|"Land ho!" Hey... wait a minute...|
- Developer: Tasharen Entertainment
- Publisher: Tasharen Entertainment
- Release Date: 12 May 2015
- Time played: 21.5 hours
I've liked games about pirates from a young age and I blame Ron Gilbert for this thanks to 1990's The Secret of Monkey Island. It was only much later that I experienced Sid Meier's Pirates! in 2004, despite it being a remake or a remake.
Anyway, fast forward to 2015 where thanks to generous friends, I managed to score a gift copy of Windward, a game set during the Age of Sail that claims to be a "procedural co-op game" which "truly comes alive when playing with friends". That sounds pretty awesome already, and thankfully, is exactly what you get when you play this game. But what about the rest of it? Is it still fun single-player? Is a good procedural co-op game enough to keep you coming back time and time again?
What I like
Conquering new territory with friendsThis is by far the best part of the game. Teaming up with friends to take on pirates in a new sector, conquering the towns one by one and slowly seeing the fruits of your labour, it's a great feeling. Settling and naming new towns after your friends, family, pets and favourite catchphrases is the icing on the cake.
Easy to pick upThe game is relatively easy to pick up. While I still struggle to master using the mouse and keyboard at times (since both the mouse and keyboard can accelerate the ship forward and steer it), that's really all there is to it. You just need to know how to accelerate, brake, steer, fire cannons and use abilities and you're well on you way. Mastering the game involves learning which abilities to pick when you level up and which ships are better for particular situations (and which situations you should sail away from!). But you can worry about that later.
Simple but effective musicIt's not going to win any Grammy awards, but I like the music in Windward.
Made by one guy!It's impressive to think that Windward was developed mainly thanks to one man: Michael Lyashenko. 3D artwork was done by freelancer Rich DiGiovanni and music by freelancer Angelo Cicero.
What I dislike
The Diablo EffectThe game is actually very similar to Diablo and its clones in that it's all about killing enemies, grabbing loot, equipping your character (or in this case, ship) with aforementioned loot and rinse, repeat. While some might love the rolling of the dice to see what neat stuff you can acquire for your ship, others will be bored by the grind. In fact, in order to unlock new, more powerful ships you'll need to defeat the very same ships in combat, which isn't easy to do, so you'll either have to team up with friends (probably the recommended approach) or wait to grind higher quality equipment for your ship (yawn).
Too much sandbox?Unlike Sid Meier's Pirates! there's no overarching story to the game and everything is procedurally generated, so unless you decide to roleplay or play with friends, there is a big question mark concerning the game's longevity. The game is actually similar to Elite: Dangerous in that regard since that too suffers from the fact everything is procedurally generated so at times it feels like the game lacks charm. If you like sandbox games though and know how to make the most of them, then you're likely to get more out of Windward than other players.
BugsThe game has a few interesting bugs like your ship being able to respawn on land (which basically means you have to quit the game and return) or sometimes not being able to build towns despite the game directing you to the spot. I think it may have something to do with the procedural generation of the land and the allocation of potential port locations (which act as respawn points).
Framerate dropsI occasionally experienced lag and framerate drops. We also found it a challenge to set up your own server having to resort to Hamachi in order to play since the only other alternative was to perform port forwarding (or join someone else's random server).
Score – 7/10 (Good)Windward is a neat, little sandbox game similar to Sid Meier's Pirates! without the story, or Diablo with ships, or even Elite: Dangerous, but without the spaceships. The game is at its best when you're able to conquer and develop a map with mates but it might lack the longevity if played exclusively as a single player game. Acquiring late game ships can also be a bit of a grind.
Is the game worth $14.99 USD?: Yes. I reckon about $20 AUD represents good value as there's quite a bit of fun you can have with this game, provided you have other players to give it a go with.
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[ LINK: Official Windward Website ]