The wind howls like a wild beast in A Valley Without Wind (AVWW), an interesting Metroid-like platformer game from Arcen Games that blends adventure survival and strategy together to make for a rather unique and interesting genre-bending experience. Featuring a large procedurally generated world known as Environ, you will find yourself exploring the land as you fight dangerous creatures, quest for loot, attempt dangerous missions, rescue non-player characters, craft new spells, and build up a city.
Each continent in AVWW is ruled by a mighty Overlord and his trusted lieutenants. It shall be up to you to take on the role of a glyphbearer to venture forth into the windswept wilds and free the land from their tyranny. Defeat the Overlord and the game generates another continent with even greater complexity and tougher challenges to conquer.
That is until you realize it’s about time you move on to try other games… For instance, AVWW 2.
What you get
When you start playing AVWW will generate a continent based on the choices you pick. The game will make adjustments to combat, platforming, and city-building difficulty. If you like, you may even start on the second continent with extra goodies under your belt. You then get to pick a character from a random selection of four, then it’s off you go on your adventure in the so-called Valley of “Environ”.
Whatever the case, each continent is vast. So vast, that if it’s the first time you are playing, then it is definitely best you play through the tutorial in its entirety. Luckily the tutorial in AVWW is not too difficult an exercise, and you will get to learn most of what you need to know in the first ten minutes of the game: To move around, you will be employing typical Metroid-like movement, jumping all over the undulating terrain and landing on solid ground, cold building floors and even rickety wooden platforms or crates, all the while gawking at and exploring the icy world that you start off in. This arcade-like jumping movement is surprisingly smooth although the graphics representing your character looks a bit dull and gawky in his (or her) grey armor.
You can rely on an area “chunk” map at the upper left of the screen to examine your current location – this chunk could be a room in a building, a cavern, or some outdoor area. There’s also a Dungeon map at the bottom right to see the entire building, cavern complex, or region of the world you are in. The latter takes a while to get used to as it is more of a map of nodes than a real representation of the place you are in. There are also warp gates found in the game that will save you time; these let you warp to places you have been to before.
The monsters you meet in the game look rather underwhelming at first, but as you play on, you will get to meet nastier types, bigger looking mini-bosses and large bosses. To defend yourself, you must be quick at casting spells at these monsters. You have a few spells to cast at the start of a game, but as you find more crafting loot and get access to creating spells, your repertoire will quickly outgrow the ten slots made available to you. You will also find enchants and stuff that you can equip your character with.
A new direction in game play arrives when you complete the tutorial and find yourself arriving at the settlement. This modest little village is home to the Ilari, a bunch of sentient floating crystals, as well as other human survivors. This place acts as a base of operations where you start exploring your immediate surroundings from an overhead 2D map. Talking to the Ilari is important as you get access to the purchase supplies menu, the dispatch survivors menu (- why do it yourself when you can get a lackey to do it?), and view the list of things you should do.
Currency in AVWW are consciousness shards, these are left behind after killing monsters. You will need lots of shards to be able to purchase enchants, supplies, gifts, and power scrolls. Enchants can be used to improve your health, mana, and attack ability, while gifts are given to the survivors working for you in the settlement. Power scrolls grant you the ability to build a structure in a region that you pick from the overhead 2D map. For example, you could build a farm that feeds your settlement, or plant an ocean buoy that allows you to travel on that region of water.
As you can see, there truly is a ton of things that you can do in AVWW. To experience the best part of what AVWW has to offer, you are however going to have to put in quite a lot of effort to get to it. Although the ultimate objective is to kill the Overlord, you could practically enjoy yourself just exploring the continent. At first, we had lots of fun exploring every area, dungeon, or region. However as we progressed further in the game we noticed that the procedural generation of places you explore: be it an abandoned building, some evil tower, or even the 9,999th cavern, always resulted in predictable looking places that sometimes felt rather empty. There are the occasional monsters, but the variety was not that great on the first continent. At least the situation fared slightly better from the second continent onwards.
Another thing that disappointed us as we played AVWW was the amount of grinding required to reap rewards. You need to go wandering around specific locations just to hunt for certain loot just so you can craft a certain powerful spell. The need to explore and gather all this loot can become quite a chore. And if your character gets killed during all this effort, you must re-roll and play the game with a new character, although you find your inventory (enchants and equipment) remain intact – which we feel is a strange design choice that favors the player.
The graphics in AVWW looks average-ish in some areas, but there are a few interesting looking sprites and terrains around, that is if you look hard enough. At least we can safely say the music and sound effects are not too bad.
A Valley Without Wind is undoubtedly a unique game, the type that tries to be genre-bending, but winds up being more of an overly bloated hybrid. However, the many different elements in the game might come together pretty well for players who just love exploring the unknown, and are okay with the action-based platformer style of play.
If you are on the fence because of what we might have said, then here is one last little tidbit we wish to add: When you purchase A Valley Without Wind you will actually be getting part 2 of the game for free! Yes, fancy that, a dual pack of joy from Arcen Games. We are totally overjoyed and so should you, unfortunately we shall leave the review of AVWW2 for another day. You can however take our word that that A Valley Without Wind 2 is definitely more improved than its predecessor. That however does not mean that you should shirk away from this game at all.