With support for the Nintendo Switch increasing at a staggering rate, there are now more and more publishing companies becoming associated with our beloved hybrid. It soon comes to pass that said companies then carry a weight of expectation to deliver content either equal to or better than what has come before. When I hear the name Headup Games, I am keen to find out more about any new release. Whilst they are associated with Super Treasure Arena which was not to my liking, their name is found sat proudly next to any and all Dead Cells content. A publisher with links to a title like that should be taken seriously.
It is with such surprise and disappointment then that Headup Games are the publishers behind Windscape. Independently developed by Dennis Witte, the premise of Windscape is one that I found difficult to ignore: a first-person exploration action-adventure title. Dubbed a homage to The Legend of Zelda and the like, one can be forgiven for having high hopes for this fairly open-world, quest-driven digital title.
Upon spawning in the back garden of the house you share with your parents, you are tasked with gathering ingredients for the meal your mother is diligently watching boil on the stove. It is difficult to not see this as a metaphor for the game: half-baked. A quick climb up the ladder to the first floor serves as yet another indicator as to the unpolished state of Windscape, with the robotic movement up and down the ladder feeling outdated and unwelcome. Once the formalities of dinner are complete, your father sends you on a mission to help out one of the many NPCs you will come across throughout the game. This is where the quest begins, and subsequently where the early promise of Windscape begins to fade.
The current version of Windscape is riddled with issues. Whilst there are many titles, indie and AAA, that release with parts that need changing, Windscape takes it up a notch. From inaccurate and unusual AI choices to frame rate dips and even objects that can be walked through as if they are not there, it feels rushed and unloved.
Although I am certain that this is not the case – one only has to look at how the game was received on PC to confirm this – there is most definitely concerns over how well this game has been ported to the Switch. At the time of writing, the publishers had responded to my enquiry into a patch by stating that they are currently gathering information before deciding how to proceed.
Outside of the performance issues which are plaguing the game, there are other areas of the title that require development. To begin, the storyline is disjointed and not nearly as engaging as others in this genre. Couple this with a quest system that, whilst making use of a map in the top right corner of the screen, doesn’t update itself as parts of that quest are completed. For example, I entered a cave to gather some resources, came back out, and the map was still directing me to the cave. I then completed the entire sequence again believing I had missed something, only to realise I had to find my way back to the NPC who issued the quest to confirm I had in fact done what was requested.
As well as a poorly crafted storyline, Windscape’s combat system left me wanting more. Armed with either a combat weapon and shield or a number of different magical elements that shoot from your hands, all variations were simplistic in use and easy to ‘master’. Rarely was I tested and rarely did I enjoy the combat itself, be it against a boss or a swarm of enemies. This may have been in part due to the fact that the other elements of Windscape had let me down so much so that I couldn’t engage fully in what was on offer, but nevertheless, this was the mark that Windscape left upon me.
The key elements to Windscape are the combat, exploration and crafting. In much the same way as the combat, the crafting is rather simplistic too. That’s not to say that this is a negative, and in fact, I enjoyed how simple it was to craft the different parts needed for battle or finding out what new weapons I could build. Personally, I felt that the crafting element is the part of the game which has been done best, and offers a beacon of hope for the other issues once addressed.
As an avid fan of open-world titles, I sometimes have to remind myself to remain objective. For me, I think they are the greatest example of video gaming done right and offer a true escape from the real world. In many an open-world game, I have found redeeming features that allow me to forgive any shortcomings. Unfortunately, with a poorly crafted AI system and bug after unnecessary bug, Windscape is one that I have been unable to do the same for. With some major improvements in performance and a few tweaks to the gameplay mechanics themselves, I could foresee Windscape being a largely successful game. Right now, in short, it is undeserving of any praise and not one that I can recommend.
Review code provided
Platform: PC, Nintendo
Release Date: 27/03/2019
No. of Players: 1
Category: Adventure, Action, Role-Playing, Puzzle
Publisher: Headup Games
Download link: eShop