If you go outside and look at your lawn, what do you see? What about if the landscape was on a much wider scale, what do you envision it to look like? Would climate take a part in the growth of the area? Do you think you would have the skills to take what appears to be a lifeless land into something of beauty, harmony, and unity? For some, many may not think twice about the ground around us. For others, it’s a way of connecting on a different level. So does developer TREBUCHET show what it’s like to build a flora world? Let’s find out with Winds & Leaves for PlayStation VR.
Winds & Leaves is a flora builder that you play as The Gardner, where you are stranded in a barren landscape, you are the only being capable of mastering the ancient art of growing vegetation. Journey across the Steppe to gather ancient dormant varieties. Learn to read the signs of the various climates, awaken old landmarks, and grow your own forest. So before you get out there and trying bringing the world into a livable one, get your favorite seat ready and make sure those Move controllers are charged. With that said, let’s continue.
When you first start out playing Winds & Leaves you are just in what appears to be this area with trees, the ground, flowers, and boulders. If there was not a glowing beam of light to indicate where you would need to go next, there would be some confusion about what one would actually be doing here. For one, take in the beauty that is the art style. It really is beautiful to look at and you really will start to appreciate the style, even more, the more you get into everything. To move, you hold down the Move buttons and move your hands up and down to move your stilts so you can get used to the movement. You can tilt your hands to the left and right to move at different angles. One of the key things you will have to remember is, if the area is full of green, that will allow you to continue and not take any damage per se. So green on the ground is good and no life on the ground is bad. Press X to rotate to the left and O to rotate to the right.
Another thing to remember is that trees help protect you. So the more trees that are around or that you plant, the better off you will be. You will also need to find your tools in the early part of the tutorial. The great thing about your tools is that there are 4 main areas to house these and you can basically put them how you like them to be which is a very nice feature to have. You have your pouch where you can place the seeds that you find, your planter which allows you to dig into the ground, your growing tool that can speed up the growing process and allow seasons after seasons to pass by, and you have your stock of branches which will give you some life (think of it as an oxygen tank) so you can go over and get to different areas that may not be green. Sometimes you may hit a button on the Move controllers that will bring up the menu. Just resume the game and the menu will go away. I did this a couple of times by accident and then I was more cautious about which buttons I pressed.
Trees can be climbed by pressing the Move button and just moving your hands up and down to reach the seeds. When you do grow trees, you don’t have to climb the trees as you can speed up time and I have found that the seeds will fall to the ground. You would need to be on the look for them because if they fall and you are still speeding up time, those seeds will go away. Some trees will have a part cut out that will have this energy flowing through them. Use these trees to place your stock of branches to refill the energy so you can reach those places that may not have green on the ground.
So the more you plant, you will learn that trees will do better when there are more trees around. Sometimes, depending on the soil, once you plant a tree and watching it grown, you will start to see the ground become more green and more trees start to grow. However, there will be parts of the ground where the soil may not be right for the seed you are planting the right seed or combing seeds as the soil does need to match to have the right growing experience. If you plant the wrong seed with the wrong type of soil, the growth you were hoping for will die and if it’s your last seed that you planted and you try to move on, and there is no more energy in your stack of branches, then you will start to see the darkness come around you like it’s trying to pull you in and you will be transported back to a safe zone. But it’s all about bringing life back to this world as you come across structures that help tell the story so that you can discover all the secrets to be had here.
Let’s talk about the graphics and sound. As I mentioned earlier, the art style is beautiful. There were many times where things would just appear out of nowhere which was a little distracting. But watching the weather change and the trees grow as night becomes day and day becomes night really just allows you to enter a different world. Some may not like the lower visuals, but it wasn’t something I minded too much because of the type of game that Winds & Leaves is. Sound-wise, I did enjoy the symphony of music where it changed almost as a reaction to what was going on around me. When the world was coming alive, so was the music, but when I was running out of energy and that darkness started to come, the music matched it.
There are a few things that I hope to see updated. For one, I understand having to use the Move controllers, but there was something about having to hold down the Move buttons and then move your hands up and down. Maybe have an option of just pushing the move controllers without the movement. I get trying to create the action of the stilts, but it would be nice to see a different option here. Second, the option to remove the grid. When you are in VR and then seeing a grid appear, it does take away from the immersion, so an option to remove the grid completely would be greatly appreciated. And finally, an update to some of the crashes I experienced. This didn’t happen all the time, but there were a few times where the game did crash and I had to start the game over and one time I actually had to start a brand new game as no matter how many times I restarted, the same problem happened. But I think with another update or two this should be addressed.
Winds & Leaves is about exploration and trying to learn the story and the secrets within that story. It may not be for everyone who is might be used to a faster pace way of life. Sometimes taken a slower place in life can allow us to see the world the way it was meant to be presented in its own way, in its own time. But if given the chance, we may just see that the beauty is truly in the eye of the beholder.
Winds & Leaves is out now on PlayStation VR. A review code was provided.
In case you missed the trailer, please enjoy. Until next time, I am just going to go enjoy the world at my own pace.