Developed and published by Tasharen Entertainment Inc., Windward is a beautiful action/exploration game, with several factions to choose from and each of them comes with different special traits. These factions represent the styles of play Windward nominally offers: exploration, combat, trading, and diplomacy. They can be further enhanced with a talent tree where you will learn new skills and abilities, but unlike the faction, skills can be cheaply reset.
The game delivers a high-seas simulator vibe where we explore vast oceans and ports, trade goods in order to get richer and be able to afford better equipment and ships, battle ferocious pirates and, when needed, save enslaved cities by killing the pirates and securing the location.
There is also a deep diplomacy mechanic to negotiate the price of certain values and we can even hire friendly ships to fight at our side or bribe pirates if we decide to
chicken out make a tactical retreat. We sail our ship around procedurally generated seas in search of great fortune trading goods, hunting pirates, laying siege to cities, and building diplomatic relationships with towns, forming alliances and opposing foes.
The trading system is kind of basic. You “enter” a town through a menu and either buy goods the residents have too much of or sell them goods they are short on. That’s it. It never becomes more complicated than that. If you look out for rumors, there are hints of what to buy and where to sell it.
But there is a catch: our starter ship only has a cargo hold with 2 spaces, so we can only trade 2 goods at a time. Quests will also take up cargo spaces, so we will need to decide what to do: to ferry citizens through dangerous oceans and increase our reputation or to trade goods and get richer faster. More expensive ships will feature more cargo spaces, but we will need to play and fight several hours to be able to afford them. This creates a fun experience and incentive to make sure you’re maximizing your time, and it will always depend on what we are looking for and our playstyle.
Windward also features a talent skill system divided in 3 sections: defense, offense and support. Skills in those trees will earn you better bonuses and new skills to further enhance your experience in the sea. You will be able to move faster, to do more damage on attacks, increase your luck to loot better stuff, you name it. The talent system is well designed and also achieves a second goal: to limit you from entering dangerous maps. Sooner or later you will realize the starter map is a walk in paradise compared to higher level maps where everything is controlled by pirates and the action never ceases.
Combat is fun, but unfortunately it is also too simple. It will take you only a few hours to be strong and experienced enough to take any ship you encounter. The difficulty in late game only relies on sending you waves and waves of pirates, but this is not enough once you are strong enough. To further simplify things, the AI is overly protective and will constantly patrol near you, so you will be left defenseless in very rare occasions.
You can also create combat instances where you will be tasked to cleanse the evil pirates from the map. You will recover cities and lighthouses by sticking near them while destroying enemy ships. There is also the possibility to build Lighthouses on choke points to monitor enemies approaching allied cities, and guard towers which are good near towns to provide some sort of defense while you go to deliver some sweet justice.
Windward is a well-made, fairly addictive game. The graphics and water look pretty nice and the music is simply perfect. There are a few weaknesses that I’m sure will be fixed with really little work. Overall, I would definitely recommend it, and it is definitely a good buy for its price.