Two of FGUK’s Writers Get Their Hands on Windward, here are their thoughts.
Adventure on the high sea’s! Gold! Pirates! Windward has them all.
Windward is a procedurally generated naval combat game, with added co-op.
Start off by choosing your faction, Valiant (Combat specialists), Consulate (Adventurers/Questing), Sojourn (Explorers) or Exchange (Trading) and set sail.
As you fight/trade/quest/explore your way through the game you gain gold and experience, use your gold to upgrade your ship and buy special items to improve your stats, experience gains you talent points to improve your skills.
The more quests/missions you perform for the various ports help these small towns improve over time, improved towns offer more options for trade and bigger, better ships to buy
As you travel the game world, you will meet the other factions,war’s will follow and you will then spend time claiming towns from your enemies.
I really like Windward, it is not as intense, or action packed as some games, but sometimes its nice to just relax, it has a beautifully simple interface, easy to learn controls and possibly the most relaxing music I’ve heard in game for a long time, its easy to lose yourself for a couple of hours in Windward.
Oh my goodness, how can I approach this preview without mentioning Sid Meier’s Pirates? Well I can’t. I absolutely loved Pirates, warts and all, and my word there were some nasty warts in that game. I’ve yet to meet anyone that didn’t like Pirates, despite the fact it was a bit of a clumsy mess.
Now that’s out the way, let’s talk about the here and now and have a chat about Windward. The game has been developed by Tasheran Entertainment and at the time of writing is available on Early Access via Steam on the PC, Mac and Linux formats, although it has already moved on to full release.
The game has ‘rogue-like’ elements, for those not in the know, ‘rogue-like’ is this seasons must have fashion accessory for gaming. To keep it in non poncy simple terms, maps are randomly generated, meaning each play-through should be a different experience for the player. Windward also follows a good old fashioned RPG formula of levelling up and progression.
The game is simple, possibly too simple, but that is also what makes it so playable. You start a game, and choose a faction. Each faction has its own strengths and weaknesses and all is explained very well; no head scratching, even from this gaming simpleton.
On paper the map is set out in a grid like structure. The segments of the map unlock as you level up in game, you can’t move to the more difficult areas of the map until you reached certain levels in the RPG aspect of the game.
So we’ve chosen our faction, had our map randomly generated (or created our very own super-duper personal version using the simple and easy map creator) and we’re off!
The game is as pretty as a pearl sitting in a sun drenched oyster (on reflection, that might not sound very attractive, as seafood has a tendency to turn rotten and stinky rather fast in the sun, but trust me, the game is easy on the eye). The colours are vivid and sharp, a very bold and a simple palette is employed to create a perfect ambience for the West Indian Island vibe of Windward.
So, off I paddle in my beginner’s boat and I’m away. I’m an adventurer, a trader, a fighter of pirates, a hero of the sea! This should be exciting….Right!? Controls are as easy as pie. For myself, I was using an Xbox controller, but I did have a tinker on my keyboard and it was just as simple. The game gives a top down view and you can zoom in and out on the local map area as well.
First port of call is a local harbour. From each location you can choose from a set of options. You can buy goods to sell at another location, you can click the rumours icon to get whispers of anything afoot in the locality. You can buy new and bigger ships, with more cargo space, or more ferocious fighting prowess. You can look for quests; these can range from delivering cargo or people to a neighbouring island, fetch quests or the meat and bones of any game- the action: Pirate hunting.
Anyone that has played Sid Meirs Pirates will get the combat, just line your ship up against your opponent and fire. With the RPG levelling up system Windward employs, you can choose to level up fighting perks if kicking the proverbial out of pirates floats your boat. So you can level up your canons, your sails, and buy new boats. All at a price mind you and this is one of the areas that Windward starts to fall a bit flat.
My first few hours in Windward were very gentle; the game is kind to all the senses and pleasantry is at its heart. Earning money for the big meaty boats can take a long time as they cost quite a lot of your hard earned coinage. To get to the more out of the action filled parts of the maps, you really have to put a lot of work in. It takes quite a while to level up. Most quests and trading involves the same ‘Take X from point A to point B’ which can become monotonous.
Windward is ‘nice’, Windward is relaxing and Windward is worth you spending some time with, what Windward isn’t is exciting. A friend of mine used to carry a small packet of rocket fireworks to any party we were invited to. If the party was a bit flat, he would drop his trousers, hang his arse out the find and fire a rocket from between his cheeks… Surprisingly, this used to do the job. Windward as it is will please a lot of people, I do wish it would spread its cheeks in the future though.
The game is now on full release, but updates are incoming and it is a pleasurable experience, hopefully we will get some fireworks soon.