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Windward – Sandbox Fun on the High Seas

Michael Bitton Posted:
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These days I rarely find myself interested whenever the next Steam sale rolls around. My friends will excitedly message me about the sale being live and I’ll just shrug. I pretty much own most of what I want anyways by now, so there usually isn’t anything that really catches my eye. This year, I decided to pick up a couple of smaller titles during the Steam Summer Sale and one of those titles was a game called Windward and I’m not sure how I hadn’t found this gem before.

The best way to describe Windward would be as a combination of Sid Meier’s Pirates! and a sort of sandbox MMO. You can play the game singleplayer or online with a bunch of other players and the game worlds are all procedurally generated at creation. I haven’t sunk a whole lot of time into the game just yet, but there are definitely a breadth of activities and gameplay styles to pursue on offer. Trade commodities between towns, explore the world, discovering and establishing new towns and other structures, salvage shipwrecks for loot, or even flag yourself as a pirate and make enemies of everyone around you.

There are a bunch of different factions, too. Each faction represents the different spheres of gameplay you can find in the game and comes with faction specific bonuses and ship discounts to support this. For example, the Valiant faction focuses on combat, which means you’ll get more experience from combat activities, and you’ll also start with different abilities, and receive a 20% discount on purchasing the Ship of the Line. The Sojourn, on the other hand, are all about exploration. This means their ships are faster and more accurate, but also weaker in close combat. They also gain bonus experience from discovering new areas and salvaging shipwrecks.

Personally, I enjoy playing on the Consulate faction, as they focus on trading. It’s kind of relaxing just playing the commodities game and sailing around trying to make a profit. When visiting towns you can learn of local rumors that offer up hints on towns you can sell commodities purchased at your current location for optimal profits. I spent most of my time sailing around doing this and specializing my ship in the Support tree.

Speaking of specialization, Windward offers RPG style progression in the form of talents, levels, and loot. You can specialize your ship in offense defense or support and you can acquire tons of different loot to trick it out for whatever your goals are. Since I’m primarily focusing on trading, I like to stack items that offer me bonuses to diplomacy, as this gives me better prices when purchasing or selling commodities at towns.

The game is a heck of a lot of fun with friends in particular. Gathering up and developing your faction and spreading it across the map or even tackling instances (including PvP Battleground instances) is just a lot more fun with friends than it is with the AI. In fact, it seems like the combat instances are nigh impossible to do with just the AI, that or they just take forever to do solo.

While I don’t focus heavily on combat, the combat in Windward I’ve experienced so far is pretty fun. Firing your cannons is automatic as long as your ship is properly facing your opponent, but from there it’s all a matter of maintaining facing while trying to deny your enemy his, managing ability cooldowns, and so on. I tend to focus on taking advantage of the increased range offered by the support talents to outrange my enemies and use Chain Shot to snare them as I kite them around. Typical MMO stuff. It’s almost like playing a mage or archer. It’s good fun.

You can pick up Windward for $9.99 at full price on Steam or just add it to your wishlist and wait for the next sale to roll around. Either way, if you’re a fan of MMOs/co-op games and Sid Meier’s Pirates! you should definitely keep an eye on Windward.


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB