Windlands @ EGX 2016

Soaring through the air, trying to attach a grapple hook onto the tree crowns and falling – a lot – sounds like a sickening nightmare in VR. Yet it is not. In fact, in Windlands it works quite well. Once you get it right.

• Developer: Psytec Games
• Publisher: Psytec Games
• Reviewed on: PlayStation 4 (PSVR)
• Also Available On: PC (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive)
• Release Date: 13th October on PSVR, Available now on Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

In Windlands, the player explores a deserted world, trying to discover why it has been abandoned and left empty. They soar from one floating island to another, collecting crystals to bring this mysterious world back to life. This game is about exploration, at your own pace, setting the rhythm that you are comfortable with. There is an option to speed run the game, but there are enough collectibles and discoveries to occupy a player for many hours.

My demo at EGX began from the basics, and I’m glad it did, because I needed all the hand-holding it could give me. I started by jumping, and missed my platform immediately. I tried again. And again. I am not afraid of heights, but when looking at my feet (for a more precise landing) I couldn’t help but get that knot feeling in the stomach, that happens when your mind thinks you are located somewhere very high. While for me this is a nice buzz of adrenaline, if you are not a fan of highs, you will most likely checkout at this point.
Windlands 5
Then comes the main mechanic of the game itself, mainly soaring through one tree to another using the grapple hook, which is assigned to the trigger buttons on the controller. When looking at the crown of the green trees, an aiming point on the screen gets whiter, signifying that when hooked, you will be attached to that point. Practice and repeat as necessary to progress in the game. What I struggled with the most (and I suspect that I will have to do a lot of that kind of ‘unlearning’ with VR games) is letting go of the analogue sticks every time I wanted to turn. Whenever I did that, the screen’s image would jump slightly, disorientating me and, consequently, leading me to miss my mark and fall. It turns out, it is pretty hard to teach my brain, that, when I play a game in VR and want to turn, all I have to do is turn my head! Silly brain!
Windlands 3
Speaking to the developer afterwards, he noted that turns via analogue sticks are still useful, helping to execute sharper turns. Also when not using them, the screen transition is completely smooth, which can lead to a feeling of sickness for some people. So there is quite a number of players who prefer to play with the screen jumping slightly to avoid motion sickness. I will note that I didn’t have any problems with motion sickness when playing the game at all. It possibly helps, that the character that you are playing feels very light, as if unencumbered by the laws of gravity. There is, therefore, very little disconnect between what you see and what you do, which helps to prevent motion sickness.
Windlands 2

Even once you remember to use your head *for turning*, flying is harder than it looks. However, if you do get in a rhythm of grappling one tree with the right hook and immediately sending out the left hook to another point, not missing, and continuing to swing in this pattern, it feels really great. I can see it being a relaxing and even a therapeutic experience, actually. Hard day at work? Here are ten minutes of calm flying among the beautiful deserted scenery to relax you.

There are some story elements to the game and a narrator speaking, while you are exploring the world, but the story is by no means a dominant part of the gameplay. It is there mainly to guide a player and give a little bit more context.

Windlands 4
There are currently three worlds available in the game, as well as leaderboards  for those who want to perfect their scores. Both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive had Windlands on release day, while the PSVR version is to release later than this. The developers have no plans for DLC as of yet, as they are busy bringing the game to PSVR, but they might consider making some additional content when the game is finished. Even so, there are currently several other VR games in Psytec’s pipeline.

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  1. Brian B.

    Its great seeing this game will be released on the PSVR launch but do you know if there will be a demo also have they announced a price yet?

    thanks, and great article 🙂

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