you encounter another piece of land.

You play completely in your own way within certain frameworks. You can craft more and more new things and this can vary between parts for your ship, weapons, food and other useful crafts for survival such as tools and fire to cook meat or dry leather. Often you don't have enough materials to craft everything you could want by visiting the required islands. So do you want to make as much as possible to make your entire trip as optimal as possible? Then it is almost necessary to enter the optional pieces of land as well.

This is very enjoyable to do, but especially for the first two hours. Then you quickly see through the formula of the game. Every island per chapter contains a kind of the same. You won't make a brand new discovery on the fourth island within the same chapter if you've already dug through the first three. Same materials, same samples.

Totally relaxed

On the one hand, I thought this was a shame, because the urge for something new remains great when you play a game that is very committed to discovering the unknown. On the other hand, I was able to make peace with it fairly quickly. I took a little more time to thoroughly comb through each island and calmed my urge for something new. This made the game itself come into its own, completely against my expectations. I started to appreciate it better for what it was and better divide my time into the opportunities that were offered to me.

You have a limited inventory and it fills up very early. Because of this you have to get creative quickly and luckily the game offers you this creativity. You will soon be given the option to increase your inventory slightly. If you want to lift it further, you are already forced to equip your ship with a pot to store things. That's enough for a while. It continues to be a puzzle, but in the second and third chapters your options are quickly expanded.

You will again get new materials and learn to make new parts for your ship. From just a canoe you can now suddenly make fleets with hulls on the sides. You can keep it here with a simple raft with a hull on each side, but you can also expand it further. Make your ship longer or wider. This also gives you much more space to store and edit things. Suddenly it is no longer a simple means of transport, but a real small home port. Chests to store things, a rack to hang an extra bag and a fire to cook on.

Survive

The fun doesn't last long in Windbound, because being stranded on unknown islands means being stranded without a fixed society. You have to look for food yourself because you have a stamina bar that slowly depletes. The core gameplay loop is therefore mainly based on discovering, expanding and maintaining your health for the first few hours. You can pick berries and eat mushrooms, but meat is the best filling. Craft weapons and hunt wild life. The stronger the monster, the better the meat.

Unfortunately, you can't start collecting meat for the rest of your adventure in the beginning. Foods spoil over time, even when cooked. It therefore remains a continuous combination of discovering, building and maintaining yourself. Personally, I didn't like this as my urge to explore was always inhibited by the hunger or the empty bar that I kept thinking about. Fortunately, it is easy to arrange in practice once you have a good feeling about what you can and cannot do.

Unfortunately, not everything went completely smoothly. During my playthrough I encountered several errors. Wild beasts hovering over the island in a kind of T-pose, freezing screens and a single game crash. This was on release day, so let's hope these bugs are ironed out fairly smoothly.

Verdict

Windbound is a fairly short voyage of discovery where you mainly have the sail in your own hands. You determine the course yourself and are completely free to determine your own pace through the game. The game offers just enough secrets and new discoveries to carry the urge to explore with each chapter, and furthermore offers a soothing and enjoyable experience that mainly revolves around building out your ship and sailing calmly across the seas while a soothing melody cradles you over the waves. . At first it wasn't exactly the game I had prepared for, but in the end I'm happy with where I'm stranded.

 

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