Windbound is the latest from the Brisbane-based 5 Lives Studios, makers of Satellite Reign and comprised of (you guessed it) five developers who’ve worked on franchises such as Syndicate, Grand Theft, Star Wars and Darksiders. Windbound is far removed from these titles, a survival game in which you’re tasked to find your way home after a giant shipwreck.
Players will fill the shoes of Kara, a silent warrior “caught at sea in a fierce storm, adrift from your tribe“. Waking on a small island, there aren’t a lot of tutorials (at least in the preview we played through). Instead, you’re left to explore, coming across different types of flora and fauna and mashing the “Y” button to collect any items that’ll fit in your inventory.
Tall grass can be hoarded and turned into rope, and in turn that rope can be used for both weaponry and for your ultimate goal of building a new boat and sailing off to the next island to continue your search. There are a number of crafting recipes to uncover and fulfill, surely something that excites genre enthusiasts.
While your immediate goal is to simply survive, foraging berries and meats to keep your health and stamina up, Windbound promises a narrative to give you a real purpose as compared to other titles in the same genre. Playing through two chapters of the game, that narrative seems to boil down to finding three seashell MacGuffins that’ll allow you to then continue on to a new section. Kara’s the OG Master Chief type — strong, yet decidedly silent — so you’re not going to get too much information out of her.
You’re also not going to get much help from Kara or Windbound‘s limited on-screen tips when it comes to sailing, a major part of the survival title. Armed with ability to steer a sail in addition to loosen or tighten it, I was very confused when it came to actual movement. On-screen gust of wind show the direction the air around you is moving, though I couldn’t consistently find a way to get my boat go in the direction I wanted at the speed I desired.
Though Windbound promises islands with their “own diverse wildlife, landscapes and challenges to face,” the islands we encountered in the two chapters were almost identical, filled with the same types of grass, berries and mushrooms alongside a large and small set of beasts to tackle. The smaller beasts were easily felled with a spear, though the larger types took far more damage.
While combat of this nature could seem daunting as part of a title built around survival, we found we could coax our prey to the shoreline of an island, get a few hits in and then escape a couple steps into the ocean to avoid any and all damage. Rinse, repeat and you’ll have steaks to throw on a campfire in no time.
If you choose to employ that tactic, you’ll do well not to take too many steps into the water. If aggressive fauna wasn’t bad enough, everything seems stacked against poor Kara. Though a mariner, she’s not a very good swimmer — simply being in an open ocean will begin to deplete her stamina, and then her health. Food stored in your bag deteriorates as time goes on, so there’s no sense in hoarding it. This may be a survivalists dream, but it’s definitely not this writer’s cup of tea.
While we sadly were unable to speak with 5 Lives Studios during a recent hands-on event with Windbound, it’s clear the developers have looked to the likes of The Legend of Zelda for influence. With a visual style straight out of Breath of the Wild, it features sailing mechanics that give it a very distinct Wind Waker feel. The game itself really doesn’t play out as either of those titles, so hopefully players know what they’re in for if they decide to give it a go.
Windbound heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch and Stadia where available from 28 August.