Dead Cells’ Developers Are Applying the Same Early Access Formula to a New Zelda-Inspired Roguelite

A work in progress.

Windblown screenshot
Motion Twin
The Inverse Interview

In a cozy, Zelda-like land, you and up to two buddies can team up and zoom across levels, wielding katanas and fish knives. Instead of playing as humans or elves, you get your choice of a four weird animals: axolotl, basilisk, pangolin, or... bat. Then you spawn on a colorful map and spam powerful attacks across legions of sentinel minions spawned from a vortex.

Windblown is an upcoming indie roguelite from employee-owned Motion Twin, the creators of Dead Cells, who plan to use the same winning formula that gave their popular indie action-platformer so much staying power: community-sourced feedback of an early access game. It’s the same strategy that helped make Baldur’s Gate 3 a success, although when I bring up last year’s most popular role-playing game, Motion Twin developers say they’ve been doing this years earlier than most.

“Our studio was doing early access back in 2017,” says developer Yannick Berthier, pointing to his colleague, Thomas Vasseur, across the couch, who is busy hacking away at enemies to show me the gameplay. “I wasn’t there, but Thomas was. He’s the original.”

Windblown attempts to give players a compact, satisfying experience of racing through procedurally-generated levels.

Motion Twin

Windblown doesn’t have an official final release date. Motion Twin plans to open up the game in early access by the end of 2024, but the studio is already avidly taking player feedback. Players in the current closed testing phase felt the combat felt too repetitive, so Motion Twin is working on creating different kinds of challenges to keep gameplay feeling fresh. Things are extremely in flux. At one point, the studio even wiped its work to start over again.

“Two weeks before the game’s announcement, we just took all the assets and put it in the trash and we redid all the weapons. That is the real story,” Berthier says. “It was good enough for another roguelite game, but not ours.”

There’s a big fish that can eat your enemies.

Motion Twin

Windblown attempts to give players a compact, satisfying experience of racing through procedurally-generated levels. It’s not story-driven, and developers estimate it will take around four to 10 hours to explore its entirety. Precise controls and well-timed dodges matter, as button-mashing can only get you so far.

It reminds me of early days in 2020, when I’d run around games like Risk of Rain 2 or Minecraft Legends with friends. Some of the more splashy and visually delectable weapon effects in Windblown look like they would cost millions of in-game currency (and potentially real life micro-transactions) in another free-to-play game, like, say, MapleStory. The ease of popping in and out of a level after dying resembles entering another Hades run. When you are felled, the screen flashes “Homecoming.

Windblown’s developers are very French, but the game is more Japanese-influenced.

Motion Twin

There’s something very heartfelt and nostalgic about Windblown, probably aided by the sakura cherry blossoms blooming in the landscape.The developers are very French, but the game is more Japanese-influenced by manga like Naruto — borrowing its weapons and team structures — and beloved games like Zelda. In one world, there’s a village run by rats who think the world’s ending, so they party and eat fondue. In various crevices, the developers featured drawings from their own real-life children.

“Most of these drawings have been done by our kids, in fact, I was thinking of how we can credit them,” Berthier says, jokingly adding that his children might be owed some monetary compensation.

All this is to say, in its current state, Windblown looks very good, but its lifespan will likely depend on the nine-person team’s ability to introduce additional novelty over time. And given how open to feedback the developers are, expect to see Windblown to undergo plenty of changes.

Windblown is expected to launch on PC in early access later this year.

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