I’m a lover of naval combat and most every game that has it in them. Sid Meier’s Pirates, Black Flag, anything that but me at the helm of a rigged vessel with a crew singing shanties, and I was happy. So, when I saw the trailer for Windward leading up to PAX East 2015, I was of course intrigued and excited to see the game in action. What I found was a wonderfully constructed homage to Sid Meier’s Pirates, taking much of what worked in that game, refining it, and creating one of the most relaxing games I’ve played in ages.
Designed from the start to be a fully procedural co-op game, Windward can be played both by yourself and with friends. Start by generating a procedural world that will be unique to you, then sail forward fighting pirates, trading with towns, doing quests or simply exploring — it’s up to you how you want to play.
As you sail about you will find resources you can make use of, upgrades for your ship, new towns that will ask your assistance, and as you get farther out from the starting area — various pirates that will attempt to take what’s rightfully yours. Combat experience will let you unlock new talents and abilities to make that particular line of work easier.
As you take up consignments with towns and fulfill their production shortages, the towns will grow, offering more quests, more resources and better items. As the towns continue to grow they will offer you a choice to upgrade your ship itself. Would you prefer a fast Schooner to explore the world, or a heavy Galleon that’s able to take up 5 consignments at once? Or perhaps a massive Ship of the Line to take the fight with the pirates to their heartlands?
Windward plays incredibly well. Simple mechanics and interfaces make the game easy to understand and quick to learn, but there is a lot of complexity hidden in the quests, combat mechanics and procedural generated world.
The thing I’ve enjoyed most playing Windward, both at PAX East and on my own time, is simply exploring. There are things that need improvement in the game before full launch (mainly the Main Menu UI and save system), but the core aspect of launching your ship into the unknown, not sure if you’ll find a pirate den or a friendly merchant ship around the next cape makes Windward a joy to play.
Windward is currently on Early Access on Steam.