Windforge creates a giant world full of treasure, huge temples, sky whales and bandits, but the search for those moments is long and difficult.
Snowed In Studios’ Windforge first hit Steam Greenlight two years ago, and was explained as the love child between Contra and Minecraft. In order to fund the last phase of development the team turned to Kickstarter, and with the help of 700 backers, they got their chance. As a product of dedication and passion, Windforge is an inspired game.
The world of Windforge, Cordeus, is firmly entrenched in a steampunk atmosphere; from the look of the customizable characters to the whale oil economy, and earnestly pulls the aesthetic off. Cordeus has fallen on some hard times due to their over-poaching of the sky whales (more on those later), and the pursuit of other technologies are outlawed by the government. As a butcher, sailor, prospector or merchant, you uncover the secrets of the Aetherkin, an ancient race, who knew of another source of energy. Unlike previous entries in the genre, Windforge focuses on a questing system akin to loot-driven RPGs such as Diablo and Torchlight, with a structure where there is always something to do next. This is a relief compared to the “what now,” syndrome that Minecraft presents, but is not engaging enough to be the main reason to press forward in Windforge.
Everything in Cordeus is open to creation, destruction and customization. Character class choice is not as important as your choices with the air ship, which is the main mode of transportation in Windforge’s sprawling procedurally generated world. However, the world is too big and takes too long to get from point-to-point, especially since there are loading screens that separate the areas. These loading screens disjoint the experience, and as a result Windforge never feels like a cohesive world. The air ships are the real points of creativity and are a lot of fun to control. Building an air ship is satisfyingly easy. Making it look nice is another story, but you grow attached to the metal and wood conglomeration.
Windforge provides a lot of tools in order for the combat to run as smoothly as possible. The WSDA and mouse combination work for control when building an air ship or mining for resources, but fall apart in the combat scenarios. Switching between guns and keeping an eye on ammo is difficult and leads to a very steep difficulty curve, both underground and in the skies. When the shooting works, it is in small doses and feels more like glitching the game in your favor than a real achievement. The sky whales are the main enemy and are the saving grace to the game’s combat. Preparing for one of these fights and executing your strategy is enjoyable because once you finally take one of those suckers down, especially for the first time, you feel invincible. Some questions, however, often force you to fetch an item in an underground area that looks boring and frustrating because there is no consistency to the temples. Traversing the different sky islands is enjoyable thanks to the Bionic Commando-esque grappling hook, but it’s easy to get lost and not know how to get back to the objective.
Windforge is not a full game. There are far too many bugs, such as a save corruption bug that personally plagued my progress. Character customization ultimately doesn’t mean anything because there is no online component in order to show off your cool loot grabs. The surface of Windforge is appealing – making an overused theme seem new thanks to the graphics – and the music fits the mystical, mysterious world, but there is not enough underneath. The game brings new ideas to this forming genre, and the intention is palpable, but falls short on execution.