Growing up on Norway’s western cliffsides, the last years have made me realize there’s nothing quite like a good wind in video gaming. In the following overview, my top 5 experiences with winds in games will be listed. Everything from games where the wind is a central gameplay mechanic to games where it’s a contributor to ambience, will be mentioned as I count down towards number one.
Let’s get howling.
(the following article might contain minor spoilers)
5. Sid Meier’s Pirates (2004)
Sailing the seven seas never (until then) felt more refreshing than with Sid Meier’s Pirates! developed by Firaxis games, remastering the original retro classic released by Microprose in 1987. Although the wind in this game wasn’t a real-time varying feature, it still played a huge impact on gameplay. The wind’s direction and strength was seemingly randomly generated and an important factor in ship to ship-combat. In some cases it could make the difference between freedom or a failing escape, leading to valuable time spent in imprisonment. Gameplay mechanics like this underline the huge role wind played for real pirates and other seafaring men and women for ages. Let’s also not forget the beautiful animations of flickering sails and rocking galleons.
4. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)
Climbing High Hrothgar for the first time – arguably one of the most widespread common experiences in the world of gaming. Ask any one gamer you meet, and chances are they still remember the 7 000 steps (or was it 700? The reports seem to differ… Greybeards always were dramatic). The snow gently being lifted by the wind, following the patterns and slopes of the mountain, has a tremendous impact on the perception of a living breathing world. Wild winds underline the wild nature of the creatures and landscapes inhabiting the world of Skyrim. The game also gets bonus points for the “Fus Ro Dah”-shout, allowing the player literally shout wind in people’s (and dragons’!) faces, making them fall of cliffs and such.
3. Journey (2012)
Often featured as one of the most gripping games of the last years, Journey rests heavily on a playful, warming art style of almost paint-like qualities, focusing on the player’s perception rather than impressive life-like graphical accomplishments. Some games really manage to make you feel alone and places feel deserted. How this happens is quite often difficult to analyze, but ruins buried amongst sand dunes and raging sandstorms manage to combine the abandonment of people as well as civilizations in an uniquely elegant way. Scarves and banners flickering in the winds, and thus making distinct waves of shadow, is a strong visual-narrative element that represents a civilization that has lost in its evergoing struggle against the elements.
2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker (2002)
When first announced, The Wind Waker was object to a lot of discussion and controversy. Why on earth would Nintendo, after showing the close to photorealistic (well…) graphic potential of the Gamecube on Space World in 2000 announce a game of such a childish nature? Nobody quite knew, or understood, until the game hit the stores and made a lasting hit, carrying graphics that stands out till this day. As it quite clearly says in the title, the wind was of huge importance in the game, encouraging the player to manipulate the direction of the wind allowing the discovery of secrets on island clusters in a vast, open sea. It was a solid gameplay mechanic, playing a major role in the game’s puzzles and temples, and it also allowed the player to ride watersprouts as a fast-travel mechanic. Rad.
1. The Witcher 3: Assassins of Kings (2015)
Like Breath of the Wild sells Nintendo Switches, The Witcher 3: Assassins of Kings sold graphic cards. The Witcher 3 looks stunning, and quickly established itself at the forefront of the graphical standards of our day. Some have argued that the wind in the game is over the top, unrealistic. Some have even went to the lengths of creating mods that reduce the winds. They might be right that it’s a lot. The trees bend. I would however argue Temeria already is kind of unrealistic in itself. You know… Slaying monsters, hunting demons, beautiful clean people in the midst of the gutters. It’s a fantasy universe, and inherent of fantasy universes is that they’re unrealistic. I would also argue, as a western Norwegian growing up in a fjord and thus a self-proclaimed connoisseur of winds, that the feel of the winds come impressively close to real (strong) winds. CD Projekt Red gets everything right, from the bending of vegetation to the distinct swooshing sounds, not sounding like they’re recorded inside when the wind is on the outside. Also don’t forget that if your computer can handle it, the wind plays gracefully with Geralt’s hair.