Windscape is a first-person single-player adventure game that is unashamedly nostalgic, boasting a throwback style to the likes of titles like The Legend of Zelda, Golden Axe Warrior and Secret of Mana (Dennis Witte, who developed Windscape, lists these as his childhood favorite games). In this day and age of gaming, this is not exactly a bold move for a developer to make, as the indie market is heavily saturated with titles looking to draw in gamers who are longing for the past. Luckily, Windscape is both fun and well-made, though its reliance on nostalgia stops it from ever carving out its own unique path.
In Windscape, players step into the role of Ida and start the game on her farm where she lives with her parents. After a few tutorial quests that help lay out Windscape's movement and crafting systems (which boils down to finding the right ingredients and combining them at the appropriate station), the open world will become available (along with other quests). It all plays out like other adventure RPG titles, but the game's laid back approach, which seemingly encourages players to focus more on exploring than worrying about any sort of grand quest line, is Windscape's real strength. It's also the first real noticeable influence that Witte's childhood favorites have on the game.
The combat in Windscape is more akin to an Elder Scrolls title than something like The Legend of Zelda, with players hacking and slashing in a similar fashion with swords and shields, shooting enemies from afar with bows and arrows or using magical spells. It's not exactly an in-depth or complex system and standard enemies are never all that complicated to take out with proper timing, but it works with what Windscape is going for in both terms of complexity and aesthetic. Still, on the surface, it's a rather curious choice to mirror the game's combat after Elder Scrolls, though there's no denying the franchise's impact on sandbox-like titles.
Quests in Windscape are fairly standard adventure RPG affair: delivery and fetch quests, crafting items for other NPCs and fighting bandits in some distant cave. Every once in a while you'll come across a particularly tricky puzzle room or boss (this is where the game really embraces its The Legend of Zelda roots) that will really offer up a challenge if you're not well equipped, but all-in-all, it's nothing that can't be overcome by learning the inherent patterns that Windscape holds its mobs to. There is a main quest line to follow, like most titles in the genre, but again, it's designed in such a way that players will never feel rushed to complete it.
While the character models aren't exactly pleasing to the eye, the world itself is beautifully crafted and structured. Building and town placement is logical enough to where players will never feel like they're wandering aimlessly too long before getting to the next settlement. There are times when it's a little hard to actually walk around and movement itself probably could have used a little more fine tuning to work better on steeper inclines (especially during combat) but it's never really game-breaking.
Windscape has a lot going for it but throughout its rather short 10 to 15 hour run time (depending on play style) there's a sense that it lacks its own identity. There's a little The Legend of Zelda here, Elder Scrolls there and even a slight Minecraft feel with its visuals, but there's little in the game that feels wholly original. Worse, the mechanics it does lift from other titles are not enhanced in any way, even though they're obviously lovingly applied. And unlike a lot of its inspirations, Windscape doesn't really pack a lot of replay value, as most quests aren't enjoyable enough to be played more than once and it lacks difficulty levels.
Despite its failure to create an identity for itself, Windscape is still a charming and fun little throwback game that's at least worth a trek through its colorful and danger-filled world. Witte's love for retro adventure RPGs fuels the title and his love for those games is apparent throughout. It's just a shame that Windscape leaned so hard into nostalgia instead of taking some risks and expanding on its intriguing sandbox setting.
Windscape is available now on Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC for $19.99. Screen Rant was provided an Xbox One copy for the purposes of this review.