How do you describe A Valley Without Wind? It’s an action-platformer-shoot-em-up that puts you in the role of a world-saving “glyphbearer” living in a post-apocalyptic world. Your goal, ostensibly, is to bring down the evil overlord and his lieutenants who are oppressing the continent you call home, but in reality you’re just exploring around having fun killing and collecting stuff for countless hours. It’s a delightfully addictive grind-fest worthy of your dollars, provided you have the time to devote to it.
The game does a good job in of hiding its grindiness, however. Unlike, say, an MMORPG, you don’t have to collect experience by killing hordes of monsters (although you will be killing lots of stuff regardless). Instead, you need to build up the continent’s tech level to Tier 5, at which point you’ll have enough powerful spells to defeat the overlord. To do this, you need to complete missions with each mission giving you a certain amount of civilization points; every 200 points collected raises the tier level by 1.
But wait, there’s more! Just rushing through and leveling up the continent isn’t going to do you any good, because when the tier level increases, all the wandering enemies get more powerful as well. You’re going to want to learn and upgrade your spells before that happens, and that’s where the grind is hidden. You will spend hours upon hours looking for the various minerals and materials you need to get things done.
It never feels as tedious as it sounds because the game never forces you to do anything. If you want to try tackle the overlord right from the get-go, you can; you won’t succeed, but you can try. You don’t need to learn new spells and upgrade existing ones but, again, not doing so will make the game almost impossible to get through. By making these things seem optional – even though they really aren’t – A Valley Without Wind employs a “pull” method of getting you to play. You feel like the things you are doing are your decision, and that makes it a compelling experience. This is a secret that marketers and playboys have known for years – customers form more lasting bonds with you (and your product) when they come to you—and that’s the secret to AVWW’s addictiveness. The game makes you come to it, lets you do what you want without making stringent demands, and you bond more tightly with it as a result.
It also helps that there’s a huge breadth of content in the game. Much of the game is locked off from the start, and things slowly become available as you accomplish certain tasks. Again, as part of the “pull” method the game employs, none of this is explicitly demanded of you. It just sort of happens as you play. It’s not hidden from you, either, as an in-game encyclopedia is accessible at any time that tells you exactly when, where, as well as how to find and unlock everything in the game. This lets you plan what you want to do and figure out a strategy of how to accomplish it.
There’s even some content that only unlocks when you complete the game and start a New Game Plus. This will strip you of your acquired spells, but your character upgrades and inventory remains intact. The new game will take place on a bigger and more dangerous continent, with more content to boot. In fact, to see absolutely everything available you’d have to complete at least four New Game Pluses. That’s how much stuff is in the game.
However, all this content has a downside. A Valley Without Wind is not the game you want to play if you don’t have a lot of time to put into gaming because it will suck so much out of it. During my first session with the game I got caught up in just exploring for many hours. I wasn’t doing anything specific, just running around poking my head in buildings to see if anything interesting was around, and there was always lots. You’ll find stashes and mini-bosses and secret missions and things to mine/collect scattered around everywhere. There’s always something to do; even if you sit down with a clear plan of what you intend to accomplish, it’s likely that you’ll find yourself sidetracked by other cool things that you stumble over in the course of your session.
It’s a good thing that you can save and quit anywhere, as long as you’re not in combat. It’s also a good thing that death is essentially meaningless. When you die – and you will die – you simply get continue on with a new character who has all of your spells and inventory intact. The only things you lose are any permanent upgrades you applied to your now-dead character, which isn’t that big of a deal because upgrades are plentiful and painless to acquire. This makes exploration fun instead of frustrating. You’re never scared to explore and try out new things, which is what the heart of A Valley Without Wind is all about.
Conclusion – Is It Worth The Money?
A Valley Without Wind is a game that requires commitment in order to fully enjoy. After twelve hours of play – a time in which I could have played out most other modern games at least twice – I barely scratched the surface of what this game has to offer in terms of content. If you’re willing to devote the scores of hours needed in AVWW, it’s well worth the $15 Arcen is asking.
A Valley Without Wind Technical Summary:
- Time Played – 12 hours
- Widescreen Support – Yes
- 5.1 Audio – No
- Bugs – None encountered
- DRM – Activation Code
- Control Scheme – Keyboard/Mouse
- System Specs – AMD A6 @1.6 Ghz, 4GB RAM, Radeon HD 6520G
- Game Acquisition Method – Review Copy
- Availability – Arcen, Steam, Gamers Gate
- Demo – Yes
Also read our interview with Arcen Games.