Windlands 2 VR Review: Peaceful power fantasy

Imagine the freedom of swinging like Spider-Man coupled with Shadow of the Colossus boss fights and you have an idea of what to expect.

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Various forms of immersion are the key to VR experiences, from meditative escapism to wild power fantasies. There are some that float wonderfully in-between, making the player feel powerful with a calming experience filling up the rest of the game and that’s where you’ll find Windlands 2 from Psytec Games.

At its best, Windlands 2 is a definitive VR experience with exceptional movement and memorable boss fights. Unfortunately, there are some pacing and sensor issues that keep it from being the perfect virtual outing.

Swinging Into Action

The foundation of Windlands 2’s experience is movement via grappling hooks. Nearly all of us have dreamt of flight, but have you imagined swinging around New York City like Spider-man? The old classic Spidey games and Insomniac’s PS4 exclusive Spider-Man probably scratches that itch a bit, but Windlands 2 delivers the closest thing around to quality immersive swinging.

There are different gameplay mods that change the swinging function around, but the base experience limits the grappling to specific surfaces. Managing this while using the bow and arrow requires a high level of skill, so I felt like a complete badass when things flowed together. The game also ramps up the difficulty organically when it comes to swinging by making the target grappling areas smaller and surrounding them with hazardous plants.

Different VR games demand different setups for space and, unfortunately for some, Windlands 2 works best with some special considerations. I use a two sensor setup with my Oculus Rift for a small space that works best if the player remains forward facing. Otherwise, the sensors can lose track of the Oculus Touch controllers.

Even in its calmest moments, Windlands 2 requires large arm movements. When the action picks up and the swinging gets more complex, quick reactions are needed in a wide range of directions and this caused me a lot of problems down the stretch.

In addition to really needing the third sensor to be at my rear, though my setup doesn’t really allow for it at the time, my Windlands 2 experience would have benefited from some higher mounts for my existing sensors too. There’s a lot of vertical aiming and movement in the game that can be hindered by raising the Touch controllers too high or low. This made one of the timed puzzles near the end of the game almost unbearably frustrating and impacted some of my movement negatively.

Capturing The Spirit

The design in Windlands 2 is minimalistic, and not in a bad way. There’s no real discernible rhyme or reason to most of the game’s environments, with each new area featuring random amalgamations of flora of fauna. The humanoid characters feature the most complex design work. The boss creatures are kept pretty simple in design, but also have the most animations.

Voice performances across the board are nothing amazing, but are far from bad. The only character that truly stands out is the boisterous main villain, but you only interact with him sparingly. Music, however, is pretty strong. It plays a major part in how relaxing exploration is throughout Windlands 2 and the high-intensity encounters, including the boss fights, receive the right dose of higher energy tunes.

Shadow of the Windlands

Enemy variety is limited in Windlands 2. I faced a ground enemy that required one shot to take down and a flying enemy that required two. These enemies fill up the map on some of the quests, but are at their best when factored into the boss fights.

Most of the non-boss fight moments are fetch quests, which isn’t much of a problem because the movement in the game is a lot of fun. The problems lie in the quest progression and setup, specifically later into the Windlands 2 experience.

During a specific stretch, there’s a newer area I had to complete quests in. Whenever I finished one, I’d have to swing all the way back to the NPCs, get a new quest, and swing back to the area I was already in. This is even more frustrating knowing there’s a wrist communicator that feels like it could have been used to submit and dish out new objects somehow. This stretch was the worst of it, but similar structure hurt the pace throughout Windlands 2.

When I got through those rough patches, I hit the real meat of the Windlands 2 experience: Boss fights. Each one had me working in a revolving pattern as I took out glowing weak points. Every new boss upped the ante with more spots to hit, more attacks coming my way, and a unique area that tends to serve as a puzzle all in itself.

Progress isn’t lost when you die, and I died quite a bit, but swinging around to dodge attacks and get the best angle on the massive bosses is quite euphoric. A couple of the bosses feel like Shadow of the Colossus in virtual reality, even. The only problem is that the fights can go on a bit too long. Once I took out the glowing spots, there’s a shift in the fight before more appear on the target. A few times, these felt like overkill and didn’t flow well and that’s largely because of the moments in-between the shift.

Conclusion

It was difficult to make due at times, but, with my sensor setup, I was able to make it through Windlands 2 without too much damage to my surrounding area and only a handful of encounters with my ceiling fan. When I was not worried about getting hurt, I had a blast. Swinging was fun and I had a good time as I got better and more creative with my movement. Translating that into better performances against the bosses was even more exciting.

Quest structure and design centered on pacing are unfortunate obstacles for this experience, but Windlands is still a lot of fun. It's even more fun when you can get a few friends to swing around with you. Just make sure to optimize your VR sensor setup before swinging into action.


This review is based on a code provided by the game’s publisher. Windlands 2 is available now for Oculus Rift via Oculus Home. It was played on an Oculus Rift using Oculus Touch controllers in a standing position, but can be played while sitting.

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Review for
Windlands 2

7

Pros

  • Minimalist, but smooth art design
  • Incredible sense of scale
  • Mostly top-notch boss fight design
  • Fun, yet calming swinging experience

Cons

  • Extra attention needed for VR sensor setup
  • Poor pacing and map retread for quests
  • Limited non-boss enemies

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