reviews\ May 7, 2012 at 9:54 am

A Valley Without Wind review

Games that fall under the platform-adventure sub-genre usually provide gamers with a sense of freedom. Players are able to explore environments, and while saying that these games are open world may be a stretch, there's certainly a noticeable level of openness in most "Metroidvania" titles. A Valley Without Wind looks to expand upon that open nature by actually providing what is, in essence, a fully open world for players to explore, and for the most part, the game succeeds in delivering a worthwhile adventure.

You play as the glyphbearers, a group of heroes who must rebuild the land of Environ. The world is a messed up place, with different eras spilling into each other (you'll find robots in lands that are obviously countless centuries in the past), and an evil overlord just begging for you to defeat him (you can try right at the beginning of the game if you want, but that won't get you far). The story in A Valley Without Wind is presented via text right at the main menu, so it really only serves to give the game some semblance of a narrative.

But you won't be playing A Valley Without Wind for the story. The crux of this game is centered on the freedom it gives you. You're able to explore vast lands in search of upgrades, powers, and objectives, and everything you do gets you one step closer to reforming the ravaged world of Environ.

At first, the game can be pretty intimidating, so it's easy to feel overburdened. Levels are procedurally generated, so you get to really explore to your heart's content. There are buildings literally everywhere, and entering these allows you to loot upgrade stones (which are used to level up your health, attack, and mana) and enchants (which grant you new abilities). There are massive rooms with collectible upgrades literally everywhere, but you don't need to explore every one, and it's important to remember that, because things can get a bit tedious if all you're doing is collecting upgrades.

The most enjoyable moments in A Valley Without Wind are those where you're taking on missions. Whether you're entering a boss tower, engaging in a stealth assassination mission, attacking an enemy base, rescuing people, or tackling any other objectives, these are the moments where A Valley Without Wind really shines. There are enemies everywhere, and defeating them requires you to strike a balance between rushing in and strategically picking baddies off one by one. The moment you defeat a boss or clear an enemy camp, though, you get this great sense of satisfaction, knowing that your colony's living situation has just gotten a bit better.

Unfortunately, while taking on missions is a lot of fun, A Valley Without Wind is dragged down a bit by a few hindrances. For starters, you encounter a lot of the same enemies all too often, and if you're the type to loot anything you can, you're bound to get a bit bored of employing the same attack strategies repeatedly as you explore different buildings in the same area. Additionally, while the game certainly controls well, if you opt to play with a controller, you'll only be able to map a few actions to the pad's buttons, still relying on the keyboard every so often.

One thing I really enjoyed about A Valley Without Wind was its take on permadeath. In other games that utilize the mechanic, you die and it's back to the beginning. That's an awesome punishment for several reasons, but I was really able to appreciate how A Valley Without Wind only slightly punishes you when you die. Once you meet your timely demise (it's timely because you will die plenty of times), you lose your character for good. You don't, however, start from the beginning of the game. Instead, you select a new glyphbearer and continue your quest. You lose your upgrades, but your spells and items remain in your inventory. It's a cool take on a usually brutal gameplay mechanic, and it certainly makes you feel like everything you do with any specific character counts. Also, you can totally encounter the ghosts of your past characters and kill them, too. Two permadeaths in one game? Ouch!

You can spend hours upon hours exploring Environ and completing missions (and dying) on your own, but A Valley Without Wind also features an online co-op mode. You can enter existing games or create your own, and if you dig playing with others, you'll enjoy what A Valley Without Wind has to offer as it is basically an extension of the main game, allowing you to take on missions and bosses with a few helping hands.

In terms of visual presentation, A Valley Without Wind boasts an interesting art style. I've read that some gamers weren't very fond of the graphics, but I really like how the game looks. The whole thing has this "modern retro" aesthetic to it that harks back to old school action-adventure games, yet still has a pleasantly contemporary vibe to it. The music is good, too, offering up old school-sounding themes. If you spend too much time in any given region, the music can loop a bit, but it's still a good soundtrack regardless.

A Valley Without Wind is a game that rewards players for exploring and sinking time into the experience. If you're willing to invest a lot of time into it, the game will give you a lot back to enjoy. There are a few rough spots, and over-exploring can lead to a feeling of exhaustion, but the game lets you play it any way you want to. So really, if you get bored after exploring too many maze rooms, you only have yourself to blame. Ultimately, A Valley Without Wind successfully presents an open-ended take on the 2D action-adventure formula, and it gives players a really good experience that's easy to sink hours into and get completely lost in.

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David Sanchez David Sanchez is the most honest man on the internet. You can trust him because he speaks in the third person.
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