Windbound for Xbox One review: A gorgeous Zelda-inspired world that's a bit too repetitive

A game that feels heavily inspired by Zelda: Breath of the Wild with some survival elements thrown in.

Windbound Kara Closeup
(Image: © Windows Central)

Windbound is a single-player survival game set in an ocean-faring world. This is a game heavily inspired by The Legend Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Windbound recently released on Xbox One, PC, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch.

Players take control of Kara, a young woman who got separated from her tribe during a storm. It's up to you to gather materials and craft tools so you can explore the open seas and survive on your own.

After playing through the whole game, I've been able to collect my thoughts on the experience to determine what was good, what was bad, and what was stolen outright from the Zelda series. While the gathering and crafting aspects are really satisfying and exploring gives that same Zelda-like feeling of wonder, some of the other survival aspects just feel tedious.

Windbound What I like

Definitely a Zelda copycat Gorgeous art and music

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Developer5 Lives Studios
PublisherKoch Media
GenreAdventure, Action
Play Time10 - 12 hours
Players1 Player
Launch Price$30

Now, I'm not necessarily against this game being an homage to Zelda, since I love Nintendo's game and am itching to play the Breath of the Wild sequel. But, after beating Windbound, I can say that many elements of the game were pulled wholesale from Nintendo's popular title. Some of these mechanics work well within Windbound after being given a unique twist. Others don't work so well.

Mechanincs are not the only similarity between the two games. The art style is strikingly similar to BoTW, and so is the minimalist piano music that accompanies you on the waves. There are even a few environmental sounds that seem to either have been directly lifted from BoTW or at least replicated. And if players collect the proper tools, they can craft a glider, which looks an awful lot like the one Link uses to get around Hyrule.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The main focus of each of the five levels is to find three nautilus towers scattered throughout the seas. These allow Kara to retrieve the magic power necessary to open the gateway to the next chapter. Along the way, players encounter dangerous beasts, strange plants, and different types of unique terrain all saturated with that Zelda-like feeling of wonder.

Gathering & Crafting Survival is very satisfying

Windbound encourages exploration as finding rare materials allows you to create stronger tools.

While Windbound does give you a few pointers when you start a new game, it leaves a lot up to you to discover instead of holding your hand. You won't make it far unless you immediately start gathering, crafting, and hunting the moment you wake up on an island.

Much like Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Windbound allows you to unlock new crafting options as you discover new materials. Going from having absolutely nothing to creating your own boat and weapons provides a very powerful feeling and encourages you to continue looking for items instead of heading towards the main quest. Your first boat will be rather fragile and constructed of tall grass, but you can eventually upgrade to a sturdy wooden barge with a large sail if you collect the proper materials.

I love that the game incentivises exploration through finding rare materials on far off islands. These materials allow you to create even stronger tools to help you defeat dangerous animals. You can also find hidden shrines which increase your overall health or stamina bars. The more you explore, the more powerful you will become.

Exploring the seas Chapters & randomly generated islands

Windbound Purple Trees

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Every time Kara dies, she awakes on a new island with different fauna and flora. Her boat will be gone and if you already started searching the seas before you died, then you'll realize that the map will be different than it was before. In that way, replay value is somewhat high since you never experience the same map layout twice.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

There are two game modes: Survivalist and Storyteller. If you like more of a challenge, the Survivalist mode makes it so that when you die you return to Chapter 1 regardless of which of the five chapters you were in. Additionally, you only retain the items that are in your held inventory. Considering that navigating the waters and finding the necessary shrines to complete each chapter takes several hours, beating the game in Survivalist mode can be a real challenge.

If that doesn't sound appealing, the Storyteller mode simply has you restart your current chapter from the beginning if you should die. As with the survivalist mode, your boat will be gone, but you'll retain all items whether they be in your held items or in your bag. I love that these two modes exist as it helps the game appeal to a wider range of players.

Windbound What I don't like

Windbound Sailing

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Very repetitive Over and over and over

It's basically the same thing over and over until you beat all five chapters.

Windbound consists of five different chapters where the goal is the same each time: Search the seas for the three nautilus towers so you can open the portal to the next level.

To begin each new chapter, you need to navigate your boat through the same torchlit stretch of rocky seas until you reach a large blue portal. While the voyage is beautiful and mysterious the first two times through, this trip becomes rather tedious on the third, fourth, and fifth time you experience it.

During the first chapter, things are relatively easy, but new enemies and obstacles get added as you progress, which supplies you with new materials and new tools to craft. Still, it's basically the same thing over and over until you beat all five chapters. If there was a little more variation to the gameplay, it would have interested me more.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

This is not a game for people who like fast action. Traveling with a boat or canoe puts you at the mercy of the wind. Sometimes you'll glide swiftly to your destination and other times you'll be fighting against the wind just to go a short distance. Plus, cooking food for health and stamina takes time and so you'll need to plan around the cooking guage countdown in order to survive.

Hunger mechanic Die from lack of food

In Windbound, Kara's stamina is directly associated with how hungry she is. So if she's just eaten her fill, she can run for a long time without needing to stop. However, once her hunger level gets high, she is unable to do things for very long. If she's absolutely starving, her health starts depleting.

There are mushrooms and plants that help satiate Kara's hunger, but if you want a lot of health and stamina you'll need to consume meat. However, since Kara becomes sick from eating raw meat you not only need to kill an animal, but you need to create a fire and take a few minutes to cook your meals.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Because of this setup, sometimes your survival against hunger is really just a race against cooking time. And you can't get around this by stock piling food since your edible supplies go bad after a short amount of time. I honestly hated the nagging feeling I felt that compelled me to constantly be worrying about food. I mean, I do that enough in real life. I don't have time for that in my virtual lives.

PSA: This is not a game you ever want to leave running while you do something else. Always bring up the pause menu or else you might come back to the TV only to realize that Kara died from hunger while you stepped away.

Breaking weapons Frustrating mechanics

Your weapons and tools break over time and, much like Zelda, they seem to break too fast.

Additionally, your weapons and tools break over time and, much like Zelda, they seem to break too fast. Since it can be hard to find certain materials, this can put you at a frustrating disadvantage when your health is low and you need to hunt. However, if you gather up enough Sea Shards on your journey, you can eventually unlock certain items that do not break. If you enjoy planning ahead and have crafted bags that allow you to hold plenty of items, replacing broken weapons won't be as much of an issue.

Your boat can be destroyed and Kara will be left to drown in the middle of the seas if you accidentally run into a rock or one of the annoying crabs from a coral reef lands on your deck and starts eating your boat. It sometimes feels like a cheap way to die, especially since this can put you back to square one. But at the same time, it's your own fault for not having upgraded to a sturdier vessel when this happens.

Kara wields different types of weapons including a sling, bows and arrows, and spears. When fighting a charging enemy, it is very difficult to accurately aim at your foe with a spear. I don't know how many times I went in for the kill only to have Kara strike in the wrong direction and get injured instead. This gets very frustrating, especially when you're hunting a vicious animal for meat while close to dying.

Windbound Should you buy it?

If you've been curious to check out Nintendo's The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, but haven't been able to do so, Windbound offers a watered down (pun intended) version of the action for Xbox One owners.

You'll experience the frustration of your favorite weapons breaking, the satisfaction of gliding through the air after jumping off massive cliffs, and the once-unique art style we first encountered in BoTW. Windbound also throws in crafting and hunger mechanics to keep you on your toes.

All-in-all, this is an enjoyable game that encourages you to explore and upgrade. If you love survival games and are looking to scratch that Zelda itch, you really ought to check out Windbound.

Rebecca Spear
Editor and Reviewer

Self-professed gaming geek, Rebecca Spear, is one of Windows Central's editors and reviewers with a focus on gaming handhelds, PC gaming, and laptops. When she isn't checking out the latest games on Xbox Game Pass, PC, ROG Ally, or Steam Deck; she can be found digital drawing with a Wacom tablet. She's written thousands of articles with everything from editorials, reviews, previews, features, previews, and hardware reviews over the last few years. If you need information about anything gaming-related, her articles can help you out. She also loves testing game accessories and any new tech on the market. You can follow her @rrspear on X (formerly Twitter).