The unique, still-in-beta PC and Mac title A Valley Without Wind is brimming with potential and possibility. It’s a game that combines side-scrolling randomly generated levels with crafting elements, all wrapped up in a sci-fi/fantasy package. What developers Arcen Games refine and better elaborate on between now and the game’s official release will determine just how much of that potential and possibility is realized.
A Valley Without Wind drops you into the world of Environ after a mysterious apocalyptic event has occurred. Small pockets of humanity are all that’s survived of our species, and it’s your responsibility to protect them, explore the world, and decide the course of things to come. The game is presented in a fashion that brings back memories of Zelda 2: Link’s Awakening. There’s an top-down map representing the world that allows you to travel freely, and once you’ve selected a square to investigate, the games shifts into a 2D sidescroller.
The game play is all about exploration. There are areas within areas to discover and explore, and it’s all procedurally generated meaning no two games will ever play out the same way. Each world is unique. Attacks and spells are mapped to the left and right mouse buttons, and spells are created through crafting. There are tons of raw elements and crafting recipes to be discovered throughout the world, all of which augment existing spells or create entirely new ones. A staple early on for me was the stone-throwing spell. Powerful, effective, and it’s got good range.
The exploration element of Valley is where the game shines most. It’s a decent-size map presented to you at the start, and wanting to go from place to place just to see what’s out there is a huge motivating factor. While dense, the crafting system is rewarding in its own right once you get the hang of it. Between these two elements of the game alone, you’re looking at hours and hours of content. Even better, if you purchase Valley while it’s still in beta, you’ll be getting it for half of its MSRP. Ten bucks isn’t a lot to ask for when it comes to this much content.
A huge concern with the title as it stands currently is its visual presentation. Without meaning to sound as damning as it will obviously come off, the game looks amateurish. Well-crafted (if not repetitive) backgrounds clash with poorly rendered CG characters, removing any sense of cohesion. On top of that, the game gives you a huge info dump at the start, and then sends you off and running. Valley is dense, and that it doesn’t really walk you through any of the terms, vernacular, or even help you get any kind of understanding of the world and it’s rules can be a huge problem.
A Valley Without Wind shows great promise. While there are some deep fundamental issues that should be considered and refined between here and it’s release, there’s still time for the final product to be one worth either your ten dollars, or maybe even your twenty dollars. We’ll see how the final product shapes up next year.