A Valley Without Wind Review
This is one big valley.
With the recent rise of the Indie Game we were excited to check out one of Steam’s newest independent offerings, A Valley Without Wind. Arcen Games new action adventure aims to break the mold from which other “MetroidVania” style action games have been cast by being non-linear, dynamically generated and endless. This is a bold attempt to refresh the 2D Action Adventure genre so we were eager to visit the world of Environ, and its Valley Without Wind.
A Valley Without Wind is set in a world that is generated when you start the game, and when you move on to each subsequent continent. Don’t expect to see any walkthroughs as each player’s experience will be quite unique. Environ, the game’s world, is a place of magic, but there are also remnants of a fallen society and the world is full of settlements populated people just trying to survive.
The real object of the game is to collect resources, and survivors, to build up your character and settlement so you can eventually defeat the Overlord of the continent. Each continent is huge, and could easily be considered a game unto itself. Each square on the world map is made up of several screens with many dungeons and building to enter and explore. Squares with missions are clearly marked, but any square can be explored and mined.
A Valley Without Wind plays much like others in the “MetroidVania” sub-genre with your character exploring 2D environments by jumping, falling down pits or building platforms to access higher areas. Combat is difficult but your character can have a large number of magic spells available at any one time so you’ll always have a tool at your fingertips do deal with enemies that have a specific elemental resistance. Spells can, however, be cumbersome if you choose to use a gamepad as you’ll only be able to access a few.
The environments you’ll travel through are randomly generated, but each follow a general theme for their particular square on the world map. I felt this random generation was one of the concepts that drew me to this game, but in the end was one thing that held it back. Levels lack the designed feel you would get out of other games and this, together with the bland visuals and complete lack of any ongoing story, kept me from truly enjoying A Valley Without Wind.
Getting around was also a pain. Warp gates are scattered liberally around the world but the interface for choosing where to warp to is so small, bland and hard to navigate that often times I would just run to where I was going to save the headache. You’re also forced to use the mouse to navigate the warp interface, even if you’re using a gamepad. Once you do figure out the best way to get around the game seems to clear itself up and can be enjoyable for a while. For those of you that do enjoy it, the action is literally endless. Once you complete a continent another one is generated, and so on.
A Valley Without Wind offers co-op play for an undetermined amount of players. That’s right, Arcen Games aren’t exactly sure how many players you will be able to get into the same game world and aren’t afraid to admit it. “We’re betting you can get at least into the teens, and 30-50 players might be feasible.” That is how their website explains it. Interesting. Be careful though, as the enemies health will multiply by the maximum amount of players who have ever been in a game. If you want to start an online world, you may find it very difficult to solo after you’ve had a few friends in with you.
The concept behind A Valley Without Wind is a bold, and interesting, one it just doesn’t come together in the end. With an updated visual style and some more polish to the environments, travel system and other interfaces this could have been a great title. Some people will be able to look past the flaws and find some fun in this Valley, it just won’t be everyone.