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Playing Windlands constantly makes me feel as though I’m about to wake up. To call it “dreamlike” would be an understatement, it’s a dream-sim. The world is a strangely lucid and tangible but at the same time something is not quite right. Gravity is just a little bit softer than it should be, trees and rocks seem solid but not quite the right size and shape. Building also are much like you see them in your dreams, or from a distance, but up close you notice the impractical construction and lack of features. I’m not sure if this is what Psytec Games was going for but it’s effective either way.
What is the VR Windlands Game About?
You are a guardian, tasked with scaling these shattered lands in search of powerful crystals that can awaken stone giants. At your disposal a set of grappling hooks and inhuman agility. This is parkour at it’s most epic, the wind whistling in your ears as you swing and bounce at great speed. You know little about the world, the pod you emerge from appears to be the last of its kind, all who came before you have failed. All this mystery really lets you concentrated on the sheer thrill of the game itself.
Windlands Gamer Review
Windlands is also a strange combination of calming and stressful. The epic size, daunting heights and staggering beauty of each area invite you to pause and take it all in. While a the same time the white knuckle high speed edge of your seat gameplay can make you throw your controller in frustration. The movement system feels a little… floppy at first, but you will soon be grappling tiny shrubs and bouncing off cliff faces with ease. An incredible amount of momentum can be built by chaining these moves together, firing you into the air like a cannon. Sometimes I would rapidly bounce between two vertical faces just to see how high I could get.
Beyond this gameplay is rather simple. You collect crystals to awaken the giants, who move mountains to give you access to new areas. Collectible shards are also scattered throughout the levels and are brought back to the hub to form neat little mosaics that explain the backstory. The rarest crystals, which are usually perched on the highest points, reward you with a short hologram explaining the history of your people, or the people who built you, nothing is very clear in windlands.
If the idea of swinging and bouncing around at great heights makes you feel a little queasy, then you may be turned off by Windlands. Luckily Psytec have included a wide range of options to help combat motion sickness. From cages that surround you as you move to snap turning and relaxed movement controls there should be a setup to suit almost everybody. Personally I leave all that stuff off but with 8 months in the Rift I’m practically a veteran now. Even still it’s important to remember breathing exercises and take a rest occasionally. Falling is particularly intense, from the highest mountains it can take you a full minute to hit the ground.
But it’s all so pretty that you wont want to stop. The World resembles a mix of Minecraft and Studio Ghibli films like Howl’s Moving Castle.
From rolling hills to industrial complexes to crystal towers there is always something new to look at. The dynamic music system is also quite brilliant. It naturally changes the mood as you progress. Sometimes the best reward for reaching a new area is a beautiful lute melody.
You don’t need to collect all the Crystals but doing so can unlock extra areas. These bonus levels are a little small and only feature timed speed run modes. Sadly Windland’s Indigeogo campaign did not reach all of it’s stretch goals which explains why it is a bit lacking in some areas. NPCs and multiplayer are never to be. Fans of fast paced action games might also find the basic exploring and wandering gameplay somewhat lackluster. I was nice of them to come back and touch support though, once you get a hold of those Touch controllers it can be hard going back to the old gamepad only games.
Overall Windlands is mastercrafted in most areas; level design, sense of scale, music and movement system, but lacking in features. It’s a lonely experience, and there is a good chance you will suffer some motion sickness or height induced vertigo. The bonus levels could have used more work and NPC’s and enemies are nowhere to be found. Despite all this it is still one of my favorite VR games to date, providing many watercooler moments. I still go back whenever I need feel the virtual wind in my hair.
Windlands Final Review Ratings
Final Score: 8/10 – An epic and beautiful experience in VR that feels sadly unfinished at times.
- Beautiful world
- Epic parkour
- Range of motion sickness options
- Might still cause sickness
- A bit light on gameplay
- Frustrating at times