When I first watched Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon I’d never seen anything like it. The balletic swordplay, gravity-defying leaps and beautiful cinematography were mesmerising. For me, as I suspect for many Westerners, this was my introduction to Wuxia – a genre of Chinese fantasy fiction focused on martial artists in ancient China.
Chinese developer Everstone Studio has similar aspirations for its debut game. Where Winds Meet is a love letter to the Wuxia culture its developers have adored from a young age; now they intend to bring it to the world.
I was able to chat with Everstone at Gamescom and even have a brief hands-on, though my Wuxia fantasy proved clumsy with mouse and keyboard controls. I was assured, however, that full controller support will be included with its PC release next year.
Where Winds Meet is an open-world action-RPG that takes place after the fall of the Tang Dynasty, a dark and chaotic time in ancient Chinese history. Players will take the role of a young swordsman set to become a hero, but with mysteries surrounding his fate.
The developers were keen to stress three particular elements of their game.
The first is combat, which will follow Chinese traditional martial arts and include a variety of weapons from that time. The swordsman can dodge around enemies and parry with his sword, as well as use Tai Chi to reflect attacks and wild acrobatics to both evade enemies and explore the world through wall-running and walking on water. He’ll also have access to abilities and skills from multiple martial arts, many of which mimic animals. You can whip out a giant bell to scare enemies with a lion’s roar, or poise for attack with a praying mantis stance, for example.
The second is the open world, which is as vast as it is beautiful. The developers chose this style of game for its wide appeal across the globe, into which they poured a love of Wuxia. On top of exploration, players will be able to construct houses, bridges, and towers, and when wounded utilise a traditional Chinese medical system. It’s possible to be good and bad as players are given the freedom to tell their own story. And, as well as fishing, you can pet cats and dogs.
Lastly, the game will surprisingly include a multiplayer option. This will allow players to share the same world, construct together, and even battle against one another, but will be separate to single-player.
It’s certainly an ambitious project, then, but once I saw it in motion the vision was clear.
I played through a combat tutorial which taught the basics of light and heavy attacks, dodging and parrying in a small arena, followed by a boss to test my skill. Despite my lack of proficiency with keyboard and mouse, it’s clear even basic combat offers depth, while its graceful animations live up to the Wuxia fantasy.
Then I handed over control and the swordsman flew up into the air. He wasn’t flying exactly, instead this is a type of breath control that makes him light enough to shoot above the clouds and descend at will – this, it turns out, is the fast travel system. The swordsman hovered in the air, the wind rustled bamboo forests below, and the sun blazed across a bright sky. Like the swordsman, it took my breath away.
Afterwards, I saw more combat: using Tai Chi to throw a bear a huge distance, scaring off attackers with a lion’s roar, and running up walls with an ease and grace that made Prince of Persia look laughable. It was an all-too brief session, with questions remaining about the importance of construction, how its various systems will interlink, and what the impact of multiplayer will be. This feels like is the kind of game which will take a while to unfold, to let you truly immerse yourself in and appreciate its rhythm of fast-paced combat and exploration – not to mention its gorgeous environments.
Still, combat – and the already extensive skill trees – prove Where Winds Meet has real potential. Everstone Studio is creating an authentic Wuxia fantasy that remains approachable for a Western audience, filled with knowledge, love, and expertise of the genre. I can’t wait to see more.
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