The vibrant and lonely world of Windlands will test your mettle, and on occasion patience, as you scale mountain peaks and lost cities in search of hundreds of collectibles and the keys to the future.
As you begin your character wakes from a long slumber, and it is not long at all before you’re off swinging from trees and mountain bushes, on your quest to retrieve crystals that will open up the way before you. There is a short tutorial that acclimatises you to the colourful, yet simple looking, world around you. It becomes immediately apparent that you’re much more dexterous in this world than you are in the real one. You can jump several times higher than in real life, a skill some may find slightly uncomfortable at first, but once you get used to it it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
There is a story to Windlands. It’s not very deep but then you don’t really need or want it to be. The aim of the game here is exploration and the vast amount of collectibles helps to push you to really search every nook and cranny. Scattered around the three levels are various checkpoints where you will respawn if you make a fatal error and fall to your death. After collecting each crystal you are given another piece of the story and history of the world you find yourself in.
Using the DS4’s shoulder buttons (L2, R2) you hookshot yourself around the ruins of an ancient civilisation. It will take some time to hone your swinging skills and more often that not you may find yourself struggling to hop yourself onto the top of a tree. You also have the ability to wall-jump but more often than not I found myself doing this by accident and propelling myself miles off course and plummeting to the abyss below. This can be exceptionally frustrating when you’re simply trying to jump from one platform to another and clip a raised section of ground; you’ll end up careening off in the opposite direction. You can avoid this by taking your time but I found the sense of speed exhilarating and wanted to maintain top speed as much as possible.
The game is very simplistic graphically but as with other PSVR titles, when you’re inside the headset this actually works in the games favour. Everything is clearer and the lack of blur and the vibrant colour palette helps with the sense of immersion. I also think it’s much safer that these early VR games can not pull off realistic graphics, otherwise we might have psychological issues when returning to the real world. The sense of scale is top notch too. You will find yourself looking up, in amazement, more often than not.
You will need strong VR legs for Windlands. I wouldn’t suggest it be the first game you play and if it is turn on all of the comfort settings. You can always turn them off later as you get used to VR, or if you realise you have a stomach of steel. I’d been playing VR for a fair few hours and even I felt queasy the first time. Now I’m absolutely fine with all but one of the comfort settings off: snap turning. I find if you turn in VR the same way you would in a regular game you will get disorientated. I’m not sure if this is something that will ever go away, but for now snap turning – in which you instantly turn a number of degrees in either direction – works absolutely fine. And I do have to commend Psytec on the amount of comfort settings, other developers would do well to learn from them.
There are several difficulty settings and as it happened I much prefer the easy option. In easy mode your grapple can latch on to any surface, not just trees and hedges. This does make the game way too easy but you can swing from place to place without much fear of falling to your doom. If you do miss your target, there’s a high chance you’ll find something else to grab on to on the way down.
The three levels are varied enough that when you reach a new one you won’t feel as though you’ve seen it all already – even though you’re doing exactly the same thing in all three. I say that as if Spiderman-ing it around in VR could get boring, but I never got bored. All three levels are reached through a hub world that also grants access to several challenge levels with accompanying leaderboards, which help to increase the games longevity.
There is more than enough here to warrant the price, something that can’t be said for a lot of the VR games currently available. The main game will keep you occupied for hours and finding every last collectible will last a lot longer. If you try to rush through the game like I did, you may get frustrated when missing jumps or bumping into walls. That said, Windlands is a great glimpse into the future of adventure/exploration VR games. If you’ve ever wanted to swing like Spiderman, or are just looking for a VR adventure experience, Windlands is for you.
Verdict: 8/10 – A must-buy, just remember you will need VR legs or the comfort settings on.