September 3rd, 2012 | By Petey A.M.
I dream of sailing the open ocean sometimes, wife and glass of whiskey on hand. The wind blows through my hair and I allow my cares to subside. I open my captain’s log and write a few tender words about love and destiny. But, before I am able to bring my dream to fruition and venture forth into the deep blue, I would make sure that the water was clear. I am, in fact, protecting my livelihood and that of my dear fictional wife. Unfortunately, the water is teeming with enemy ships and dastardly guard towers and I am no expert on besting such foes. Windward, a naval warfare multiplayer game from Tasharen Entertainment inspired by the classic Sid Meier’s Pirates!, appears to be the learning supplement that I need.
In Windward the ship is the character. It is the method of transportation and an integral part of your being. The player begins with a weak ship in the midst of war. The player’s ship progresses as he/she defeats enemies and earns experience. Items are also gained by defeating enemies and accomplishing other feats. These items add to your ships capabilities and act as additional power-ups. All of this will be done in an effort to make ships into formidable war machines which claim dominance over opponents.
Players can seize victory through capturing certain important locations like guard towers, lighthouses, and docks. Opposing ships will use all their firepower in order to stop players from advancing. Enemy towers will fire upon estranged ships, making teamwork integral to success. Docks serve the purpose of a respawn point, should your ship be destroyed, and offers repairs in case of damage.
Players can either play alongside bots or join a multi-player server and battle against (or alongside) human players. Any experience or items gained in these battles will be saved, which allows the continued development of the player’s ship.
There are two modes of Skirmish play, single player and multi-player. In single player, the game will fill all of the teams with bots who actually are the ships of other players in the system. You chose which team you are on and your boat will replace a ship on that team. The system is designed to only select boats within five levels of your ship, ensuring that each of your matches are very competitive. In multi-player, one person serves as a host and the other join his game. The bots will all be selected based on the level of the host and all players who join the game will be handicapped to be competitive with the host’s level. So if a level 70 boat joins a level 7′s game, his stats will be that of a level 7.
I was able to spend some time playing Windward and it does not fail to impress. I spent most of my time in multi-player matches, taking to the sea with other captains. Combat was tight and reminiscent of key-based RPGs. Skills are linked to the players keyboard, mainly on the R, M,K, and spacebar keys. The combat is fluid and requires strategy over reflexes. You don’t have to worry about aiming and firing your cannons. No, you are the captain! You command the ships movement and leave the actual fighting to your men. Your ship automatically fires on anything in range and you can capitalize greatly on this by maneuvering your ship between two targets so that both sides of your ship can bombard enemies.
A key to Windward is to travel in packs or else be doomed to run into an enemy pack. It is also tough to take down a Guard Tower without a Frigate, so taking a friend or three to help out is essential to victory. Teams must be made up of a variety of ships to succeed. There are a multitude of ships including the super-fast Schooner, the well-handling Sloop of War, the mighty Frigate, as well as the all-around decent Brigantine. All ships have skill paths to follow which up their offensive and defensive strength. Talent Points are gained through leveling up, which is done automatically through experience gained during matches. Players will also find that destroying opposing ships sometime forces them to drop items that you can salvage. Each item has a level and ability and can be used to improve a ship’s hull, sails, cannons, and cannonballs. Upgrading is a blast and keeps pace with the evolving nature of a single battle of Windward so you can take your favorite ship into battle. Th
e upgrade system works through an upgrade tree, much like an RPG system. The upgrading makes each ship specific to the owners desires and the experience is unique and addictive; aspects not lost or unappreciated by someone who loves online games such as myself.
Surely, Windward has left my hopes of becoming a lazy old man on a boat unfulfilled; however, it has sparked my interest in becoming an 18th century sea captain. Windward promises instant action and minimizes the time spent managing your character. It is easy-to-pickup, ultra-fast ranked multi-player matches in a genre which has not yet been explored. In a medium where speed is related to futuristic ideals, Windward dares to hearken to an old type of action: sailboat warfare. At it’s core, it is beckoning to FPS fans to give it a try as it boasts both Capture the Flag and Domination style maps.
The sailing phenomenon that is Windward is currently in its alpha stages of development but is planning to go beta October 1. The game is being pre-sold in alpha for $10 and will soon be released on Desura for PC and Mac. You can currently try out Windward here and vote for it in the Steam Greenlight Sale. Also, do not be hesitant to check out Tasharen’s official website, or the Windward forums for updates on the game. For more updates on Windward, stick with Indiegamemag.com, your home for Indie Game News.