Windscape is the first title from Magic Sandbox, published by Headup Games. The best way to describe it would be an incredibly visually pleasing Skyrim-lite, the game features multiple RPG elements from multiple quests, inventory management and item crafting. Windscape is currently in Early Access and from watching their Steam page, updates are somewhat regular.
So, in its current state what does Windscape have to offer? The open world in its current state is a little small, but there are however a collection of quests to keep you busy and guide you through the scenic environment. It has to be said that it’s all incredibly visibly pleasing, the simple low poly style which bears some resemblance to Grow Up or Garbage Day.
The core gameplay is mostly that of following quest orders, traversing through the environment and fighting some enemies. The standard RPG quest format appears, people who’ve lost items in caves or that have been stolen by bandits that you need to fight/return. There appears to be multiple armour slots, but in the games current state you can only equip different weapons.
The combat to start off is simple, with left click to swing and right click to block. It’s relatively easy to get used to the combat quickly and there is a small range of enemies to put those skills to the test. Once you move beyond the basic club onto the bow, bronze sword or bronze mace the combat begins to find its own legs. The bow quickly became my personal favourite weapon for dealing with enemies. These upgraded melee weapons have special attacks when charged, with the sword shooting out ranged bolts and the mace smashing down on the ground.
Crafting takes up a fair chunk of the game, allowing the player to make food to replenish health, a multitude of potions and the previously mentioned weapons. Ingredients are mostly gathered from chests or dropped off enemies, but the player with an axe or pickaxe can collect wood and ore. Dry wood is often needed but during my play-through I couldn’t find any way to turn wooden logs into sticks, obviously the game is still in Early Access so I’m sure in a future update it’ll be available.
There is also the promise of Iron weapons but in the version I played, 1.1 I believe, there wasn’t enough iron ore to craft them. Gathering items can take some time, which does cause you to sometimes stop and pause for a moment but it never feels long enough as to be disruptive. Some of the most fun I had in the game was running around smashing all the crates and barrels for loot. Never gets old.
Windscape has clearly taken a splash of inspiration from the Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. The main quest that has you enter a bandit dungeon follows a mixture of puzzles, multiple sections and a large scale boss fight at the end. You’re rewarded with an increase in health and a quest item. The puzzle consisted of arranging switches to create some steps, which was a nice change of pace while not being overly finicky.
The boss fight itself has a simple pattern to get used to, while providing more of a challenge than the standard enemy. I actually went into the boss fight with just the standard mace, the game as a whole never was too challenging as the closest I came to dying is when multiple enemies were thrown at me. The design of all the enemies are equally stylised, the bandits in particular are modelled and animated particularly well. I did come across some slightly AI issues when hiding around corners or multiple enemies getting stuck on stairs.
You do start to see how the game plans to expand across development however, as you collect future quests to content not available yet or the start of a magic system. The world is well crafted, the character models are unique and all this game really needs is more content. Lore wise the game feels a little light at the moment, you’re somewhat thrust into adventure from the start and I’m sure the plot will develop in time.
There is honestly so much potential in this game, you can get a real feel for the game within the early access. The developer remains quite active and open to what features he’s focusing on next, it is just that in its current state it isn’t too re-playable or have much longevity. Outside of completing all the available quests and crafting all the weapons, there isn’t too much to do. There are hints of more content at the outskirts of the map, but more often than not the player isn’t rewarded for exploring off the beaten path.
Technical wise, I didn’t run into any framerate, bugs or crash issues. This is clearly one of the better examples of Early Access. There is a music volume adjuster but not one for audio. On the topic of sound effects, the sound of hitting enemies is incredibly satisfying. The music is soothing and often fits the feel of exploring the land.
For everything that Windscape does, it does it well and it is definitely a title that I shall be watching the development cycle closely. The games it has taken inspiration from are apparent and while it doesn’t stretch too far from the RPG comfort zone it is still a budding title to the genre. Personally I would watch the Steam page to see what is added in the next patch before picking this game up, however if you’ve got an itch to some solid RPG action I would think about grabbing Windscape now.
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