I pride myself in the fact that I've never gotten sick while playing PlayStation VR games. I’d like to think I have an iron stomach, that I was born with VR legs. Well, Windlands shook my confidence the first time I played it. This beautiful exploration game for PSVR gives you the option to take off the training wheels and soar through massive levels using a pair of grappling hooks.
Thankfully, my second and future forays into this world were much better as I became accustomed to the fast-paced gameplay. Now that I’ve found some stable footing, it’s time to find out if Windlands swings its way into VR stardom, or falls flat on its face.
The World of The Guardians
Windlands take place in a fallen civilization that was once ruled by towering stone beings that kept the land floating in the skies above an endless sea of sand. They have long since fallen, and the crystals they used to keep the islands afloat have been scattered.
You are the last hope for this crumbling world. As a lone explorer with grappling hooks as your only items, you can swing around this world like a zen Spider-man. The story of the game will slowly reveal itself as you collect tablets that are scattered in each level.
The hub world is where you bring the crystals you find to open new portals to other area of the Windlands. These areas are gigantic and extremely varied in their size and shape. At one point in the first forest area, I made my way through tons of mysterious ruins and slowly climbed my way to a crystal that was perched high above the rest of the level.
The sheer satisfaction of leaning over the edge and looking down across an utterly expansive level that I had just traversed, was one of the most satisfying moments in Windlands. While the story isn’t incredibly complex, it sets the tone for a very relaxing and pressure-free exploration experience.
Effective Grappling Gameplay & Comfort Options
I opened my review by saying this game made me dizzy and what you could call “motion sick” the first time I played it. This happened as a result of several decisions I made. I had never felt discomfort in VR before, so I didn’t expect any issue here.
When you start a new game, the developers at Psytec games implement several questions for you to answer in terms of comfort and difficulty. You can choose to have your peripheral vision limited (known to reduce sickness) and have smooth or staggered turning.
Furthermore, you can also choose a difficulty. Easy allows you to grapple to any surface, while Normal and Hard limit the surface you can grapple to and only allow you to swing on trees. These plants are plentiful, but when you combine zero comfort settings with a normal difficulty, you’re in for a really wild ride.
Currently, the game doesn’t support PlayStation Move, but there are plans to implement it via a patch. It would be interesting to see how those implement into the gameplay, but the current scheme uses your head tracking as a cursor and the triggers as your hooks.
Readers of my Tethered review will recall that using your head to look and select objects in a virtual reality is one of my favorite innovations with PlayStation VR. It feels incredibly intuitive to look at something and then immediately shoot out a grapple with my trigger.
In Windlands, this control scheme can cause some discomfort. You’ll feel like you’re getting whiplash when you have to crane your neck back and fire grapples up into the air to survive a fall, but despite the neck ache, there’ something so immersive about turning your gaze to your next target and watching as you swing toward it, only to snap your view to the other direction and fire out another hook.
The eventual Move support could help by giving you cursors for each of your hooks, but I would honestly miss the thrill of turning my head, firing, and turning again. When i got going with a string of swings, I felt an involuntary smile crawl across my face.
For those who want to play the game without comfort settings, I found that I was far less motion sick when I played Windlands on easy. Yes, I know, but being able to grapple to anything meant less frantic swinging of my head, and therefore less intense motion. I didn’t have to handicap the game with comfort settings, but I was still able to play just fine.
I plan on cranking up the difficulty when I get some more time into the game, but for now this remains the best way to play with the full experience and not get dizzy or sick doing so.
Simple Graphics, Solid Immersion
Windlands goes for a simple art style that is best compared to The Witness. While the Witness had a few more graphical flares, the style is very similar here. It may not be incredibly detailed, but as you start really getting into the exploration, the lack of grit and detail becomes a non-issue.
It’s the little aspects of the presentation that really make Windlands work. The music is serene and peaceful. When you get moving quickly, there’s an incredibly satisfying “whoosh” noise that sweeps past your ears. It all comes together to create a real sense of speed in VR, especially when you’re falling.
Overall, Windlands is a really unique PlayStation VR title that will test the limits of your tolerance for intense motion in virtual reality. If you follow my tips, or turn on the comfort mode, you’ll find that you can ease your way into it. There’s something here for every level of motion sickness, so don’t let that stop you.
Swing free, swing high, and you’ll practically feel the wind sweeping past your face.
Final Score: 8.5/10
A copy of Windlands Was Provided by Psytec Games For Review Purposes