Windlands VR

Posted September 24, 2014 by in All

All Demos: ,
 
 
 
 
Developer: Ilja Kivikangas
 
Demo Release Date: 14-09-2014
 
Version: 0.1.1a
 
Type: Platform Explore
 
Platform: PC, Mac, Linux
 
HMD: Oculus Rift DK1 & DK2
 
Download: Click Here
 
Control Schemes: Xbox Controller, Keyboard & Mouse, Stem coming soon
 

Best Part:

Incredibly enjoyable movement mechanics and beautifully designed world
 

Worst Part:

Clipping into the underside of things
 
Bottom Line

Bold and daring, Windlands is a joy to play.

Rating

Graphics
 
 
 
 
 


Sound
 
 
 
 
 


Controls
 
 
 
 
 


Gameplay
 
 
 
 
 


Comfort Level
 
 
 
 
 


Immersion
 
 
 
 
 


Total Score
 
 
 
 
 

4/ 5

by Edmund
Full Article

 

Grapnel guns, Ninja ropes and Hookshots – gamers have known for many years the simple pleasure of swinging.

Windlands boldly brings this mechanic to virtual reality, in a game all about exploration and traversal. The two main questions of the game are “Where should I go?” and “How do I get there?” By wall-jumping or swinging like Spiderman is usually the answer to the second question. Everywhere, is the answer to the first.

windlands 3The cell-shaded world of Windlands is lovely to look at and soon becomes quite readable, compelling you to explore. Admiring the landscape quickly turns to surveying it as your eyes are drawn to enticing points of light emanating from inaccessible locations. How do I get there? You ask yourself, and trace a route in the distance across myriad traversal challenges, building up an idea of what is going to be needed from you.

The general structure and rhythm of the game is quite familiar, not unwelcomely so. Get to places that are difficult to reach to acquire artefacts to unlock access to more difficult to reach places. This demo contains four artefacts that unlock a new area, and 38 other collectibles.
A game so based around superhuman movements may seem like a sure-fire recipe for sim-sickness but the latest demo for the DK2 is surprisingly comfortable and its core mechanics intrinsically enjoyable. The result is an experience that is thrilling and joyful, but also compulsively playable by all but the most sensitive Rifters. It is the closest thing that you’ll find to a VR Mirrors Edge, but with an atmosphere that feels like a cross between a Team ICO title and a cell-shaded Zelda.

windlands 2Comparisons to such games may sound like exaggerations or just loft aspirations lifted from the Windlands Indiegogo campaign, but the latest demo shows how well it’s all coming together. Even calling it a ‘demo’ does it a disservice – already this is a polished, well designed and satisfyingly sized experience. I was able to finish the main challenges of the demo in about an hour and a half, but still have an appetite to explore more and try speed-runs. The full game is set to take further inspiration from Shadow of the Colossus, by including traversal-based fights against gigantic bosses to act as points of climax to periods of more tranquil exploration.

An excellent tutorial area quickly teaches you your abilities, including various uses and limitations of your grappling hook arms, controlled with left and right triggers. Shoulder buttons allow you to rapidly climb up green surfaces. It can take a little while to get used to really trusting that jump as far as you can, especially when you’re peering over the edge of an impossibly high floating platform. Leaps can feel a bit ‘feathery’ but this does allow for fine adjustment to landings and presumably contributes to a more comfortable experience. The challenges are a great mix of observation, planning and execution, with a difficulty that generally feels just right. There is enough resistance to make you pause, but not so much as to ever break the flow.

The placement of checkpoints around the map is good, saving you from having to backtrack too far when you make a mistake. There was however, one section where I was flung off course by a jet of wind that propelled me into an earlier checkpoint – forcing me to retrace my steps a long way. Being able to teleport to any already visited checkpoint might be the best way to prevent this kind of frustration.

windlands 1There are a couple of other small issues that could be improved. Hooking into the underside of things usually causes you to see right through them, which is a bit weird and off-putting. On occasion, when you are moving between the boarder of two areas the soundtrack will transition awkwardly between songs which brings you out of the experience. The soundtrack itself is full of lovely compositions, though, that imbue the environment with a lot of character.

Overall, Windlands is shaping up to be superb. It is certainly worthy of comparisons to the games it aspires to be. It seems to have been methodically built by carefully refining of an intrinsically enjoyable mechanic, combined with a series of excellent aesthetic decisions. The developers should be very proud of this effort – this demo version almost feels overly generous with content – it’s nearly a shippable product in itself, where the most glaring omission is probably just the lack of any save functionality.

Visually enchanting and quite unique for VR at the moment, Windlands already one of my favourite games on the Rift. With a full version promising more content and climactic boss fights, I’d be surprised if it doesn’t turn out to be a hit. I was also delighted to learn that STEM support is planned for the full game, as free aimed grappling hooks would take this already delightful experience to a whole other level.

Back on Indiegogo here

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About the Author

Edmund

Edmund Ward is a philosophy graduate who has focused on aesthetics and cultural critique in the information age. He grew up with 'the dream of the holodeck' and is prone to get very excited by new innovations in natural user-interfaces. Edmund is currently looking for volunteers to look after the glucose drip that will sustain his "fleshform" (as he insists on calling it) when he migrates permanently to VR.

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