Windbound is a third person survival game where you play as a huntress named Kara. The best way of thinking of this game is, remember Disney’s Moana? How her ancestors’ traveled around in the movie, that’s basically what this game is. You get separated from your group during a massive storm and you have to survive. You get bits of ancestral story through magical sea shells you collect, but they mostly feel like proverbs in all honesty.
The gameplay is pretty simple: you find stuff out in the world and collect it, then you build shit with it mostly so you can get more stuff to build more shit. There are a few main islands in each area as well as a few smaller islands. The big ones have the magical shells you need to collect to move onto the next area. The smaller ones often have items that increase your max magic or health. It takes a while to learn magic though so ignore that it even exists. You start off building shitty slings made of grass and eventually build up to using pointy sticks, WOOT. Every new area gives you new materials which in turn upgrades your building menu with new stuff you can make.
Part of this building menu is being able to build a boat. First you start off with a grass made canoe, eventually building it up to a canoe with a wind sail, and then to a full functioning windbound boat ala Moana. The boats get built out of better and better materials as there are creatures that attack the boat and damage it, eventually destroying whole chunks of it, losing resources that were stored on that boat. Or you can lose the resources because you have to repair or completely rebuild parts of the boat that are completely destroyed. It’s easy to lose resources because of the boat itself which is really annoying honestly. So… the boat kinda sucks. There’s also a weird thing, the canoe without the windsail lets you row the boat which is slower but gives the player a lot more accuracy to move the boat, to slow it down, to position it where we want it. Once you put the sail on, you keep the oar, but even if you close the sail, you can’t row it anymore even though the only change was literally that you put a mast on it, that’s it, you rowed in the back the mast is up in the front. You can open and close the mast, tighten or loosen it, but you can’t row anymore which seems stupid to me. The mast lets you move around faster which is important, but you have significantly less control, which is an issue because hitting rocks, coral chunks, or even land itself will damage the boat significantly. If you could roll up your masts and then row, things would be easier. I’ve smashed into the landmasses I’ve tried to drive next to and park at, well almost every single time honestly, so yeah. And you can create bigger boats as the game continues, which just makes it all the harder to avoid crashing into stuff when you have no precision control.
The survival aspect isn’t too bad, you have health and stamina, you find plants or kill animals for meat to eat, each food item increases one or both a degree, it’s not too hard to get food to keep yourself okay. The harder part of it is getting enough stuff to keep yourself from running out of materials to build with. Some materials repopulate over time, some don’t, and it seems like it’s random which bothers me. I like finding a bunch of a specific material and storing it so I can build weapons when mine break or repair the boat, etc. Not knowing what respawns and what doesn’t is annoying, doubly so when you don’t know why it does here and there but not other places, the randomness is irritating. For meat you usually find 2 or so low level enemies that give you small amounts of meat that are easy kills so you get minimal returns and a large very dangerous beast which gives you larger chunks of meat and usually special items you need to make specific gear. Items you get from animals are somewhat randomized as they only drop a few items and many have more items they can drop. On top of that, they can drop multiples of the same item, usually being meat.
The story is… meh. Between each of the areas you get a mural that tells a story, it doesn’t always fully make sense to me cause, well, pictures only, and the proverbs don’t always mean a whole hell of a lot either. I can’t really tell you too much other than the people seemed to worship giant snails and eventually stopped I guess? Again, pictures, hard to understand meaning when there’s nothing but a bit of art. I might as well be looking at hieroglyphics.
The art style is very pretty cartoony too. It reminds me of brush strokes mixed with super cartoony stuff, something akin to something like ‘Splatoon’ meets ‘Breath of the Wild’. It’s a very, very beautiful look even if a bit sparse. After all, you’re a seafarer most of what you’re looking at is fucking water, so not a lot to see there. Islands aren’t usually all that big either so there’s not a lot to see there, but what’s there is gorgeous art. On the boat you’re lucky when you find coral reefs that are near the surface so you can see them, they’re pretty too, that’s about all you’ll see in the ocean of any visual matter, at least to me.
Overall, this isn’t my kind of game, I just don’t really like survival games all that much. I was hoping this would be more RPG than survival, but it’s not. However, this isn’t a bad game, for those who like survival games, you’ll like this game. For everyone else, it’s not super long or too hard of a survival game, so I think that between the ease of the game, the time requirement for it, and the art direction, you should at least try it even if it’s only when it’s on sale. The only places it needs improvements are better boat controls so we can be more precise and having materials repopulate every one to two days so that shit makes more sense and is more manageable.
A review copy of the game was provided by the publishers, Deep Silver.
darkmikasonfire just barely gives Windbound the Indie Gamer Team Seal of Approval.