To compound the game’s frustrating start, Windward does little in the way of intuitive explanation. There’s not an overwhelming amount of mechanics to grasp, mind, but the time you spend in the first two or three zones will involve a good deal of you trying to find out how the game’s different cogs interact. As we’ve learned through the Souls series, this has the potential to be right up some people’s alley, but it’s worth mentioning for those that have little time for pondering.
Luckily, the co-op game play is well worth the struggle. A quick co-op overview is in order. You and your partner(s) each control individual ships, free to roam the game world as you choose. Should you be of a mind to engage with your fellow captains (which, I mean, it’s a co-op game, so yeah), you’ll be sailing/soaring/boating in tandem from town to town, fighting pirates, solving quests, and trading cargo all the while. In doing so, you’re constantly upgrading the different sections of your ship and gaining experience to invest into talents, whose benefits are split between passive perks and active abilities. These will usually affect your combat prowess, though a few upgrades are more esoteric. Ship-to-ship combat can range from a slight annoyance to an adrenaline-fueled brawl. Early in the game, it amounts to little more than you and your opponent circling each other until one of your ships decides it’s done being a ship and would much rather live out the remainder of its days as a floating pile of detritus. Adding more opponents, teammates (both human and AI), and abilities do much to give the combat system depth and longevity.
The excitement offered by Windward reaches its absolute peak the moment you enter a new territory awash with pirates or enemy factions. As soon as you set foot (or aft, or what have you) in these waters, you and your partners are scrambling to seize any sort of foothold possible from your bloodthirsty foes. From there, your empire slowly expands through buildable lighthouses and sentry towers. In these segments, I found myself and my co-op partner employing all sorts of defensive hit-and-run tactics to weaken the enemy as we pushed for a ruinous strike. Unfortunately, these tense, exciting segments make their peaceful opposites seem that much more inconsequential and a tad long-winded. Perhaps this speaks to the game’s strength, but I found myself wishing for a bit less time spent running quests and trading cargo in return for more pirate massacre.
Windward is a bit of a tough one. Were it an exclusively single player experience, well, I wouldn’t be reviewing it, but I also wouldn’t find a great deal of motivation to push me beyond the game’s first couple zones. The combination of solid co-op gameplay and action-packed, multiship battles serve to make the game well worth pushing into despite its plodding start. At a $14.99 price point, it’s hard to argue against dedicating an evening or more to the game and seeing if it’s for you. Should you be a tad more adventuresome, the Steam version of the game sports a 4-pack that’ll allow you and three friends to set sail for a reduced overall price. If you’re willing to plow through a slow introduction, obtuse knowledge transfer, and misaligned gameplay flow, Windward is a fantastic game that’ll see you and your friends engaged in tense combat on the high seas for many hours.
Oh, also you can name your own towns.
Take of that what you will.
The Co-Op Experience: Players guide their ships around a procedurally generated world, solving quests, fighting pirates, and trading cargo all the while.
Co-Optimus game reviews focus on the cooperative experience of a game, our final score graphic represents this experience along with an average score for the game overall. For an explanation of our scores please check our Review Score Explanation Guide.