windforge1Windforge Reviewed

By Megan Mellers

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Hold on to your zeppelins, ladies and gentlemen
Hold on to your zeppelins, ladies and gentlemen

Let me be honest: I don’t like 2D games. Especially complex ones. Call me shallow, but being told to “go left” or “go right” to save the world makes me feel a bit claustrophobic.

So what am I doing reviewing a game like Windforge, which combines elements of RPGS, Minecraft-esque sandboxing, and a platformer into an entirely 2D world? Well, don’t kick me out of this review just yet.

When I play a game whose graphics put me in a bad mood, I’m freed to examine the interface, gameplay, and storyline with a more critical eye. And if such a game manages to overcome my initial prejudice (it has happened, I promise), that means its well-crafted core should recommend it to almost any gamer.

Unfortunately, Windforge hasn’t quite made it. Despite some incredible innovations in setting and gameplay, the physical structure of its 2D world lets it down, making it pretty annoying at times.

Windforge centers around ships that carry players from island to island, hunting whales for fuel. The catch? Those ships are airships, the islands are floating islands, and the whales are sky whales. Whirling through the watercolor clouds under an old-school zeppelin balloon speaks to the exhilarating potential of their universe.

Wolves! In temples!
Wolves! In temples!

Players begin by customizing the appearance and profession an airship pilot. They are plunked on a starter ship and given some introductory quests, such as collecting an alien tablet and repairing their ship.

There’s a lot of cool stuff going on in this game. Dashing through the colorful forest is cool. Crafting engines to power your ship is cool. Using a grappling hook to launch yourself to high places is fun enough to be a game unto itself. And I’ve heard, although I never got there myself, that bringing down whales is an exhilarating challenge.

But suddenly, after an hour or two of play, I realized I wasn’t having fun anymore. The learning curve is steep, due to a lack of tutorial content, and running around in circles looking for some material you don’t know how to find and don’t know what to do with when you do find it quickly grows irritating.

Many minor frustrations break immersion more and more the game progresses. Getting from one side of a city to the other takes endless hopping and climbing and backtracking, for example. And since none of the citizens are labeled, you’ll need to talk to every single one of them to find your contact. The map is huge, and divided into a grid of squares with loading screens between them. Anything you battle in one sky square disappears if you pursue it across a loading screen.

Crashing a strangely lifeless wedding
Crashing a strangely lifeless wedding

The game doesn’t seem sure how difficult it wants to be. I couldn’t for the life of me defeat a sky pirate’s ship, but after any battle I could wave my magic, seemingly limitless repair wrench and instantly have a complete ship again. Combat encounters feel clumsy and either extremely straightforward or well-nigh impossible.

The game is still a bit unfinished, so hoping for further polishing may not be out of the question. I’m also sure that some gamers, especially those with a bit more 2D gaming experience, will enjoy the setting and concept so much that they can look past the game’s flaws. The fact that it can be a downright slog to play, however, may keep it from achieving any great notoriety in the history of gaming.

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[author image=”http://cliqist.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/megan.jpg”]Megan Mellers is a freelance writer based in the Pacific Northwest with her engineer fiancé. She graduated with a degree in English from George Fox University and pursues both creative writing and non-fiction, while grading student papers to make ends meet. Her poetry has appeared in 491 Magazine. She started gaming only a few years ago, which means she’s had a lot of catching up to do. Her favorite games are the ones that challenge her to inhabit them and make her own rules. Currently, that means playing Sleeping Dogs, Mirror’s Edge, and Oblivion/Skyrim while combing the internet for the perfect survival sandbox game that probably doesn’t exist yet. [/author]

Megan Hanbey

Megan Hanbey

Megan Hanbey lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and the imaginary dog she wants so badly. She has a degree in English and will probably be going on to further education in that area--until then, she works as a QA tester. She has only been gaming for about five years, but makes up for it in determination! And lots of research. She enjoys visual novels, RPGs, sandbox games, and anything else with a strong, compelling story. Some of her favorite games are the Witcher franchise, Skyrim, Tomb Raider, and Life is Strange.
Megan Hanbey