Windforge Review | MOUSE n JOYPAD


Windforge Review



I’ve been excited about Windforge ever since I saw a gameplay trailer last year, with the player building his own airship, hunting flying whales (!) and skirmishing against steampunk pirates. It looked as if it’s going to blow every other similar game out of the water once it comes out. Except maybe Starbound, but that’s a whole different story. Windforge promised to take everything this sub-genre has to offer, and crank it up to eleven. As it turns out, the devs have seemingly bitten off more than they could chew.

First things first, the initial impression is very good. Graphics are polished and pretty, while sporting something of a bizzare twist that’s pretty hard to define. Especially after you’ve flown into the sky, with the gravitational winds carrying entire islands around you. Hopeful that the experience remains consistent, I created a dashing flying pirate and jumped into the adventure. What awaited was a mere shadow of what I wanted this game to be.

The controls themselves aren’t bad. Just a basic WASD/mouse combo that works equally well in just about every game my mind can currently conjure. What dissappointed me is that there’s some sort of lag between player input and actual character movement. Whether this is connected to the strange framerate drops that occur randomly is beyond me, but it serves as a major annoyance in later encounters. The animations are nice and fluid, and serve their purpose well. Critter, NPC and player movements seem plausible and well drawn, which makes this game a real treat to look at. And it’s a shame that playing it isn’t as nice as looking at it is. On basis of pure gameplay, the game is sporting some really great ideas that somehow manage to disappoint at almost every step of the way. There’s always one tiny speck of corrosion keeping them from being awesome. For example – digging. Foraging through the land is fairly interesting thanks to a couple of things. Firstly, there’s a foreground layer obscuring the underground layers, so you need to go blind in most cases. Secondly, you’ll often face the danger of tunnels collapsing next to (or above) you, so there’s a sense of urgency when compared to similar games. Sadly, Windforge is sporting a strange 2.5D perspective that makes digging (and building, for that matter) an extremely tedious task. Not to mention how hard it is to mine precisely what you need. Moving your character through tight spaces isn’t easy either, as this task requires absolute exactitude in positioning, as well as luck.

Combat is pretty decent, with an array of enemies all behaving differently one from another and cover actually making a difference in shootouts. It’s good to see that the grappling hook can be used on nearly every object in the game, including but not limited to: air wolves, dragons, skyships and whales. Hunting down giant lizards, flying whales and many other wonderfully weird creatures is an exhilirating and rewarding task. Altough you will have to manipulate a dreadful inventory interface to see the loot they’ve dropped. It would seem that Windforge took inspiration from the way ship combat was managed in the latest Assassin’s Creed games, as the player can easily grapple his/her way onto the opposing craft and cause chaos from the inside. To sum the fighting part up: it’s fun, fancy and a tad bit unpolished. The best part of the game, if you ask me.

Exploration would be okay if it wasn’t for the air pirates who seem to attack you on every step of the way. Yes, the combat is good, but not when you’re forced to fight every thirty seconds. If you don’t, and ditch your ship to examine a certain flying island, you’ll come back to find a charred lump of wood where your airship used to be. It’s not that fixing it is a problem, though. Ever since the first quest, the player will be equipped with a magical fix-it-all gun that, well, repairs all damage. Not only on your airship, as it can be used on pretty much anything. The damn thing can even revert wooden supports and dirt to the way they used to be before you tore through them with your hammer. This feels like a cheat most of the time as you’re always able to repair more damage than the enemies can deal to you. Sure, you’re sacrificing your damage output, but after fitting your airboat with some serious firepower, repair work is all you’ll be doing anyway.

The core of the problem, perhaps, lies in the fact that the developers tried to do too many things in this game. I’m talking Terraria/Starbound mechanics for the most part, as I feel that the game should have focused on the airships themselves. This way, Windforge tries to tackle a lot of systems that are a feature short of being properly implemented. Of course, there’s some enjoyment to be had. The whale hunting and airboat combat are great fun when they work as expected. The combat alone, however, cannot carry a game that tries to do exploration, intrigue and loads of other things at the same time.

Lastly, some of you will be glad to hear that there’s an actual storyline connecting all the dots Windforge throws around. Even better – it makes sense and has managed to capture my attention for a while.