I had the opportunity to play Windlands on the Oculus Rift months before its PlayStation VR release, and it definitely felt more like an Early Access title than a full game. The thing is, PC users are kind of used to that thing, but with something on a home console, that approach doesn’t really fly. Thankfully there’s a bit more here in terms of presentation, but it still feels incomplete in several areas.
Let’s get this out of the way first—Windlands feels like a beta version of a Spider-Man simulator. The in-game lore sets up a fantasy-like world that involves guardians, floating islands, and crystals, but once you get the core grappling hook items (one for each hand), all of that exposition kind of melts away. Windlands‘ main loop involves going to specific levels and either racing or casually coasting to the end until you find the crystal, then repeating until you’re done.
It’s a heck of a ride, but not a very fulfilling one. The environments are sprawling and bright, but lack detail or anything particularly of note that would make them feel unique. Coasting through the air coupled with the superb directional sound design is a rush, but the finicky physics (the controls are mostly responsive) get in the way. What I really appreciate is an option for those experienced with VR. If you get motion sickness you have all sorts of limiters and automatic/shifted turning animations to turn on, but otherwise, you can knock the training wheels off without an hour long “are you sure?” tutorial.
That pure freedom of movement helps Windlands‘ case, but players aren’t going to walk away from it feeling like they’ve accomplished a whole lot. The world feels very disjointed, and after players have figured out how to best each area, they likely won’t want to return to it. Some zones are well implemented in the sense that multiple traversal solutions exist and are encouraged, but others are too black and white or linear for their own good. I think the developers ultimately have their hearts in the right place, and a follow-up would be a great opportunity to right all of the wrongs that they’ve committed with Windlands.