Review: Windlands (PSVR) | PlayStation Nation

09. Nov, 2016

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Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • HTC Vive
  • Oculus Rift
  • PC, Mac

Format/Hardware Used:

Extras:

  • PlayStation VR Required
  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • PlayStation Move None

Title: Windlands
Format: PSN (1.72 GB)
Release Date: October 25, 2016
Publisher: Psytec Games Ltd.
Developer: Psytec Games Ltd.
Original MSRP: $24.99
ESRB Rating: E
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Windlands combines some familiar gameplay styles and succeeds at making one of the more enjoyable experiences in these early pioneering weeks of PlayStation VR.

As with many of these VR reviews, at least until most of us become accustomed to existing in a VR world, I must warn that Windlands is dependent on a great deal of motion. You will run, strafe, jump, and swing from extremely high locations. Factor this in before taking the plunge. That said, the developers created a wealth of options to minimize the discomfort that can come from VR motion.

Not only can you all but eliminate nausea by turning on all of the “protective” options, you can also choose which ones to turn on and off individually in order to customize your perfect experience. One option allows your turning to be done in “blinks” to keep you from becoming disoriented when turning your actual head versus your character. Another eliminates strafing altogether.

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There is even an option that surrounds your character in a protective cage. This latter option appears to be more psychological than anything, since the game does not kill you when falling from great heights.

If you can get past the locomotion nausea, the game is a blast. It controls like a traditional FPS, with your head slightly guiding your direction. But the absolute enjoyment comes in the form of the “grappling” hooks that almost immediately bring thoughts of being Spider-Man. In fact, I hope that Insomniac is looking at this mechanic for potentially incorporating VR into their upcoming Spider-Man game.

… it’s the discovery that makes this game …

When I watched videos of Windlands, I thought for certain that this would allow for Move controllers, but they’re not supported at all. Upon playing it however, I found that it controls quite well with the good ol’ DualShock 4.

After obtaining the grappling hooks very early in the game, you are able to reach previously-unattainable areas by looking where you want to launch your hook and pressing either shoulder buttons. The system is very forgiving and it was extremely rare that I fell to my death, because those suckers can reach just about everything.

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Once you grow accustomed to using these hooks, you’ll begin to appreciate this game’s mechanics and will climb to great heights just to jump down and swing from branch to branch.

Despite the great fun found in traversing the environments, it’s the discovery that makes this game. You are tasked with bringing a long dead world back to life by finding artifacts and discovering what became of the old civilization that created these structures. The tone is very reminiscent of Journey.

… one of those games that relies on stylistic visuals …

There is no combat in Windlands. You spend most of your time exploring. This made for a very relaxing experience, thus a very welcoming one, in a hardware launch that included space battles, killer coasters, and Batmen.

I do suggest experimenting with your grappling hooks because the game does not tell you about additional abilities they have, such as hooking onto two different pillars at the same time, again, Spider-Man, pulling back hard and releasing, launching you quickly into the sky, like a slingshot.

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Visuals:
While the game won’t be winning any awards for being a graphical powerhouse, the visuals are sufficient enough to carry the surreal landscapes, and quite honestly, don’t look bad at all.

Buildings and trees tower over you and you might catch a glimpse of a gigantic sentinel robot far off in the distance attending to some unknown task. This is one of those games that relies on stylistic visuals over the use of Triple-A graphical techniques.

… a VR experience I will not soon forget …

Audio:
Much like similarly themed exploration games, Windlands is accompanied by new-age-like ambient sound and music. The marriage of the sound design, with the simple visuals, serve to whisk you away from your couch and into an ancient land.

Furthermore, the moment you begin to accelerate by running very fast or swinging across the sky, the sound of wind infiltrates your ears. Wear headphones, as this sounds extremely cool, and adds to the feeling of flying that is done so well here.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is singleplayer only with no online component.

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Conclusion:
While the gameplay in Windlands is simple and combines a traditional platformer with mechanics from old games like Bionic Commando, said mixture made for a VR experience I will not soon forget. This is first and foremost a game about exploration.

But the grappling locomotion mechanics adds to that third dimension experience and is greatly enhanced by VR. Approach with caution, as this game has the potential to cause motion sickness. It didn’t take long for me to grow accustomed to it, and soon, I was loving every second of exploring this strange floating land.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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