WindForge – Review

Title   WindForge
Developer  Snowed In
Publisher  Snowed In
Platform  Windows PC
Genre  Action RPG
Release Date  March 11, 2014

There are games which appear perfect, on paper. The perfect mix of themes or gameplay mechanics, multiplayer elements or voice casting; there’s something that makes you look up and take notice. WindForge is one of those, a game promising a heady mix of Terraria-style creative construction and destruction, along with Contra-inspired combat all brought together in a world that looks not too dissimilar to Dishonored. Build and fly airships around a steampunk-inspired world, exploring a randomly generated floating islandscape and battling sky whales. Sign me the hell up.

However, all is not well in the floating world of WindForge.

Snowed In Studios have delivered a steampunk, airship-filled adventure set in the world of Cordeus. The human society of this world relies heavily on the production and consumption of Sky Whale oil. In typical human fashion however, the people of Cordeus have hunted the whale to the edge of extinction, sparking a need to look at alternative power sources.

Tales are told of an ancient people who had their own unique and unlimited source of power, but all research on the subject is strictly forbidden, causing scientists to go underground. This is where the game begins, with the player raiding an ancient tomb for clues about this mysterious energy source.

In a similar vein to games like Terraria and StarBound, you begin by moving through the fairly limited character creation. Here you will find a number of different classes such as the Sailor or Butcher, each with their own unique home town along with minor starting-stat differences and abilities. The sailor, for example, is more comfortable sailing around in his airship, meaning he is clumsier on solid ground, but less inclined to fall over while flying. Each character starts with some basic tools (like the incredibly fun and broken grapple hook) and their very own starter airship.

Flying is very much the name of the game and in WindForge you will design, build, and fly your own custom airships. As the world you inhabit consists of floating islands, your airship becomes your main means of transportation and essentially both your home and workshop. As you progress through the game you begin to unlock the foundations for new airship frames, allowing you to move between ships designed for crafting and those built for combat.

In flight combat, the camera angle pulls back to give you a much wider view of what is flying around your ship. When it works, it’s a lot of fun and you will remember your first battle with a Sky Whale. Mine took about ten minutes of it bashing in to my little wooden ship, as I tried in vain to dodge.

However, ground combat leaves a lot to be desired. It follows that Contra style, and is frantic as you bounce around trying to avoid melee and ranged attacks. It can be enjoyable but most of the time it’s so frantic that you’ll either edge off a cliff, which can lead to you falling off a floating island to your death, or you are indoors and constantly bouncing off the roof of whatever room you happen to be in.

There also seems to be an issue with enemies spawning in endless droves; more than once I’ve been happily mining away only to be beset by five or six flying enemies at a time which, at a low level, proves to be quite a challenge.

Sadly though, in its current build the flying component, along with a large number of other elements, are quite buggy. I’ve had moments bringing a ship in to land where it wouldn’t descend and instead rubber banded back up to a set point for no reason, and another time my entire airship was essentially stolen by a bugged flying creature who got stuck under the balloon.

Crafting is a major element of the game and at last count there were over 1200 items to build ranging from clothing to airship guns and propellers. This all works fairly well and in a similar vein to games like StarBound – you gather materials, usually via mining, enough to complete a recipe and build at your crafting table. New recipes can be found throughout the world, through the looting of cities and ruins, or bought from vendors.

Unfortunately the bugs are not just limited to flying; WindForge also has one of the most useless mining tools I’ve ever had the misfortune to use. To explain this properly, think of how simple the mining is in Minecraft – you stand on a point and can strike everything within a certain distance of you, but that’s not the case in WindForge.  I have spent hours trying to mine materials with a tool that is intermittent at best in terms of its ability to break materials down. It doesn’t matter how close you get, or how far away you are, the mining tool just strikes what it likes and you spend such a long time just mining nothing while you try to work around it. This is one of my biggest issues and while I realise these are just bugs, for a game in this genre, where the ability to mine and create is paramount, it is completely unforgivable.

Visually you won’t be blown away by the art found in WindForge. While the characters and animals are all well drawn – the Sky Whale for example is incredibly detailed and well animated – the environments leave a lot to be desired. Texture quality in some of the ground blocks make everything look like a brown smudge while trees and vegetation look like cut-out drawings copied and pasted throughout.

All of this pales in comparison to the mess of a UI you have to try and navigate. At higher resolutions it looks like a collection of thrown-together bitmaps and the menu system is a nightmare to navigate. Items crafted are dumped in your inventory as a scrollable list which, further in to the game, leads to you having to endlessly scroll through hundreds of items looking for the one you need. It’s either poorly thought out or the developers thought they would be original rather than use systems that have stuck around in other games because of their ease of use.

The lack of visual quality and the numerous bugs result in a game that should be fun, but is so poorly delivered it’s just frustrating mess. At a fundamental level if you screw up in a Minecraft-style game you just restart, or start a new world, but in WindForge you are pushed forward by a storyline and you end up losing hours of your time due to an iffy auto save feature. The number of times I’ve had to load up a save because something strange has happened, such as dying randomly while hooked to the edge of a building, or my airship exploding for no apparent reason, is ridiculous. WindForge is a game I wanted to love, but in its current state couldn’t possibly recommend.

  • Floating airships are fun (when they work)
  • Huge number of craftable items
  • Interesting storyline
  • Incredibly buggy
  • Airships are fragile and will fall out of the sky if a passenger sneezes
  • In the sky there be monsters, so many god damn monsters

Some games are full of great ideas. WindForge to me seemed likea Terraria/StarBound-inspired, steampunk, airship flying, Sky Whale hunting roleplaying game, and it sounded amazing. Hell, at a basic level, any crafting game with a proper story sounds amazing. It’s a concept that calls out to all of we less-creative Minecraft players who weren’t happy just building giant castles or Danny Dyer faces. I wanted WindForge to be the answer to all this, I wanted to love it but, honestly, save your money; better yet buy Terraria or StarBound and see how this type of game should be done.

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One Comment

  1. Ste Ste says:

    I really liked the idea of Terraria and other games of its ilk but I get bored with simply building a house and then mining endlessly for no other reason other than to build something. I get that it’s all about being creative and all that bollocks but I like my games to give me a proper goal that I can aim for. What a shame that something which does both falls flat on it’s arse.

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