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A Valley Without Wind

May 5, 2012

No, the title is not a complex metaphor for modern life in Korea or some such shit. I’ve decided to take one post’s worth of time out of both of our days to talk about A Valley Without Wind, which is a game I’ve been playing while eagerly awaiting Diablo III. It’s a new release from Arcen Games, the company behind the intimidating and impressive AI War, which was a game that I definitely admired, even if I lacked the likeminded psychopaths to play a 20 hour game with.

So what’s this Valley Without Wind thing all about? The quick pitch is this: What if Super Metroid was also Minecraft?

It’s a 2D sidescroller that has a massive procedurally generated world that is far bigger than you could ever explore (Minecraft), but it’s mostly based around finding the things you need in the right order and balancing your exploring with your combat (Metroid). It also adopts a bit of a rogue-like permadeath thing (I mention this in case the non-gamers in the audience gave up before the end of this paragraph).

So you run around, kill stuff, explore, and find things. The things you find will let you build up your settlement, which is a fairly minor part of the game, and craft upgrades for your character.The whole thing feels a little bland and simple at first, but slowly it unveils itself and you see that this game is absolutely packed with ideas. As you explore around, you unlock new abilities and whatnot, but you also unlock new mission types, enemy types, and places to visit. It seems overly simplistic at first, but there are many secrets to discover and things to learn. As you complete missions and kill large amounts of monsters, the enemies “level up” around you, forcing you to keep pace and keeping you from getting too comfortable. It’s entirely nonlinear, too. You can even go to the big boss’ stronghold right away if you like, though that’s a bit like trying to fight Lavos while you’re still at the Millenial Fair (With the non-gamers totally gone, that was a safe joke).

I found myself getting more and more intrigued as I spent time with this game. It has multiplayer support, but I haven’t tried it yet. It’s also constantly getting patched. The game has changed rather drastically several times (for the better) even in the short time I’ve been playing it. 

The only real note of warning is that the game looks like absolute ass. This isn’t even a Minecraft or Terraria type “charming retro graphics” thing. It just looks bad. Some of the textures in the indoor areas, in a few rare cases, are borderline headache inducing. Your character looks pretty damn uninteresting and the enemy designs are at times pretty questionable.

This is the Dwarf Fortress design philosophy (yup, bye non-gamers!). It seems the developer accepted the idea of crude graphics to put all their effort into just making the gameplay as juicy as possible, with the constant updates only improving things as they go along. 

It’s by no means a must buy, but it’s always evolving towards something better than it is. If any of this intrigues you, you might want to check it out.

I’ll be back to my regular Korea silliness next time! 🙂

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