5 Lives Studios survival adventure doesn’t come to the harbor that your good intentions wish for.
Since its introduction, Windbound: Brave The Storm has felt the comparison with Zelda: Breath of the Wild for its aesthetics. Very colorful graphics, very ancient scenarios in which nature and mysticism come together, a silent protagonist, means of transport such as a rudimentary paraglider or a boat, a system of hunting and cooking to obtain sustenance … The points in common made the inevitable comparison. However, in FreeGameTips we were able to test this new title a few weeks ago and we found that, beyond its appearance, it has nothing to do with Link’s adventures. 5 Live Studios and Deep Silver propose a survival adventure for Windows PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Switch. Named one of the biggest indie promises of this August, we get at the helm of a beautiful ship whose journey leaves something to be desired.
Beauty is not everything
The premise of the Windbound story is a classic heroine journey, filled with discovery, wonders, obstacles, and magical elements. Our protagonist is Kara, a warrior who is shipwrecked in the Forbidden Islands. The young woman, far from her home, must adapt to an inhospitable world while discovering its secrets and reuniting with her tribe. The story, divided into 5 chapters, has a very simple structure integrated into the game: in each episode, we arrive at a different section of the archipelago and we must locate and activate three watchtowers to later access an ominous water temple. In each phase, the challenges will increase, as the seas are increasingly impassable and the beasts more powerful. The estimated duration of the game is about 10 hours, which will be prolonged because of the times we have to restart a chapter, although there will also be castaways who wish to spend a lot of time exploring and improving the character and their ship.
After the end of each episode, we discover a little more of the story through frescoes, although throughout the game we obtain fragments of lyrical texts with memories of ancient civilizations. Thus, the narrative is presented in a poetic way, without great cutscenes or text overload, and it feels like a simple and captivating legend. However, it is easy to lose connection with the plot when we have to spend a few hours collecting and managing resources. For her part, Kara turns out to be a pretty flat and forgettable character, who feels like a more empty cute avatar.
Windbound, at first glance, is a beautiful game despite its crude animations, with a colorful aesthetic and an attractive imagery that unfolds on its procedurally generated islands. Although the variety of ecosystems is not splendid, it is pleasant to explore its territory and discover new fauna and vegetation. The creatures are original and lavish, with an effective design that evokes real animals and allows us to get an idea of their behavior. The sea, with its algae and reefs, is the best cared for audiovisual aspect, and in combination with the quiet piano music we will feel a pleasant sense of peace during navigation. However, beauty is the only remarkable virtue of this title.
Challenging for the wrong reasons
The work of 5 Lives Studios starts from a good idea that has led to the pretentious. The resource management system is based on the more traditional genre, but pales in the face of its mechanical orthotics. The search for watchtowers ends up being repetitive, although in our trajectory we force ourselves to entertain ourselves to look for sustenance on each island. We have two difficulty modes —History and Survival—, although in the easiest we lose the watchtower activation progress, so we must restart the exploration completely.
Dying is also easy and not because the game is especially challenging. We learn the theory right away: We must be attentive to Kara’s hunger meter and provide her with food, either collecting berries and mushrooms or hunting beasts, while ensuring that the food in our inventory does not rot. We must also build a boat strong enough to deal with increasingly rough waters. And of course we must be aware of our inventory limitations and upgrade our weapons to deal with dangerous creatures. As an addition, in the aquatic temples we can obtain a divine blessing in exchange for sea crystals, to enhance our warrior and make the challenge of the Forbidden Islands lighter. Likewise, during our exploration we can find remains of civilizations with menhirs that can give us a greater health or hunger bar, as well as new details of the universe of the game.
However, this very affordable gaming system is complicated for the wrong reasons. Hunting is frustrating and uncomfortable, since the margin of maneuver of our castaway is very little, in contrast to animals that do evade us with ease. To make matters worse, we have run into too many technical glitches that prevent us from exiting combat mode once the confrontations are over, so we must restart the game. Thus, the Kara that is transmitted to us is not that of an experienced warrior who knows very well how to deal with dangers, but a clumsy girl who barely learns to fend for herself.
Our ship, the best companion
We ourselves will decide how and to what depth to progress, how to feed ourselves, what weapons to specialize in, what armor to make, and how to customize our boat. The interface to manage resources is clear and well divided into sections, so that we are clear about what we carry in our inventory, what we could create. However, more quick shortcuts or an integrated menu bar within the game screen are missed, without having to almost constantly resort to the menu that occupies the entire vision. On the other hand, it is worth highlighting a correct location in which the names of the bestiary have been transferred with ingenuity, in addition to using a type of font that is well legible and integrated into the aesthetics of the game.
The boat is, perhaps, the most original aspect of Windbound, and it is true that it ends up becoming fond of a ship that starts from a simple hull and grows until it is a sailboat with integrated baskets, protective spikes and even a cauldron for Cook. Sailing the seas, on the other hand, will be a bit more challenging for its naturalism. Instead of driving the boat as if it were a motorcycle inside an arcade, we must take advantage of the wind in our favor to guide the sail, to know how far to deploy it and in what direction. Once we make Kara a great sailor, we will enjoy the pleasure of crossing the sea to find the next island and we will even let ourselves be carried away. This is the sweetest point in the game, which will make us bitter in the next fight and that Windbound, unfortunately, is a shipwreck of intelligent ideas.
This game has been analyzed in its version for Windows PC.
Windbound: Brave The Storm is based on a clever idea: a classic yet affordable survival game set in an archipelago of islands, with captivating audiovisual beauty and some room for creativity. However, this premise is watery in the face of repeatability of the mission structure, orthopedic combat mechanics, and technical failures that provide challenge for the wrong reasons. Its simple story loses interest as progress continues through each chapter. The best-kept aspect is maritime navigation, with a boat that will become our best friend.
- The audiovisual section, especially the sea
- An easy to learn survival system
- Very orthopedic combat
- Constant technical failures
- A repetitive mission system
It is not the latest or the most original, it does not have the best execution either, but it can be fun if you like the genre. Good, but room for improvement.