Windlands (2016), the high-flying exploration game from Psytec Games, is getting a sequel next year that’s looking to alter its predecessor’s formula with the addition of co-op adventuring as well as combat. We got a hands-on with the newly revealed game at this year’s Oculus Connect, which puts a bow and arrow in your hands on top of your trusty grappling hooks.
There are a few elements new to the series, the first of which reveals itself almost immediately as I start the demo: enemies. Riding on a speeding land-boat traveling at high speed through a dusty desert, a giant sandworm appears out of nowhere, looming over my live companion and me. I’m told I have to shoot the beast with my bow, and although I’m not certain why, we both comply, conjuring it up with the Touch’s grip button and firing a hail of arrows at the sandworm until he disappears into the sandy desert below.
It’s all very cinematic, if not a little telling about the journey to come. Gone are the zen-like, pressure-free heights requiring quiet tenacity to surmount, which are now replaced with level bosses and the active chatter of real-world companions by your side.
Satisfied with our performance, a bearded NPC named Tohir beckons us to move forward through the level set before us, a tree-filled canyon that functions as a straight obstacle course clearly built for our grappling hooks to take hold. Studio co-founder Jon Hibbins raced ahead of me, chatting along the way about the game’s art style and some of the new additions to the series’ second game.
Passing by Tohir again, I remarked that the art style looked awfully familiar. To my surprise, Hibbins told me Psytec had hired one of my favorite developers from the early days of VR, Nick Pittom (aka “Red of Paw”), an indie dev known for lovingly recreating several scenes in VR from various Studio Ghibli films such as Spirited Away, My Neighbor Toroto and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Predictably, the locomotion system functions nearly the same as Windlands, providing you with green trees for hook-holds and incremental save points that you can pass through along the way. Full of myself and overconfident of my own swinging abilities, I fell a few times, reappearing back at these save points on my forward journey through the level.
At the end of the tree-filled canyon, Hibbins and I faced off with the level boss, a strange legged robot with a number of shields on its legs. Finally using my bow to good effect, Hibbins and I took turns firing on the robot, trying to break the shields. Success was quick, and out of the strange enemy came a recognizable glowing golden prism. Demo over.
From what little I’ve experienced of Windlands 2, the game feels pretty different in scope from the first. Although the quiet vertical parkour puzzles seem to be gone with the second game in the series, the game is still in development, so there’s no telling if the lofty heights will return or if the game will be more linear like we saw in the demo. Either way, the added benefit of being able to explore the world with a friend and have that shared experience adds something I only wish were a part of the first game.
Windlands 2 is coming to Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Playstation VR sometime in 2018.