This game made me sick. It was so bad that I’ve only really managed to play around three-to-four hours of it, and I don’t think I’ll be going back to it anytime soon. Instead, I’m going to use it to torture friends who come over, or enemies should they decide to drop by. Hey, you never know…
Despite being the only game (barring my initial play of DriveClub VR) to make me so sick I need to lie down and watch happy videos on YouTube, it’s actually a really good game. I’m just quite annoyed with myself – nay – my brain’s inability to get into the groove of Windlands and VR.
Windlands is a hard one to explain, but to put it simply you swing around a beautifully crafted open world with ropes while exploring the world of a falled civilization. It really is a nice looking game on the PSVR headset, and although the graphics are simple, they’re nice and bright and help to keep things light and airy in what’s supposed to be a really chilled-out game. Everything just looks quite lovely, albeit simple, though that’s all by design. It helps that points way off in the distance still manage to look very clear with PSVR, something that’s a bit of an issue with other games for the device.
I would advise against going head-first (pun!) and ignoring the safety warnings that appear at the start of the game. The warning mentions that Windlands is a full locomotive game, and that if you aren’t accustomed to VR just yet, perhaps it’s best to only play in short five-minute sessions. I did not heed these warning and I’m now paying the price. In fact, as I sit at my desk, typing this review, I’m still a pale colour and my tummy still feels like it’s doing somersaults. Lovely stuff.
The game is played completely with the DualShock 4 controller, though the controls are fairly simple and the game does give you a quick tutorial level before throwing you in. It’s during the tutorial, where all you can do is walk and jump a good 20-30 feet high, that I first got my second taste of dinner. Jumping up and looking down is not a good combination for anyone who’s even remotely afraid of heights. Fun fact: My only fear is heights. Seriously, I cried and phoned my Dad when I went on a ferris wheel in Blackpool… When I was 18.
My insecurities aside, then, Windlands tasks you with… Er, I’m not entirely sure, and to be honest, I don’t really fancy going back into that world again. At least not for the time being. There is a story of sorts that’s explained during the opening of the game with a few Zelda-like animations, but after that I’d totally forgotten why I was even jumping around like a mad man. The voice in the sky (I think…) told me to collect some crystals, and then I stumbled across a broken tablet and was told to collect more of them, or something. I’m guessing the story isn’t really all that important with Windlands; it’s a game that’ll get by purely on its gameplay alone, whether you want to just take the relaxed approach, or bomb around like Spiderman on speed.
For those who opt for the latter, it really is a thrilling experience, even if it’s not for me. When I first got my grappling hooks, the first thing I did was leap of the edge of a cliff and try to hook back onto the cliff behind me. I failed. I fell. I puked. I respawned. See, you can’t just grapple any old thing as that’d make it far too easy. No, you must grapple onto big, green, leafy bushes – though I’m sure there’s a setting at the start of the game that allows you to grapple anything you want. I imagine it makes it easier, but where’s the challenge in that?
Movement is handled by the DualShock 4’s sticks; the left stick will move you back and forth, left and right, while the right stick will turn your in-game body. If you want to look around, you’ll need to move your head a bit. This was very confusing for me to begin with as my thumbs, bless them, just aren’t accustomed to the head interfering in their job. So when I wanted to look up, I’d push the right stick forward but there’d be no in-game response; you have to move with your head. Once I got going with it, everything else just fell into place. In my case, my dinner fell onto my living room floor. Thank heavens I don’t have shag carpets…
The tricky part is getting your head around the swinging mechanics: You grapple with the right and left triggers on the DualShock 4, and then you can control your momentum with the left stick. I know, it all sounds very confusing, doesn’t it? Trust me, it’ll only take a few minutes to get the hang of it before you’re finally throwing yourself towards trees. No, I didn’t swing graciously to begin with, and neither will you. I spent the best part of half an hour launching myself face-first into bushes and trees because I couldn’t grasp the concept of releasing the grapple, looking for another point of contact, and then firing off another
But, man, did it feel awesome when I did finally find my feet (or hands?). I swung from bush-to-tree-to-bush again, swooshing over the islands without a care in the world. Actually, that’s not true. I was still deathly afraid of falling, even though I knew I was sat firmly in my living room with Brandon Flowers playing in the background. What? The lad’s got talent and his voice soothes me…
While my experience with Windlands may have been a short-lived romance that ended as all such things do: lots of puke, lying down… A few tears… It’s still an excellent game that really shows what can be done outside of the done-to-death first-person shooters that VR and motion controls tend to attract. It’s a lovely world to get lost in and I’m hoping that I’ll be able to revisit this old flame one day in the future.
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