I had briefly seen Windlands before I was asked to review it, what I did not realize is how astonishing it felt to fly through levels at breakneck speed with a pair of grappling hooks. This feeling is amplified in virtual reality and the title ended up being something unlike anything I had experienced before on PlayStations VR platform. I do love experiencing new things in video games, it does not happen often but when it does it’s a joy to behold.
There’s not much story to support this quirky title really. Long ago a great civilization rose, sacred crystals were found underground and brought into the light. These people used their great powers to create wonders and Titans to raise new sky cities, these were the Windlands. You must find the crystals hidden within these lands to open up new sky cities and explore further.
Your biggest tool for these vertical landscapes are your grappling hooks. Depending on your difficulty setting you can hook certain parts of the environment, or all of it if you are playing on easy. It’s like being Spider-man, the speed, inertia and momentum you feel as you fly through these high environments is amazing. It definitely had a learning curve and I will be honest with you, I hated it at the start but as you will discover it was due to my own lack of skill and over-eagerness. I have always wanted to be Spider-man and this is the closest I have felt to being him, I felt powerful and it was superb.
I started the game on hard, on hard you can only hook onto bushes and leaves and I found it very difficult. Pair that with a control scheme that I was not used to and it ended up being a recipe for frustration. Eventually though I got used to the controls and knocked the difficulty down to easy and I really started enjoying myself. I was running, jumping, swinging and soaring through these levels like lightning and the feeling was very unique. The height, motion and traversal were amazing in VR.
The games flow is very simple, you have to find the three crystals in each level to unlock other cities where you can find more crystals. It’s very straight forward but I appreciated that. You have a lot of freedom to tackle these levels how you see fit, as your skills get better you will be pulling off amazing parkour moves and swinging around like a badass. I noticed a severe difference between what I was able to accomplish at the start of the game and at the end when my skills had improved. It was night and day, there is definitely room for your skills to improve over time.
Peppered throughout the levels are also stone tablets to collect, these are numerous and normally in hard to reach areas. As you get better at the game these will get easier to reach and it is fun trying to work out how to get to them, then actually pulling off the techniques required to seize them. The games slower pace and less rigid flow mean that the game has a really chilled feeling and you are never really under any pressure to do anything. It’s a nice feeling, being left to your own devices and to just explore at your own pace.
Graphically Windlands is pretty enough. It’s beautiful in its own simple chunky way and it really suits the style of the game perfectly. All the islands, environments and foliage are all very bright, crisp and clear. It’s quite striking when you are standing on top of one of these huge structures and leap off, grappling another structure and swinging through these nicely designed environments. It’s all very pleasing to look at, even though the graphics style is very simple.
Windland’s sound design, similar to its graphics, fit the style of the game well. It’s a very chilled soundtrack that fits the gameplay and really goes hand in hand with the non-linear freedom you are given. The sound effects, what little there are of them, are all fine. The small amount of voice acting is also believable and well done. The game has a very basic sound design but it suits the game and is executed well.
Windlands performed admirably and I had no issues whatsoever. Zero crashes, bugs or performance errors to report in my 8 or so hours playing this unique VR game. The only issues I had was my own rubbish abilities at the start of the game, I was so bad at it. I recommend most people start on easy and progress upwards through the difficulties. The VR implementation is also very good. I had no issues with that side of the game, tracking was very good and I had no VR ‘messiness’ to contend with.
I eventually enjoyed my time with Windlands. Once I had got over the learning hump and knocked the difficulty of the game down a touch I had a great time. The feeling you get from gliding though it’s nicely rendered stages is unlike anything else I have felt on PSVR. Once your skills blossom and you start pulling off some serious parkour moves, it becomes very fluid and fun to play. Its non-linear openness is a breath of fresh air, it’s all a very chilled experience and death is inconsequential. This means you are free to try death-defying techniques at your leisure without fear of losing progress. I think most PSVR owners will enjoy the title as long as they don’t mind learning the mechanics of the game. Once you do though it’s an excellent experience.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*