Windbound

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Windbound Game Poster Image
Terrific survival adventure has strong, smart female hero.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Themes include survival, independence, resolve. The story suggests we must know and appreciate our past in order to better understand our present and future.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The hero is a strong, smart woman who exhibits determination, ingenuity, and fortitude as she endures hardships and learns more about herself and the world.

Ease of Play

Straightforward third-person action/adventure game controls are easy to understand and learn. In-game tutorials define basic mechanics in simple-to-understand terms. Two difficulties create very different experiences, with the harder punishing players when they die by forcing them to restart and taking away collected items and materials, and the easier allowing players to continue on from near where they died and retain much of their collected resources and crafted gear.

Violence

Players are attacked by and must defend themselves from fantasy animals, including unusual looking birds, fish, mammals. Weapons include spears, bows and arrows, knives, slings. No blood or gore is shown -- just flashes of light and smoke -- but Kara harvests cuts of red meat from animal bodies that she eats raw or cooked.

Sex
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Windbound is a downloadable survival action/adventure game for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Windows Pcs. The title features a strong and intelligent female hero. Kara is a calm, resourceful, and thoroughly capable tribal woman who uses her understanding of the natural world to survive. She collects plant and mineral resources to craft tools, weapons, and a boat, and hunts fantasy animals for food and materials such as bones. Combat against more powerful animals can be somewhat challenging, but the game's cartoonish visuals and the lack of any blood or gore (animals simply collapse when killed) keep things from getting very intense. Parents should also note that while the survival mode difficulty can frustrate some players by resetting progress whenever Kara dies, players can opt instead for a story mode difficulty that relaxes combat and carries much lighter penalties should Kara perish.

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What's it about?

WINDBOUND drops players into the role of Kara, a tribal woman who survives an incident at sea and wakes up on a deserted island. Unsure of where she is or what has happened, she begins foraging for resources necessary to survive, gathering items like grass and rocks, and hunting small animals for food and whatever useful materials they might provide. Before long, she's able to craft a basic boat and use it to sail to nearby islands, where she finds additional resources as well as ancient artifacts that begin to reveal the story of her people and the giant god-like sea creatures they once peacefully coexisted with. As the game progresses, Kara's repertoire of craftable items expands, and she uses rare resources -- such as the jaws of larger animals, mined minerals, and gemstones -- to create more powerful weapons, like metal spears and long-range bows and arrows. She also continues to upgrade her boat, eventually creating a wide-decked outrigger with a large sail and armored hulls. She must also make perilous ocean journeys through seas with crashing waves and menaces lurking under the water to reach new areas and reveal more of her tribe's mysterious history, learning more about herself along the way.

Is it any good?

If you combined Sea of Thieves, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Don't Starve, you'd wind up with a game very much like this terrific little sea-based survival adventure. Windbound has a charming cartoon appearance and intuitive interface that makes it instantly welcoming, regardless of your experience with survival games. Harvesting resources is as simple as tapping a button, and complete recipes are automatically added to the crafting menu as new materials are discovered, eliminating the need for trial and error. Just select what you'd like to make, and if you have the necessary resources, Kara will craft it. And while many survival games suffer from a lack of story or purpose, this one draws players into its fantastical lore through not just a likable protagonist but also the slowly revealed mystery of her people and the sea monsters that have played a key role in their lives and destiny.

And satisfaction comes as the game evolves and Kara grows stronger -- not just gaining more health and endurance, but upgrading her tools and weapons while also building better boats. You're bound to form attachments to both your skiff and certain pieces of gear, valuing them for their ability to help you survive and also simply because you crafted them yourself from scarce resources. This is the sort of game in which you'll take pride in your progress, even when playing on the easier of the two difficulties. There's room for some improvement: Kara's climbing and jumping movements are a bit wonky feeling, and it's easy to accidentally lose resources stored in baskets on your boat (either due to shipwrecks or purposeful disassembly), but these problems can and hopefully will be patched with updates. Windbound is that rare survival adventure game that's surprisingly suitable -- and legitimately fun -- for a wide range of players spanning most ages and all genders.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Games can take up a lot of time, and in Windbound you can lose significant progress if Kara dies. If that happens, do you feel like that time was wasted, or is there something you gain from the experience whether you succeed or fail?

  • What do you think of the way Kara is portrayed? How would the game have changed, if at all, had the developers made her male?

Game details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love adventure

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