by Preston Dozsa
reviewed on PC
From time to time, I like to sit down and build things. Not great things mind you, just some simple, run of the mill objects from whatever happens to be in my immediate area. Sometimes they turn out well (Blanket forts!), while other times it is a functional mess. And even when I create those messes, I still feel a bit of pride knowing that I had the skill to at least understand what I was doing. See, I like to think that I’m able to figure out how something works without reading the instructions. When I play a game, I treat it much the same way. I forgo the instruction manual, briefly go through the tutorial, and experiment with how the game works.
With Windforge, I really, really wish it had an instruction manual. Or, at the very least, a tutorial that didn’t just teach me the controls.
Captain Ahab, in the cockpit..?
Windforge takes place in a land of floating islands, where the primary fuel is whale oil, which comes from flying whales. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you view things, the whale are going extinct and you are entrusted with searching for an ancient source of fuel to keep society going. And so you go against your society’s laws and venture forth to a world filled with bandits, creatures, and giant flying whales.
Near the beginning, you are given your very own ship with which to explore the world. Instead of building your own ship, you mine resources and turn them into upgrades for the one ship you have. OK, no problem with that. It’s just that Windforge doesn’t really tell you what exactly each of the minable materials look like. So I ended up spending quite a bit of time trying to figure out what each colored rock was, and then finding out what they actually do before I could put it to proper use.
Danger is my last name. Blackbeard Danger.
And you’ll need to put it to proper use, because the skies in which you sail are very dangerous places. Like, really dangerous places where the enemies feel like they are coming at you non-stop. Every time it looked like I would get a break, a bandit ship would float into view and pepper me with their vast array of weaponry. Or, annoying creatures would fly around me and take off tiny chunks of my ship. Thankfully, one of the weapons at your disposal is a gun that heals everything. If a chunk of your ship went missing, just point the gun at it and, poof, it would be like nothing ever happened. It is such a broken weapon that it makes most fights quite easy to skip.
I didn’t skip all of the fights, however, as the combat is actually rather interesting. With the upgrades you give your ship, such as guns and armor among others, you can turn it into a flying platform of doom that can be healed by your magic gun. I also found great joy in ramming enemy ships with my own, as it is a viable tactic that is only enhanced by your propellers dicing up your opponent bit by bit. As for combat during the on foot portions of the game, it is more tedious than not. The creatures are uninteresting and at various times annoying, and your small selection of handheld weapons doesn’t have the same satisfaction that is present while flying your ship. The multitude of creatures while exploring the islands is also a detriment to the exploration. It’s very hard to mine and search for treasure when you can’t stop and mine for more than two minutes at a time.
What glitters is not always gold.
Which is a shame, because the islands themselves look quite lovely, and practically beg you to stop for a moment and smell the roses. And really, the entire game has a style that just screams adventure. From the 19th century style towns to the ancient ruins of a lost civilization, the whole game feels as though it's been carefully sculpted to be appealing to the eyes. Which, compared to the character designs, is much appreciated.
Perhaps the most glaring fault with Windforge is that it gets all of the little things that allow for a better experience wrong. When you are on a quest, the objective marker disappears within a certain range of the objective. And when you have no idea what the objective looks like, it provides for plenty of frustration when you just want to get back to your ship. The inventory management system is a mess, but it can barely be turned into a usable organization system through some finagling. And then there have been the times where projectiles do not show up when they are fired, leaving me to die when invisible plasma that you could not see coming hits. I could go on, but to sum it all up, the game will definitely need a patch or three to set everything back to normal.
Windforge sounded like an intriguing game when I first heard about it. An explorable game with a system similar to Terraria, but in the sky? Sounds fun! In reality, you are treated with a game that is its own worst enemy, preventing you from enjoying it through numerous technical issues and strange design choices. Which is a shame. I really wanted to build something with it.
Great environment, cool concept, enjoyable Sky fights.
Numerous technical issues, unexplained mechanics, strange design choices.