Windforge is a game with enormous potential, yet falls short in a few key areas. It’s a game that is very fun, yet suffers from lack of polish and a handful of features that weaken the gameplay.
The closest comparison to Windforge would probably be Castlevania II on the original NES. The game is a metroidvania with a full town and a structured questline. Players can also build, in a way that’s similar to Terraria, and this is taken in a direction of its own with the ability to construct flying airships.
Players will spend part of their time flying their airships to quest objectives through the game’s massive and diverse world, and the other half exploring ancient ruins, completing quests with the ultimate goal of recovering an ancient energy source for the game’s world.
Players will also be spending a very large portion of their time dying. I died frequently while playing Windforge, and I suspect even the most hardcore of gamers will share in this experience. Windforge is a very, very difficult game.
Let me illustrate with a quick recap.
The game starts off when the player and an NPC are landed in front of an ancient ruin. With this, they’re given a very brief introduction to the game’s weapons and tools while on foot—mainly a gun, a jackhammer-thing, and a grappling hook.
After completing the brief quest and getting my airship flying, I rose into the air and a single monster soon landed on the balloon at the top of my airship, ate through it, and caused it to explode. I then plummeted through the air, the game crashed, and my saved game was corrupted.
I went through the first quest again, got my ship into the air, and immediately crashed into a flying landmass. The balloon exploded yet again, and yet again I went plummeting back to the ground below.
On my third try, I finally made it to the local town—a simple place with plenty of NPCs and some very odd building designs with things like beds on top of houses. I then set off on a new quest to find an artifact in some ancient ruins.
It took a very, very long time to get there. I was killed by air pirates, killed by creatures, fell off my ship, briefly shut off the game in frustration, turned it back on, and was killed many more times before making it to the ruins.
When I made it to the objective—a maze of stone in a very large floating island—I immediately began tunneling through the side.
Now, on a brief tangent, the ruins in this game are very interesting. They are basically metroidvania-style dungeons, and you have the choice of either taking the main entrance or tunneling your way into a random location.
Like many other things in Windforge, however, the ruins also lack polish. They are abusive places filled with traps and enemies that respawn even after you’ve cleared a path. On several occasions I was killed by enemies dropping down from small rooms I had just cleared.
Now, back to the game, as I tunneled into the side of this large structure, a pirate attacked me and I soon realized that while the game’s combat is very difficult, it can also be extremely fun. You can grapple onto nearly anything—including the game’s flying enemies and enemy airships. I jumped down onto the pirate ship and began dismantling their engines. One pirate tried stopping me, and was knocked out of the ship and into the endless sky as the pilot tried keeping control. The ship started going down, and as I tried grappling out, I fell and died. It was disappointing, but still very cool.
Luckily I had saved a moment earlier. Now, long story short, I didn’t realize the area of the ruins I was tunneling into was where the area’s boss was waiting. So I made it through and was quickly dispatched by an extremely overpowered flying man who shoots fireballs in every direction.
I was a bit disappointed in the boss. I don’t know how many players could defeat such a powerful enemy, especially so early in the game when your weapons and armor aren’t much to look at.
Yet, I came up with a plan. I dismantled a gun turret and an engine on my ship, and decided to build this gun turret into the side of the room I had just tunneled into. After hooking it up to an engine to give it power, I then blasted the boss with my huge artillery gun. It was epic.
Satisfied, I grabbed the quest item dropped by the boss and headed back to town.
Now, while combat in Windforge is very difficult it is also very rewarding. Most of the difficulty actually seems to come from minor bugs—such as enemies spawning too frequently and in areas that should be clear. Many of the enemies are also way overpowered, at least early in the game.
What I just said mostly applies to ground combat. Air combat is a different story. You can be killed quickly if a monster gets into your cockpit or if your balloon explodes. Otherwise, the ships are very sturdy, and you have a tool that can automatically repair damaged areas.
Yet, you can also shoot enemies with your turret guns, grind up flying monsters in your propellers, and ram enemy ships.
I ended up building a ship that was suited to my combat style. It resembled a large flying pirate ship, with gun turrets on the back, reinforced wood on the bottom with protective walls for the propellers, and a large and thick battering ram on the front that could also be used to capture enemy ships—allow me to elaborate.
One of the most disappointing features of Windforge is that areas are divided. It is not an open and seamless world, but rather a series of screens that separate one chunk of level from the next. If enemies pass through the barriers between screens, or if you pass through, they simply disappear.
The divided areas of the game often ruin the otherwise awesome combat, since whales will often ram your ship and push you into new areas where they quickly disappear, and you’ll also be able to escape from dangerous situations a bit too easily.
The divided areas also makes it difficult to harvest wreckage from enemy ships or to grab your spoils after taking down the very difficult flying whales. Yet, I got around this with the extended battering ram on my ship. I would simply fly under my defeated foe and have them land on the large plank. It is extremely satisfying to kill off the crew of an enemy ship, then disassemble the guns and propellers from their airship for your own use.
In all, Windforge is a very cool game, yet it really needs some balancing and a good patch or two.
I do hope the developers can fix a few things. The way levels are divided into different sections really breaks the combat with the whales, which can easily be lost when they tumble out of the sky after a difficult battle.
The inventory feels is clunky and suffers from tedium. Learning recipes for crafting, for example, means you need to click and drag books one-by-one into your area for active items and using them one-by-one.
Also, mining and building could use some work. The game has a pseudo-isometric design, and it can be unclear sometimes where the cursor is highlighting. It will often make you misplace blocks or mine the wrong areas.
Yet, on the positive notes, combat in Windforge is epic. While even the smallest enemy can easily kill you, the sheer range of options you have in how to approach each battle makes combat very fun. You can jump off your airship, grapple onto an enemy ship, battle its crew, steal the ship and harvest its parts. You can grind up flying monsters with your propellers, blast them with your turrets, or go outside to take them down by hand. You can grapple onto flying beasts, or surf on top of them while blasting them with your pistol.
Every battle will put your skills to the test, and every victory will leave you feeling awesome.
Aside from the overall difficulty, the game is particularly difficult early on. Enemies get harder to defeat the further you get from town. The key to playing is to not rush to quest objectives, and to instead take things slowly and build up your character and your ship.
Building ships is also very, very fun. It may sound like Terraria or Minecraft, but it’s not. The building you do in Windforge is all functional, and gives you very practical tools you can use to customize your playstyle.
Despite its flaws, I highly recommend Windforge to players who don’t mind a challenge, and can tolerate the lack of polish. While it needs some minor fixes, it is a rewarding game that plays with some unique and very fun concepts.