Survival games come in all shapes and sizes but often focus on being multiplayer affairs where other players can ruin all of your hard work and basically your digital life. Thankfully, Windbound isn’t a multiplayer game, it’s a single-player one. It’s an incredibly pretty one too, with style wrapped around the entire experience both in terms of the aesthetics as well as a lot of the things you have to do.
You play as a woman called Kara. You and your tribe were crossing the sea when you get separated from everyone else. Thankfully, you don’t die, but you do end up stranded with no clue as to your whereabouts or how you’re going to survive. Also thankfully, you’re a proud warrior, so you know how to defend yourself, and how to provide for yourself. Both of those things are going to be essential if you want to make it through Windbound.
Not only are you going to have to find food to stay alive, but given that you’re on one of many islands, you’re going to have to build a boat as well. This is the core of Windbound’s moment-to-moment gameplay, your fight for survival. Thankfully, materials are fairly easy to come by and the crafting system is easy to use. Every island is littered with an array of materials for you to get your hands on, and upgrading your storage and your boat is a relatively painless experience most of the time.
That thing is too cute to die
The other main components of the game are the combat and the sailing. Combat is fairly good fun, although I felt bad killing nearly every creature I came across and did my best to avoid doing so whenever I could. There are so many cute little things running around the islands of Windbound that when you do find something a little more terrifying it’s a nice chance to show off your weapons and hunting skills. Well, that and probably die, but it’s a survival game, so what were you expecting. You’ll lose all of your items and a lot of progress upon death, and I think a lot of people are going to find that rather unpleasant. This doesn’t happen on Story difficulty, so you can avoid it if you’d like, but it’s definitely something to be aware of.
The sailing is probably the most peaceful aspect of the game. At least it is when the weather’s not terrible. As you improve your little sea-faring vessel from canoe up to a full boat, you’ll get to calmly go from place to place with very little effort. Which is good, because that’s the only way you’re going to find all of the mysterious artefacts that are essential to uncovering the truth of where you are and so much more.
Windbound is a lovely little adventure game in a beautiful world. You don’t always have to kill things, and you can generally be a little more relaxed as you journey from island to island and watch the wildlife. It’s not perfect, but I enjoyed my time in the world, and the emotional ride constantly swaying between immensely chilled out and “god damn it I died” was one I found quite fun.
[Reviewed on PC]