After a full day of slaying monsters, plundering caverns, helping villagers, and performing the various deeds of a hero, you retire to a local settlement to see what your hard work has wrought. Perusing your inventory, you find an assortment of materials and items gathered from across the countryside. It's a modest windfall considering the hours of effort logged, and the few enhancements have such a nominal impact that you barely notice their effects. Sadly, the manner by which you acquired these slight rewards is a blur of repetitive sequences. Malevolent orbs and stalking robots crashed by the dozens at your feet, with no major battles punctuating these encounters. And so goes A Valley Without Wind, a mechanically sound game that fails to deliver the proper motivation to keep you grinding through this tiresome adventure.
6375168The future sure is bleak.None
The world is in ruins. Monsters from across time and space have been thrust together, and all wish to perform acts of harm on the peaceful citizens of Environ. Enter the glyphbearers. These mysterious warriors are sworn to protect their decaying realm. Perma-death ensures that each hero has but one life to give for his land, so when your last point of health fades into the ether, your spirit flies from the dying glyphbearer on the ground to a stronger person waiting in the wings. It's a concept that should keep battles intense, because one false move could mean the end of the character you spent so much time developing. But because you keep most of your possessions after you pass away, and the threats are usually so slight as to be rendered inconsequential, this seemingly punishing death system amounts to little more than a slap on the wrist when you succumb to a great beast.
Though a perfunctory story outlines the basic plot of A Valley Without Wind, the details unfold through your journey. Wild rhinoceroses and screaming eagles tear through abandoned homes, giving you a glimpse of the city as it used to be before chaos moved in. Disorder rules the various buildings you enter. Cracked walls and destroyed rooms are constant reminders of the decay creeping over the land, but it's the oppressive desolation that hits the hardest. Kitchens, bathrooms, and other recognizable rooms fill buildings, though they remain empty. No longer can cooks be found stewing broth or their patrons dining, and loneliness specific to wide-open rooms devoid of life hammers home how horrible things have gone in Environ.
Just close your eyes and let it flow.
A Valley Without Wind is a side-scrolling platformer with higher aspirations than running and jumping. There's material to gather, errands to run, and bosses to hunt down, and the procedurally generated world lets you go about these various tasks in whatever manner you wish. Open-ended objectives give you the freedom to focus on whatever aspect most catches your eye, so if you're intent on crafting more powerful spells or stalking bosses, there's nothing stopping you from diving right in. Such flexibility sounds overwhelming, and the early moments do require you to read pages of instructions to get a handle on what lies ahead. But once you get the basics down, it's so straightforward that you wonder how you could ever have been confused. Freedom is no substitute for depth, and it's woefully apparent once the training wheels come off just how shallow this valley is.
Combat commits the transgression of having bountiful options rather than genuine depth. Spells that span every elemental discipline you can imagine fill your inventory, making you think that you have to use each of these powers to attack the various enemies who confront you. So you test the ice and entropy spells, see how your earth-based attack feels, practice switching from light to fire magic on the fly, and make sure all of these spells are in easy reach in the heat of combat. Then an enemy rushes toward you and all of that preperation become inconsequential. Using just two or three spells (of the dozens you unlock), you tear through almost every enemy with ease. Just hover your mouse on a foe, cast your might by clicking, and watch it perish before your eyes. Sometimes, a warning that your enemies are immune to that element appears, and then you just switch to your backup spell and vanquish them in a flash. With little opposition, you certainly feel like the hero Environ needs, though your scrap-paper enemies topple so easily that any satisfaction is stripped away.
Quests are just as predictable. Continents are home to terrible bosses who hold the citizenry as if in a police state, and your main duty is to kill them all. So you travel through luminescent caverns and dusty hovels searching for foes who could offer serious opposition, only to find bigger versions of the same pushovers you've already murdered by the dozens. Sure, bosses may take 20 hits to kill rather than four, but their slow-moving attacks are so easy to dodge that you rarely feel as if your life is in danger. Difficulty does surface when you venture to higher-level areas, though it doesn't raise high enough to make you use the many tools you acquire. You jump around to avoid attacks, place platforms to strike from above, and tap away with your magical spells, all while keeping your life bar in an almost full state.