The block based construction is becoming a genre, and Windborne’s release will drive home that point. Revealed previously at PAX, the game is finally available today as an early access download on Steam for $24.
While it does use block-based construction as its core gameplay, it is distinctly different to Minecraft and Terraria; primarily because it doesn’t look like a block-based game. Mountains are smooth, deserts are flat, there are even rounded pillars. Windborne proves that the construction genre doesn’t need to be ugly (I’m well aware that there is a certain charm to Minecraft’s aesthetic, but the point still stands). While blocks can be placed down, they can also be smoothed out or altered, but they still occupy a “block” of space. It allows for the construction of far more intricate and realistic buildings and landscapes. Sadly, this also means that Windborne doesn’t have a distinguishable character regarding its aesthetic compared to Minecraft.
This is where the Jin come in. They’re the cute denizens of the generated worlds, and your goal is to help build a society for them. It’s this that helps set it apart from other blocky sandboxes; the creativity is the main gameplay mechanic of Windborne, rather than having two separate survival and creative modes like Minecraft. Terraria also attempted to tie up the survival and creative elements into one by tasking the player to build homes for NPCs, but its core focus was combat instead. As long as the building and creativity elements are tied neatly with the puzzles, and quests, Windborne could be very different to other games in the same genre.
The game does look promising, and it’s nice to see the block-based genre growing so fast with different stances on the core gameplay. Sadly the same could not be said for first person shooters.