Rather than simply scrounging for materials, there is a heavy ambiance of mystery and discovery at the core of Windbound. Within the first few minutes I had found an ancient, stone altar that imbued my necklace with powerful, glowing blue energy. There are hints of a really intriguing story here, or at least a well-realized setting that has room for lore expansion.
From the very first island creatures are immediately outlandish and the game’s general focus on becoming a traveling nomad immediately fosters a sense of constant discovery, which is a welcomed change of pace for a genre that’s usually about doing the same things over and over again.So instead of farming the same areas for identical resources forever, Windbound requires you to stay mobile. Each island is procedurally generated, ensuring you won’t have the same adventure twice, so once you hunt all the creatures, gather all the resources, and exhaust what’s available you’ve got to move on and continue crossing the Forbidden Islands.
Sailing presents its own challenges too. After building a ship by combining various parts like multiple hulls and types of sails together, you can set off on your own. Not only is wind direction a thing, but the waves can be downright perilous at times during big storms. Battling the ebb and flow of the water, while maintained balance, gets tough.
There are two difficulty options: Survivalist and Storyteller. On Survivalist, when you die, you’re booted all the way back to the start of Chapter 1 when you first awake. However, the main difference is that you get to keep any items in the ‘Held’ section of the inventory, but lose anything in bags. On Storyteller you keep your entire inventory, don’t lose Chapter progress, and combat is a bit easier.
Speaking of combat, since Windbound is a third-person action-adventure style game from a gameplay mechanics perspective, the flow of battle is better than most in the survival genre. There’s an enemy lock-on function, plus a variety of weapons from your indestructible knife to spears, slings, and bows. You’ve even got the ability to dodge roll and be stealthy by crouching and sneaking. It’s fast-paced and just a tad bit floaty, something I liked since it made things feel unique.
Another unexpected standout is just how good it felt to explore and roam around the islands. Character animations are surprisingly fluid, especially while climbing and swimming, with a really slick physics system behind it all that reminded me a little bit of Breath of the Wild when Kara inevitably falls or gets hurt. It’s just silly enough to be endearing but not wonky.
Windbound It’s a familiar formula in a foreign package that effortlessly blends together elements of survival/crafting games along with roguelikes and procedurally generated sandbox adventures. The story is all still a bit of a mystery, but based on just an hour or so with the game I’m already intrigued to learn more and see where the waves take me next.
David Jagneaux is a freelance writer for IGN. Talk RPGs with him on Twitter at @David_Jagneaux.