Open the grog and drink deep, boys! We've got a fight on our hands 'ere!
Windward is a game that is currently available as Early Access on Steam. If you wanted more Sid Meiers Pirates! with less minigames and more grog related arson, then have I got a caribbean adventure for you. A quick summary of the game would be "Procedurally generated high seas action rpg". An even quicker summary would be "Drive by grogatov cocktail simulator."
It is also multiplayer and oh my god roaming the seas with a fleet of buddies is wonderful.
Yeah, we got some ships for you here. Your ships are linked to your faction. There are currently 10 ships in the game, ranging from a simple Sloop to the devastating Ship of the Line. Each ship has a variety of baseline stats, with your equipment adding to them. Higher level ships tend to have more guns, allowing for more devastating broadsides, and as far as I can tell, wider firing arcs.
Current ships include
- Sloop of War
- Royal Brigantine
- Brig of War
- Ship of the Line
There is an obvious progression with the ships, with prices increasing and the level they unlock at, but higher level unlock isn't necessarily better. A Corvette is nearly double the price of a Ship of the Line, with vastly superior speed and mobility, but only half the hull and sail strength, so if you're looking to wade through pirate fleets, it might not be the best choice for you. Each ship also has a cargo size. Cargo slots determines the number of active quests and trade goods you can hold at one time.
Purchasing ships requires cities at a high enough level to unlock them. You level a city by completing quests for it. Levels range from 1 to 10. Higher levels also increase the amount they will buy items for, as well as the quality of what they have for sale.
Windward is divided into 5 factions. 4 are playable right off the bat, and those are the Valiant, Exchange, Consulate, and Sojourn, with the Pirates rounding out the faction list. When you first start a game, you will choose a faction to join. The only real immediate effect of this choice is that each faction has specific bonuses to experience gain or gold gain. Valiant earn more experience from fighting, while the Consulate earn greater experience when completing quests, for example. Beyond that, faction choice means very little (I believe the AI ships in higher challenge zones might be different for each faction but I haven't gotten that far), though in multiplayer, people aligned with different factions can fight each other. You can receive a quest eventually to change factions if you'd like.
Finally, the fifth faction, pirates, takes a bit of work to get to. You have to find a black flag after destroying a pirate captain. Captains spawn from quests that ask you to kill them. Even if they don't drop a flag, there's a good chance the loot they do drop is going to be top of the line for you. Humorously, there is also an item you can find called a White Flag. Equip that and you are no longer flagged for pvp in multiplayer.
This is the world. Divided into zones, each is generated randomly, including the layout. Each faction starts with one zone in their control. No pirates will spawn in this zone unless you accept a quest to destroy or capture a pirate, and they will not pillage anything. Zone climate is determined by its vertical position, with trade goods available dependent on climate.
In contested zones such as this, your goal will be to capture every settlement for your faction, and destroy all opposing ships (Pirates or enemy factions). When you do this, they turn into controlled zones like your starting zone, with all the same rules of enemy spawns. This is actually not an easy thing to do.
Starting zones have a challenge rating of 0, and as you move away from these zones, challenge rating will increase, up to 13. Think of this like Torment in D3. More difficulty, more reward. I'm currently on a challenge 3 area, and so far I haven't noticed a massive uptick in enemy health, so it doesn't seem like there will be huge health sponge ships floating around the higher levels.
On top of that, when you connect to a game (Meaning when you create it for that session), you have the option to increase or decrease the challenge levels directly. From the normal 100%, you can lower them to 10%, or increase it all the way to 200%. This changes the difficulty and rewards as well. You can also reduce or increase combat damage, tailoring your game for strategic maneuvering or frenetic skirmishes.
Your ship, your crew, your captain. Your grog
Ahh yeah, that's the ARPG tingle I want. From sails, to cannons, crew, and even specialists and hull, there are numerous choices for gear. Some lots have set stats they can improve, while others (Like captain, crew, and specialist) can possess any stat. Equipment can only be changed at hubs. On top of that, there are numerous cosmetic customization options, between hull color, sail cloth, sail emblem, and more.
This is the talent tree. They include active abilities, passive abilities, and percentage modifiers to your stats. Unlike most MMOs and other games with percentage talents, the numbers in Windward are very generous. 3 points gets you 15% crit chance, for example. There are also, as you can see at the bottom, specializations. These talents are very
powerful. Only one specialization tree can be active at a time, and you can change between them at hubs.
Step one in a new zone is to either capture a settlement, or found one. This is key, because friendly ships require a settlement to spawn. After that, it's a frenetic onslaught of pirates as you attempt to expand your control, building guard towers in strategic locations, while keeping an eye out for pirates sneaking back towards your settlements. Pirate ships spawn at settlements they control, just like your faction ships, so if you can force them to spawn from a single direction, you can corral them as you progress. Then it's smooth sailing to leveling up your settlements and gathering sweet sweet loot. The higher level a settlement, the more they will buy items for. Higher challenge levels will buy goods for more by default. A level 5 city in a challenge 4 zone will buy good at a higher price than a level 10 city in a challenge 1 zone. Generally, the best money is to be made running trade routes between cities.
And here's some screenshots!
And then some videos!
This OP is a mess, but no joke, I had to pull myself away from the game about four times to write it. And you know what? I'm gonna go back to hunting pirate captains for their flags, so I direct you to the store page
and then take to the seas.
Tips, because the seas are unkind
There can be some unintuitive things in this game, and some stuff that isn't readily apparent but that will make your life far easier.
First, you can use the RMB to drop anchor, drastically reducing speed and grinding your momentum to a halt. Space also works for this. This is a big deal because in heated battles, it is a lot easier to lose your bearings than you think, and suddenly you're going full steam ahead into the land. Not only will this cause a huge chunk of damage, but now you're stopped and have to sloowly reverse or revolve on the spot, hoping you don't get swarmed.
You can right click on friendly boats and hire them to follow you. You can also do this to pirates, it's called bribing. I don't know if they follow you or just stop shooting you. If you have followers like this, you can open the map and send them to locations on the map.
The 'Fog' ability suggests using it on enemies. Don't do this. Cast it on yourself so it pulls you out of combat and gives you time to heal. Properly using Fog can keep a fragile ship in a fight much longer than it reasonably should be. Just make sure nobody is looking to throw a grog barrel.
As a matter of fact, just, avoid grog barrels. Nothing good happens when somebody other than you throws one.
On the other hand, flaming grog barrels. Light the ocean on fire and watch it burn.