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Although quests rarely demand more of you than killing creeping enemies, the objectives offer some variety. One quest involves killing anachronistic creatures while keeping those who belong in the time period alive. Trying to figure out which ghoulie is thematically correct and which isn't takes a bit of guesswork, but it's a silly diversion from your normal task of killing everything that moves. In another mission, meteors rain down from the sky, and you have to protect crates at ground level. Running from one pile of precious crates to another, staving off attacks from above while avoiding getting hit, adds some intensity to the stale encounters that make up the majority of your adventure. Although neither of these missions is great, they provide a hint of diversity to keep you pushing along, striving to find an entertaining activity amid the dreary repetition.
It doesn't become apparent how shallow this game is until many hours into your journey. This is in part because of the tutorial in the beginning that makes you think that every bit of minutia is important, but it's also because the core action is enjoyable. Yes, enemies rarely offer a challenge, but there's inherent enjoyment in exploring caves for hidden loot and shooting eagles out of the sky. It's easy to sink hours into this adventure in a single cavern. Unexplored areas seem to exist through every door you enter, so you dutifully roam from one section to another, collecting treasure while slaying any beast who bares its teeth. There's a dreamy rhythm where hours pass by in a heartbeat, so though there's little tangible progress, you collect enough odds and ends to give you a purpose.
And there are so many collectibles that those compelled by shiny objects can't keep themselves from scouring every unchecked cranny. Glowing orbs imbue your character with extra power. Leveling up your health, power, and magic gives you tangible rewards and makes killing enemies that much easier. These stats are the only thing you lose when you perish, and though it's a setback, it's not that big of a hurdle to overcome. Upgrade orbs are plentiful, so you can regain your might rather quickly. Other collectibles are permanent. Accessories give you new abilities, such as a double jump or a light-emitting torso, and though these additions aren't drastic, they're big enough to keep you focused. It's only after a dozen or so hours of going on the same quests with the same limited upgrades that you realize that A Valley Without Wind isn't giving adequate compensation for all your hard work.
Protect the crates! Protect the crates!
The lack of interesting rewards is compounded by rambling level design. A Valley Without Wind is procedurally generated, so the world is different whenever you start a new adventure. In theory, this adds limitless replay value because no two journeys are alike. In reality, the sprawling levels lack the diversity and intricacies that could have made them fun to explore. Places look so similar that it's easy to get lost, and the poorly designed map adds to this burden. Finding your way out of a cave is no easy task, even using the warp points, so you wander from one similar-looking environment to the next, until you contemplate sacrificing your character's life just so you can leave this stage before your sanity flees.
For those lonely travelers who want a heroic pal by their side, cooperative multiplayer gives you the option to team up with other glyphbearers. Unfortunately, it's tricky to find where other players are in the massive world, so joining forces with a friend isn't as seamless as you might expect. But multiplayer is just one more option in a game that's already overflowing with choice. The problem lies not in how many things you can do, but in how compelling they are, and this game comes up well short in that regard. A Valley Without Wind is a time sink in all the wrong ways, a grind without reward.
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