Review: Windscape – A Fun, Whimsical RPG Lacking Polish

When The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released in 2017, it drew in countless fans and gamers with its enrapturing, colorful world. Since then, a lot of games have tried to recreate or borrow inspiration from Breath of the Wild. The adventure RPG Windscape is one of those games, and while it succeeds in creating bright and beautiful environments, many other aspects of the game fall short.

In Windscape, you play as Ida, the daughter of farmers living on the countryside. The islands that float in the air around Windscape start falling from the sky. An ancient evil is the cause of this, and it’s up to Ida to investigate and restore balance to her homeland.  Your quest will take you far and wide, across multiple islands.

A simply gorgeous day in Windscape.

Once you leave your homeland to fight the evil threat, you’ll find that the world of Windscape is surprisingly large. Your king gives you an airship in your quest, and you can use it to travel to multiple islands, each with their own unique ecosystem and layout. The islands also have different governing systems. For example, your homeland is a monarchy, but the desert island, led by a village elder, is more democratic in nature. The architecture differs depending on which island you visit. The world-building is quite impressive and detailed.

Although Windscape is an adventure RPG, it’s fairly casual. While there is supposed to be this overarching narrative threatening the fate of the universe, it’s surprisingly relaxing. There is no pressing need to complete one quest to move onto the next if you don’t want to. You can spend your time just exploring the land, foraging for items, and crafting new weapons and gear. This is great, because it gives you time to take in the beauty of the world. The game is filled with gorgeous, warm colors and the map is huge, with plenty of areas and secrets to explore. If you want a little more intensity, you can head into the dungeons, which are populated with interesting puzzles to solve and enemies you can thwack. Oh, and there’s an occasional boss battle as well.

Speaking of the dungeons, I loved their layout and design. Chasing enemies down through narrow hallways was honestly thrilling and also nerve-wracking in the moments where I was low on health. I love the fact that there is so much to explore in the dungeons, and this is probably where I had the most fun in Windscape. 

Angry mice soldiers chase me down a narrow hallway.

Nothing is too difficult to grasp. Combat is simple button-mashing that is only stressful if an enemy happens to take you by surprise, and that rarely happens. You don’t level up in the game, so there’s no stress about needing to grind for several hours to progress to the next area. If anything, you’ll just need better gear and plenty of healing items, such as potions and food. Luckily crafting and cooking are also simple to do, thanks to easy-to-follow instructions and the plentiful workbenches and stoves scattered throughout Windscape‘s massive world. In a sense, Windscape‘s gameplay reminded me a lot of Yonder: The Cloud Catcher Chronicles, another adventure game with casual gameplay elements.

One of the cooler dungeon puzzles I encountered in the game.

While I enjoy Windscape‘s easygoing nature and how it encourages gamers to play at their own pace, I also despise the lack of direction. When it comes to quests, you will either get too much information or not enough. I also don’t like how if you are talking to someone and accidentally progress through the conversation, you can’t return to that person to get an idea of what you were supposed to do. This happened to me during the crypt quest, and I ended up wandering through the graveyard for about an hour while I struggled to progress. Your diary system, which should serve as a resource, is just filled with uninspired entries such as “An aggressive wolf: I came across a very aggressive wolf. They usually avoid us, but now they are in a frenzy.” How profound, Ida.

Although I like most of the simple controls and systems in this game, one thing that could have used more effort was the inventory. You can earn money by bartering and trading with salesmen. However, the system will not count past 99 of a certain item. This is particularly problematic if you try to buy a more expensive item, because you never truly know how much money you have on hand. These flaws indicate a lack of foresight, but the small annoyances that I have with the direction and inventory system are nothing compared to the number of bugs and awkward animations that I have encountered in this game. This is where things truly lack polish.

Check out the above photo, and look specifically at my character’s left hand. I had equipped a rune to use ice magic, but you would think that I summoned the power of a fuzzy television screen that lost the cable signal. My hand is glitching due to a visual bug, but my right hand looks functional. Admittedly this is a small, hard-to-notice example, but the worse ones come with the enemies. You might just be casually minding your own business and walking through a meadow when suddenly an enemy spots you from a mile away. You will not see them, but you will hear music that indicates an enemy is approaching. When you finally spot the offending barbarian or giant spider, you can try to run away, but you won’t succeed. The enemies in this game are like drug-sniffing dogs, and you as the player have a theoretical, unfortunate amount of cocaine in your inventory. They will chase you until the end of your days, or at least until you exit the map. This just seems bizarre to me – why do enemies have such a significant range? Oh, wait, I’m sorry, you might actually be able to escape from the enemies if they happen to love trees a bit too much. Like this ghost I encountered in the graveyard. Instead of chasing after me, he chased after true love.

This is a ghost and he is literally hugging this tree. Come on, man. Get a room.

While these bugs are hilarious, they also really bother me. Games that are this glitchy or buggy really impact my gaming experience. It just seems like a few of these issues should have been taken care of before the game’s publication.

My next issue with this game is its soundtrack, which lacks inspiration and seems like it’s very much borrowed from some free online library. This in itself would be fine if I didn’t have to hear certain tracks constantly. For example, whenever an enemy draws near, an intense drum banging starts and hurried electronic keys start playing away. Rather than being reminded of something like Zelda, it reminded me of Pokémon, when wild encounters occur.

Although Windscape is definitely not my favorite RPG, it’s not a failure by any means. Despite its bugs, I did have a bit of fun, and this is one of the primary things that I try to focus on when reviewing a game. If you can see past its flaws, you’ll enjoy this charming adventure game. The beautiful setting, wonderful world building, and easygoing gameplay are a perfect combination for any casual gamer or adventure fan.

Chloe played Windscape on Switch with a code provided by the publisher. Windscape is also available on Steam and Xbox One.

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