Ever wanted to feel the web-slinging action of Spider-Man 2 within a VR setting? Fortunately, Psytec Games has your back, as Windlands is very much that. You explore a forgotten land, abandoned even by time, using two grappling hooks to leap from item to item. Who knows? Maybe you’ll unravel what happened that made gravity apathetic enough to let islands remain suspended above ground.
While wandering around EGX rediscovering games like one rediscovers a buffet table at a party, I came upon Windlands. I faintly recall playing Spider-Man 2 and having a good time. What I recall more strongly, though, is the heavy praise the web-slinging in Spider-Man 2 enjoyed. So, after a lot of planning, I did my first video interview ever with Nick Pittom of Psytec Games.
I also got to try Windlands and, well, I admit I’m on the fence about this one. It manages to succeed at its idea of presenting an environment to swing from place to place with ease. As well as this, BagoGames’ Chris Newton and I never felt any motion sickness from what was going on. The closest I ever felt to getting motion sick was when I would try to aim directly up and begin to slowly feel myself leaning too far back on the EGX stools.
As I talked about in the interview, there was a definite sense of calmness as you played. Even as you slipped and fell to your demise, there wasn’t really a panic as the wind rushed by you. Instead, the gameplay and visuals combine to produce a soothing title.
Perhaps it’s this very calmness that leads me to my main problem with the game. By creating such a relaxing experience, I never felt the game try to grip me. It never felt like I was being propelled so fast that my cheeks would flap like sails; instead, it was too tranquil of a motion-gaming experience, so much so that it felt more like walking around a countryside. Some free-running games like Lemma grasp me tightly by the shoulders. This is primarily because they use the flow of parkour to reward particularly good players. Lemma allowed players to enjoy the game how they pleased: you could always play it your own relaxing way, or you could get that shot of adrenaline as you feel the speed you’re going.
I also admit that the shallow plot that was shown to me, left me indifferent. On paper it sounded like a curious mystery: gravity is odd, there are ruins you explore and husks of giants to clamber over, and each husk gives you access to small notes hinting at the past. The reality is I never felt engaged or yearning to know more, just a shrug of “that’s nice.” Although, I think part of this may be due to the game never justifying why we should want to unravel the mysteries. It seems they only exist to push the game forward.
It’s entirely possible that this is a personal issue though—an issue where I expected the game to give me something it was never intended for. Maybe Windlands is about relaxation and air-based meditation.
What is somewhat of a lesser personal issue is motion sickness. While both of Bago’s awkward representatives at EGX came out feeling okay (with Newton particularly impressed with it), a friend of mine also tried Windlands and walked away with a headache to cradle for the rest of the day. While Psytec does make a good stab at avoiding inducing nausea, it isn’t perfect, so just be wary.
Is Windlands a bad game despite all that I’ve said? Not really, as it’s competent in the core area it wanted to succeed in (VR web-slinging). Unfortunately, my experience didn’t leave me wishing for more, like a good game makes you hunger for the next play session. I walked away satisfied after the demo playthrough, and I think I’d be content if I never get a chance to play it again.
If you want web-slinging VR, it’ll click with you, but I think tempering your expectations of other elements in the game is key. It can be a blast to take your VR headset for a spin, as long you don’t expect much more.