Since my experience at PAX in April I’m finding that I enjoy the platforming genre of gaming again. The last platformer I played was a Mega Man game for the PlayStation One. While getting hands on time with some of the new titles that are out I tried out a game called A Valley Without Wind. The game started out with some pretty funny gravestone quotes and, at first, a very confusing system of upgrades and spells.
The game begins in a post-apocalyptic world where a powerful force has torn the world apart. What remains is a mash of time warps, storms, robots and giant pulsating globular type monsters. The first task is to choose a character to play, and it’s explained in short order that you’re going to go through these explorers – who are otherwise known as Glyphbearers – quite frequently. Characters can die and may die often by simple things such as getting stuck in a broken room just as easily as a giant robot or pulsating globule monster. The broken room I entered had a narrow passage in it that led to another door. Thinking I could somehow reach the door on the other side I wound up trapping myself in the narrow passage with no conceivable way out. The deaths are more harmful than one might realize as these former avatars end up becoming vengeful ghosts which will attack the new avatar if they are in the area in question.
Moving into new areas from the main world will put the player into a side-scrolling adventure. This is a post apocalyptic world you are traversing, and you try to either rebuild civilization or just explore various buildings. Buildings range from multi-room shacks to modern-style destroyed buildings and concrete structures. The buildings, no matter the size, all have multiple rooms that are randomly generated and can be a huge dull pain. I got lost several times while trying to find an exit out of a building, only to be overrun by enemy monsters; especially in the beginning, before I figured out the weapon system.
I first tried to play the game with a controller which proved to be a very large error. One of the key elements for staying alive in the game is using wooden platforms the character can create to their advantage. While indoors or underground these platforms can be used to give a character a ledge to snipe from. With a controller it’s very difficult to get the aiming down, and you’ll end up dropping through platforms into harm’s way. Once I went to mouse and keyboard it became far easier, allowing me to snipe with lightning balls or my personal favorite, the Miasma Whip. You’ll end up acquiring a large amount of spells right off the bat, as you find out that certain monsters in game are immune to certain elements. For example, lightning isn’t going to hurt the first boss you come up against so you need to throw large boulders, Hulk-style. It quickly becomes apparent that some spells are far better than others; these few abilities will be the primary ones used by your character for most of the game. I didn’t need to use others except clearing obstacles.
Monsters get tougher as you clear bosses, but your character does not level up in the traditional fashion. In many of the buildings and caves you’ll end up acquiring various power-ups and skill stones to enhance your character’s abilities. The mini-bosses themselves do not raise the continent’s tier level so you can defeat them to help gain an upper hand for when it does happen. Tier levels decide how strong the enemy monsters and bosses are; you start at tier one. The levels themselves are again randomly created so the levels won’t change, just the monsters within. When your current character dies all of the upgrades that were present on that character are lost, minus items and spells. It’s a feature that can either add hours of play time to the game, or become a profoundly frustrating game changer.
Health does not regenerate over time, but instead as you kill monsters so it’s important to fight often. I’ve rn into a few situations where it could be easy to regain health from monsters in a pinch only to get overrun by a large group of enemies firing off beams in many different directions. Sometimes I’d have to stall moving ahead in a vain attempt to find weaker monsters and kill them so I could regenerate health and gain back skills or push on to a boss. This loss of life was often due to using the wrong spells, or taking a liking to the miasma whip, which caused me to get in melee range instead of the safer distance option.
I found the game to be very fun, especially in the beginning. It seemed there may be a bit of a storyline then, but after a while the game just became a bit too repetitive. I understand the game is a platformer and not an RPG, but I would have loved to see more NPC dialogue, more funny gravestones, or possibly more dialogue from enemy bosses. I never felt any suspense in the game, even during the boss fights. There was no real sense of direction beyond scouring each building and uncovering that next blank spot on the map. The randomization of the buildings allowed for something new each time they were explored, but the lack of information or story kind of let me down. A Valley Without Wind is definitely a throwback to some of the early days of gaming, with music to match. I personally enjoyed the music in the destroyed rooms of buildings as it reminded me heavily of “Terminator”. It will pique your nostalgia and for $14.99 it’s not a bad time filler.