Six minutes later Wind, I died. Shortly after the start of the game, I found myself stranded on an island with nothing but a mind and a knife. I saw a boar-like creature. It didn’t bother me, but there was something I needed. So I did what video games taught me to do and I hit it with my knife.
The next run went a little better. I built a boat. I visited several lush islands. Fortunately, I was not attracted to the nightmarish boar monster. Instead, I died of starvation. Third run: A massive wave took control of my boat and sent it to a rocky exit. The boat crashed. I drowned.
Wind, now for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One (where I played) and PC, is a survival game set in an ocean kingdom called the Forbidden Islands. Developed by 5 Lives Studios, Wind was first announced in April, through a PlayStation blog post. He gained some attention by looking like The Legend of Zelda: The Wind. They both have bizarre, shadowed graphics. There is no lack of inexplicable mystique in both. Both require you to head to the seas.
While Wind can share a little DNA with this modern classic, it is not Zelda game. Do not explore puzzles with puzzles and drive away evil men with unhealthy orange hair. Your goal, as far as I can tell from six hours of play, is to explore the horizon. In each chapter you should find three bronze shells of ammonite, all of which are located on top of a towering stone structure that you should look for. Once you find all three, you will be able to open a portal to the next chapter – if you can sail to it before your endurance runs out.
Wind does not give you a compass or points or anything like that to help you on your journey. Even the map on each level begins completely shrouded in fog, though it slowly clears as you navigate around. Don’t think about saving the location of the land or clicking screenshots: Islands are generated procedurally. Success depends simply on loss. To do this, you need to gather resources that you can use to build and improve ever stronger boats. You will start with an ordinary boat. Eventually you will make a sail and even a second hull, turning your ship into an elementary catamaran.
Making happens in real time, something like in The last of us. (Make sure there are no boars nearby!) You start with just one recipe, but you’ll slowly learn more as you play. This is a nice touch for quality of life: You don’t have to spend time hunting for recipes. They will simply appear in your build menu.
Wind there are also some elements of rogelita. By design, you are forced to fall into situations where you lose again and again, reviving each time with only the elements of your person. In the beginning, your inventory is invaluable and consists of some key elements – such as your reliable knife or, finally, a paddle with unspeakable magical properties – plus seven other slots. It doesn’t help that Kara, the player, isn’t exactly made of steel. You need to monitor both her health and endurance. Endurance gradually wears off with time, the longer you stay without finding food. Go too long and this hunger will penetrate your health. Even if you are not tortured by a wild animal, death is in Wind is almost certain. Intelligent curation of these seven slots is imperative.
There are two difficulty settings in Wind. Survivalist, “the full Wind experience ”sends you back to the first chapter after death. The narrator is a little more forgiving: You keep the progress of your head. The rogelite structure, starting from scratch, works well in action-packed games like Wizard of Legend or Dead cells. Wind is a slow burn and dying can erase a lot of annoying progress, so I chose to play Storyteller.
Between the heads you will find yourself on water stages in the corridor, where you have to sail from one portal to the next. For your efforts you will be rewarded with the opportunity to purchase a permanent ability for your character. (They don’t exactly change the game, but some, like the one that reduces your endurance depletion, are moderately useful.) At these levels, the music begins and the ocean swells reach hurricane status. Here is where Wind it really shines on me.
I grew up in a coastal town and as such spent much of my childhood zippering around our local bay in a small motorboat. I have gone out more than once that I have not seen land. Even under blue bird conditions, when you are so far away, the bumps can swell to uneasy proportions. When the wind blows, they are terrifying. In those days, finding your way back to a safe harbor turned into an adrenaline pumping exercise, where, yes, you still have control, but you feel it can be detached from you at any moment.
And then you return to the calm waters. Your relief is palpable. Being on the water means balancing two feelings. You have to admit that the ocean is a huge, terrifying beast (which, by the way, we surveyed only five percent on). At the same time, there are few things that are calmer than kicking back with a light wind and a slight shake from small waves. Wind nails this dichotomy. The feeling is that most games – including, sorry, honest Wind Waker-I don’t fully understand.
I’ve been through the first few chapters now and I haven’t killed a single creature yet. So far I didn’t need it. I hope not.
More sailing on the seven seas: