Developer / Publisher – Psytec Games
Price – US $8.99 / EU €7.39 / UK £23.79
Release Date – November 15th, 2018
Input – Tracked Motion Controllers
Play Area – Seated, Standing, Room Scale
Store – Steam
Reviewed on – Oculus Rift
The first Windlands was released very shortly after the launch of the Rift and Vive headsets and arrived on the PlayStation VR as a launch title and established itself as one of the go to games to get thanks in large part to its grappling mechanics. In that game you cruise across the ruined landscape collecting crystals that shed light upon what befell the planet you are on. Windlands 2 is a direct followup to that game, though you don’t need to play the first to enjoy this sequel and on top the originals navigation mechanics, introduced in this is a more in depth campaign and some combat mechanics to spice things up.
Motion controls are your only option as this plays by and large like a mixture of Bionic Commando and Spiderman with both of your hands being armed with grapple guns. You can only grab certain types of surfaces and when those are in range of your guns, your reticles indicating where you will fire will turn blue. Like it’s predecessor the controls here are very floaty and based largely upon momentum and as you grapple onto a surface, your are immediately propelled toward it. The key to quickly traversing the stages is to chain together grapples, constantly moving up or down always looking for that next piece of terrain you can grab or safe spot you can land on to reassess you next move. Additionally, you can now spawn an energy bow and arrow needed for the combat and occasional target practice sections. This mechanic works great and a when you draw your arrow back a small dot appears indicating the path of the bolt. Physics are at play here though and your arrow does travel with an arc so it may take a little time to figure out your range, but in all honesty only after a little play time was I making shot after shot at almost any distance with ease. What are you shooting at? Invading robots of course! Robots are protected by red shields and destroying those shields eliminates those enemies with stronger droids having multiple shields around their entire frame. Later stages get increasingly difficult with grapple points being spread out further apart compared to the initial half of the game adding a lot more challenge to later stages though the combat starts to feel pretty samey in that later half as the enemies just seem to run out of tricks other then just adding more contact points to shoot.
Also like it’s predecessor, Windlands 2 utilizes a very simple cell-shaded look that is striking. Everything and every one have simplistic color tones making it look very cartoonish and the details are sparse to say the least. What this allows the game to showcase though is an amazing draw distance that lets you see to the horizon. The world and stages are quite large with some requiring you to constantly climb up and up while others having you skirting the ground below, forcing you to be very careful as touching sand results in instant death and a respawn at the last checkpoint. While the world is large, it feels very empty at times as much of the levels are static and don’t feel populated by anything but yourself. Even if the visual style doesn’t appeal to your eyeballs, when you are flying and scrambling to grapple to the next objective, it’s absolutely thrilling at top speeds as you narrowly escape death by catching a point you thought was just out of reach or mad circling bosses as they unleash all manner of attacks. The enemies you face carry more detail then just about everything else in the game, but given the scope and overall polish I thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.
There is much more story then in the 1st one including fully narrated characters and a big bad you need to defeat. The voice work is a little over the top but fits the cartoonish look of the game with every character being over exuberant and excited, but it works. The music in Windlands 2 is top quality offering both epic and emotional tunes as well as some great ambient music when you are just whipping around.
The campaign or any select level can be played in single player or multiplayer with the game getting substantially easier with others. If one of you bypasses a particularly difficult area, the rest of the players can spawn off of that person making it a little easier to get through the stages. Boss battles are much easier as the enemies have trouble focusing on multiple targets allowing for multiple players to quickly pick apart the bad guys. A few other modes are also available including speed run challenges and races with leaderboards along with a few others like ‘Hook Anything’ or ‘one life’ which offer a few different ways to play through the campaign.
There really isn’t to much to complain out here with my largest issue being that sameiness I whined about earlier. The campaign consists entirely of fetch or kill quests tasking you with navigating around smaller sections (when compared to the larger world) looking for a specific amount of collectibles or getting to a waypoint km away to defeat an enemy. As you progress through the campaign the stages do get more difficult with grapple points being further apart or covered in spikes forcing quicker reactions lest you fall or hit those spiked objects and die. These later missions can be incredibly frustrating as, at certain points, I was falling to my death over and over to the point of madness until i had that one good run that got me to the next checkpoint. Those frustrating moments are balanced out by the satisfaction of nailing those seemingly impossible levels. The checkpoint system is one the most forgiving in many games as any progress you made, whether it’s finding items, destroying enemies or removing a bosses shields 1 by 1 is saved allowing any mission to be beaten while dying over and over. Given the nature of the game and how easy it can be to miss a grapple point or jump I totally understand why this system is in place, but it does remove much of the danger in any encounter as you can just respawn and slowly whittle down your foes. While longer sessions did feel repetitious, every time I hopped in for a quick go it was exhilarating to start swinging around in this incredible world.
Despite my misgivings, Windlands 2 is still a blast to play alone or with some friends and it is absolutely thrilling to swing through these stages. Covering vast distances in such a short time as you whip past floating islands all while combating a variety of robots through a fully realized campaign is a ton of fun. If you enjoyed the first Windlands title, this is all that game was and much more and offers thrills you just couldn’t experience outside of VR. If you are in the mood for an explorative adventure, this is great!
What would I pay? The full price of $30 is more then fair. The campaign should take around 6 hours or so and with the multiplayer aspect and other modes available there is a fair bit of content to get through. As I said, long plays do start to get old but tackle this in a stage by stage basis and that should help alleviate the feeling of sameiness and regardless of that feeling, soaring across the landscapes is both breathtaking and satisfying.
Psytec Games provided a code for this title and, regardless of this review, we thank them for that!