I’m definitely no expert in it, but I do enjoy some Japanese culture. Give me some ramen and ill scoff it down in seconds. Good anime? I’ll binge watch it all day. But good Japanese games are my bread and butter. Whether they are from Japanese developers or simply feature Japanese influences, I’ll be all over it. So imagine my joy when I stumbled upon this visual delight — The Wind and Wilting Blossom.
First and foremost, as someone who often finds roguelike games boring, I wasn’t expecting to be as impressed as I was with Picklefeet Games’ The Wind and Wilting Blossom. But with its amazing visual style, and challenging FTL-inspired gameplay, this Early Access game made marching my way across japan an absolute treat. Albeit a difficult one at times.
Now let’s just get this out the way: The Wind and Wilting Blossom may be one of the most visually stunning games I have played so far this year. Taking influence from the Heian period in classical Japanese history, the visuals, setting, and music were such a breath of fresh air thanks to this unique choice.
Characters, maps, and all other aspects of the game’s visuals made this feel like a living piece of art. Capturing the style perfectly, even with minimal detail or colour, it was without a doubt the highlight of my time playing. That coupled with the authentic, dynamic music which is just as fitting, and you have a game that is beaming with style.Style aside, The Wind and Wilting Blossom isn’t afraid to put on the pressure, something I learned very quickly. Its main objective is quite simple, get across each new map whilst managing your band of troops and try not to let your leader die — Simple enough — but this is where the game really starts to show its inspiration, most notably with the creeping army of monsters that follows your every move. This intimidating and relentless army reminiscent of FTL’s rebel fleet is constantly on your tail, engulfing the map with each passing turn and is a constant reminder to keep on the move or risk being crushed by hordes of monsters that will, quite simply, trample on you if you’re not smart about it. But pushing forward can be just as rewarding as it is necessary thanks to a slew of interactions that can take place on your journey.
Being kidnapped by a giant spider or finding a travelling merchant, the encounters and exchanges you have can be both good or bad depending on how you approach them. Some require you to simply choose the right dialogue while others might have you exchange your precious resources or engage in the, rather simple, turn-based combat, but all these different risk-reward situations playing out differently each time you play gives each one some nice variety and keeps the game feeling fresh even after multiple playthroughs. Those wanting a bit more substance from the narrative besides random encounters can travel to certain areas on each map that pushes forward each leader’s own story. Although for me, it didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything particularly special when it came to the narrative elements, as I’d more often just go past the story points and explore the map for, what I felt, was the more enjoyable random encounters.
What underlines all of the tactical combat and exploration is a simple set of RPG mechanics and party management, but these are arguably the most important mechanics you’ll be focussing on.
Without properly equipping your party members, they will most likely die quickly. If you don’t level up your troops or leader and buy them new equipment, again, they will probably die, if you don’t play smart then guess what? You’ll die. But this cycle of play, die, and retry is what gives the game its challenge as you’ll progressively unlock new weapons and units that become available on the next playthrough, which makes the moments where you die sting a little less knowing you’ll have access to new units and weapons in the next attempt. It becomes a delicate balancing act as you try to keep food and ammo high so you can travel with little to no issue, while also spending and saving the money you earn from combat and certain scenarios to maximize your parties potential; But it’s these simple inclusions that help elevate what would otherwise be a rather run of the mill, turn-based combat system into something a bit more lively. The Wind and Wilting Blossom is certainly a tough roguelike that is made for those wanting a challenge and Picklefeet Games knows it; While I was sometimes dishearted by some rather large difficulty spikes ruining an otherwise reasonable playthrough, it didn’t diminish what was overall a great experience.
Managing my troops and resources gave just the right feeling of RPG to help pull the whole gameplay loop together, and all of it is beautifully illustrated by the incredible visuals that could rival any in its genre and beyond.
The Wind and Wilting Blossom is a stylish, tactical gem; One I’d recommend to fans of the genre and of its incredible source material.