Where Winds Meet struck me as hugely ambitious action adventure romp set in vast, Ten Kingdom-inspired China. And it was hilariously impossible to summarise in the space of a short, sharp 30-minute appointment. While the elevator pitch started off fairly naturally, there came a point where the elevator rocketed up into the atmosphere and spiralled out of control. I won’t pretend to completely understand what the exact measure of the game is, but I’m both excited to see more and a tad worried it could end up being a disjointed, overstretched mash of things that don’t form a cohesive whole.
I spoke to the devs briefly before I spent some time with the game, and they casually sprung on me that you could play it solo or with hundreds of folks on the same server. That players could actually get sick and, depending on their ailment, have to seek out some very specific form of Chinese medicine to cure it. That there’s tonnes of martial arts and a system where you can pet animals. Last year, there was even talk of an entire job system where you could become a doctor or an architect or a bodyguard.
After having my mind mildly split in two, my time with the game began, and it, too, was split into two hurried halves. The first was me fighting some dudes in a tutorial zone, and the second was watching the devs take over. The second half was bonkers.
The tutorial was a chance to test out the game’s hack and slash combat against some lackeys, each of them letting me belt them with martial arts-inspired moves. It was reminiscent of Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, in the way you’re encouraged to dash out the way of swipes, deflect attacks with a flash, then build up a stagger bar to knock them senseless for a bit. There was a satisfying rhythm to a one-on-one bout against a “Faceless Tyrant”, whose attack patterns were readable and offered up well-timed opportunities to swing the momentum against him. And all of it possible on keyboard and mouse, which is a nice plus. As a Soulsliker, I was very impressed!
As I’d probably spent a bit too long fighting some guys and the demo slot was ticking down rapidly, the devs stepped in to showcase a variety of things. First stop: a bear. In a brief flash of the menus, I clocked the game’s vast array of combat styles, all inspired by the dev team’s love of Wuxia (fictional adventures of martial artists in Ancient China). Then another brief flash showed off various techniques or spells, with one of them able to divert momentum from a source (say, a big enemy attacking you) and use it against them. In this instance, the devs sprinted over to a bear, waited for it to leap at us, and used the energy of that leap to yeet the bear into some collapsible rocks – revealing some treasure on the other side. Some footsoldiers hovered about nearby, each with level 5 above their heads, and apparently we could’ve yeeted the bear into them to trigger a fight. Instead, we called upon another spell that dropped a giant bell from the sky, then just fully screamed into it to, presumably, to elevate the scariness of our scream and frighten the bear away.
Onwards! To a bit where we teleported to the top of a great mountain peak that overlooked a stunning vista of mountains, rivers, and little towns seen through misty clouds. Then we walked on the sky for a bit, because WHY NOT, ascending higher and higher for the sheer hell of it. An enormous Buddha statue towered in the distance, so we set course for that, leaping through the air and wall running along his belly. A little stamina ring akin to the recent Zelda’s depleted during the belly run, and we didn’t have enough time to wait for it to replenish (the elevator was, at this point, in orbit).
We pinged over to a quaint village, complete with a suitably quaint waterwheel. The quiet was broken by some folks revelling in a drinking competition, except one of the lads was convinced the village’s champion was a fraud selling pills that would nullify alcohol’s effects. We accepted his quest to track down the baddie and, as the PRs basically called time, the devs showed us one last move. We stood behind some guy in the street and telekinetically robbed him…? I think?
Of course it’s far too early to deliver the bang of the gavel, but my big worry lies with the game’s ambitions and the general sense of lots, lots, lots going on. Interactions with the bear, the Buddha, and the telekinetic robbery could’ve been more performative than meaningful. And as we bounced around the skies and I saw levels above people’s heads, my MMO radar bleeped to life. Not to say the game’s an MMO at all, it just engaged something within my brain which said, “This has the slightly static enormity of an MMO.”
Despite my reservations, I desperately want Where Winds Meet to succeed as its setting is fantastic and the team are incredibly passionate about the work they’re pouring into the game’s many, many different systems and subsystems. I just hope it all comes together when it releases sometime later this year.
For more of the latest news and previews from Gamescom 2023, head to our Gamescom 2023 hub. You can also find everything announced at Opening Night Live right here.
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