Windward Review – Sailing The High Seas

Posted May 28, 2015
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  • Developer/Publisher: Tasharen Entertainment
  • Platform: PC
  • Review code provided by the publisher.

Haven’t you always dreamt about living in the Golden Age of Sail, the 17th century (technically 16th to the mid 19th century), taking to the ocean to make your way in life? Perhaps even plundering booty as you become the most fearsome person on the seven seas? The opportunities for your seafaring life are endless in Windward. And you can do it safely from the comfort of your own home. No need to learn how to sail.

Sailing the high seas in Windward and making a name for yourself can be risky business.

Windward presents us with a fantastic and quite a novel idea for a game. You’re the captain of a ship charged with doing whatever your heart so desires. The opportunities are there, and they all present themselves to you right in the beginning.

And quite frankly the opportunities do kind of feel endless, despite being limited to four real activities. Would you like to become an infamous pirate? What about a legitimate trader? Perhaps you just want to be an explorer? Or even a pirate hunter? Sure, we could assume that just because those four activities are the only four aspects of the game that it would get old after a while, right? It doesn’t at all. It’s actually far more addictive than you might assume going into it. That want to increase XP, find better equipment and just generally complete quests, no matter how similar they are, is persistent. Doing so is satisfying. Towns are receptive to your trading and activities, the more you do the more there will be to do in the future. And though it might seem a bit repetitive, running from port to port carrying cargo can be a blast. You never know what you might run into along the way.

The connectedness of the map and the members of the community you’re with is really cool. When you find yourself accidentally engaging two ships at once, and things are going south really quickly, an ally just appears seemingly out of nowhere to help. It’s pretty neat.

Then there’s combat

Blowing up pirates has never been a better experience. The simple controls and automatic firing on the part of your crew is great. They’re reasonably accurate too. It’s really satisfying when you line up for a full broadside and your enemies go down in flames as a result of your superior sailing strategy.

How you approach these ships and maneuver yourself so that their guns don’t face you, but so that you can provide the maximum amount of damage is very fun, and challenging. The AI is quite smart, so you have to be careful. Sometimes that strategy might call for running away, which is more than a viable option too. It can’t always be sunshine and sweet cakes.

Even better than just you picking off unsuspecting pirates solo is when you hire a burly gang of companions to help, since two or three ships make quick work of nearly anyone. Or you may enter the co-op mode to take down the next faction over with your friends.

The combat aspect of Windward is very polished and provides a surprising amount of replay value. If there was one aspect that might be worth the entire price, I think that the riveting sea battles alone might meet that requirement.

Technicals

The graphics are not the most groundbreaking, but they don’t need to be. Most importantly, they’re polished and I experienced few issues. The water is beautiful as are the animations.

The procedural generated world is rife with life and activity. It’s all rather fun to see the various living components of the ocean world you’re living in. If you didn’t move at all, the seafaring life would go on and a surely band of pirates would most certainly find you anyway.

The visual style combined with the period-ish music imparts a truly peaceful ambience one minute, and then steers you into chaos as you’re hedged in by multiple pirates out to take revenge. Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to take one of the main ports they were using.

The controls are similarly refined. There’s a general sense of heaviness imparted in the steering of the ship, which is welcome. It takes a keen hand to maneuver properly, but it isn’t difficult by any means. The default method, using the keyboard to steer, actually works well here. I feel using the mouse for movement wouldn’t do as well. There is also full controller support, should you prefer that instead.

The music should be commended here. Whoever decided on the soundtrack used here is a genius. It might not be a symphonic orchestra that recorded the sound, but it adds significantly to the overall atmosphere with the slightly period feel to it.

Anything wrong?

Perhaps the naval battles could be rendered on a more epic scale, though they still elicit a very large grin regardless. Also, the quests, while addictive and fun, do lack variety and you’ll find yourself grinding it out while trying to get better equipment for your ship, or a better ship altogether.

The map might be large, but again, that grind can set in after a while. The novelty stays for some time, but it has the potential to wear off. The replay value is still in the great naval combat, though.

Conclusions?

As an open world ship trading and combat game, Windward excels tremendously. It’s fun, has witty banter, includes the ability to team up with friends in co-op and lets you enjoy the Golden Age of Sail as if you too were a part of the 17th Century. The most important aspect of this game, however, is in how incredibly fun it is. I’ve played several hours and plan on playing several more. There’s enough content to keep most people interested for some time, and the combat itself is gratifying. Windward is a great game and anyone interesting in top-down destructive fun should take a look. It’s deeper than you might think.

Windward is currently available through Steam for $14.99 and has very positive user reviews. Are you ready to be a naval genius?

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