Reviewed by Nindie Josh
Developed By: Magic Sandbox
Published By: Headup Games
Category: Action, Adventure
Release Date: March 27, 2019
When hearing about how developer Magic Sandbox was looking to create a first-person experience similar to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and the Legend of Zelda series, I was immediately intrigued. Originally released on PC and now recently released for the Nintendo Switch, what we have is the title Windscape from publisher Headup Games, and it tries to replicate these seminal franchises. However, it forgets what made those series special in the first place and ends up failing in execution in a variety of ways.
Barring the first island, the world of Windscape feels empty and without any signs of life. The NPC’s are dull and there is little to actually look at in these areas with the same general outdoor and dungeon settings throughout. The story is barely worth mentioning, as it is quickly regulated to the backdrop of little world building and talking to lifeless NPC’s for quests. There was some hope with narrative given how it takes place in a mystical world with floating islands, but that is quickly brushed off to the side for a more exploration-based focus.
You think the enemies you face would help, but unfortunately they are so formulaic that it only further emphasizes the dull nature of Windscape. You can sit in a corner and use the same spell or sword attack and defeat most enemies with ease. Combat is as simple as can be and not in an intuitive way. It felt like a dulled down version of Skyrim with enemies barely reacting to attacks and not having any strategy other than standing in one place and pelting you with spells or arrows, or just simply running headlong towards you.
While exploring the different series of islands the gameplay boils down to fetch quests, back-and-forth, until you move onto the next location. It is quite literally an empty world you slowly run around in with very little incentive. There were some hunting and gathering elements to the gameplay, but this is all well-contained and doesn’t add up to a rewarding venture.
The dungeons are the highlight of the experience though, but they are brief and relatively shallow, ending most of the time in disappointing fashion. When facing a boss at the end of each dungeon, they are worse in execution than the common combat with very little in the way of strategy except for the hit-and-run tactic. Each has their own unique attributes, but this never changes your own play style with distinguishing them and most can be easily conquered.
I also did have some enjoyment in Windscape with the weapon crafting and forging systems, which is genuinely interesting and added some variety to the gameplay. There are options to imbue weapons with spells, forge axes, swords, and bows, and you can alter your character in a very minor way. Unfortunately, this does not compensate for the dismal combat which, as alluded to before, does not provide enough excitement or variation to the gameplay.
On top of all the already mentioned negatives to Windscape, my time playing on the Switch was riddled with slowdown and often occurred during large segments. I also experienced a variety of bugs, including one that made it impossible to advance in the story early on and another that occurred during a boss fight with my character being able to sit in one spot and shoot arrows at the boss without the threat of attack. Another boss actually wouldn’t take damage from my attacks and these aren’t the types of bugs that are hilarious or charming in a Bethesda sort of way, but rather frustrating and hindered my experience.
Overall, Windscape tries to emulate great franchises on a miniature scale and unfortunately fails at almost every turn. The lackluster gameplay and repetitive environments don’t provide any incentive on continuing your adventure, and the copious amount of bugs and glitches ruin any enjoyment that can be had from this experience. This is an empty heart adventure where the bright points are few-and-far between with the dreary gameplay taking precedent. The groundwork is laid out, I just hope Magic Sandbox can learn from this experience and craft an open-world adventure worthy of exploring next time.