Man oh man, where do I even begin with this one? I suppose it wouldn’t be incorrect to say A Valley Without Wind 2 wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, That however, doesn’t really even begin to describe it because its influences seem to be just about everything. With A Valley Without Wind 2, Arcen Games tilts firmly against windmills by apparently trying to do just that. What’s really crazy is that, for the most part, it actually manages to succeed.
The setup for A Valley Without Wind 2 is pretty generic by design. It involves demons rising up in the world, and your character (chosen from one of four) is the champion who will bring humanity together to rise up…blah, blah, blah. Essentially, you are to make your way to the four corners of the randomly generated map, defeat the bosses, level up, and take out the Demon overlord. Where this game stands out however is in how it blends the main gameplay types into a mixture that is as accessible or complex as you want to make it.
Your overworld is a tile-based game in which you must place character units to acquire resources, which will then improve your defenses against spawning monsters. This map view occurs in frozen time, and when you enter an area to purify it (more on that in a minute), that ends the turn and brings about the consequences of your strategic choices. The main game mode (triggered by entering a zone) is a sidescrolling action/platformer. Your character progresses through a given level (generally left to right, but not always), making his/her way to a wind generator that is messing up the environment and spawning monsters, and then destroying it. Traversal is achieved through running and jumping with multiple options for shooting magic to destroy enemies. With the exception of the generator and bosses, combat is pretty optional if you just want to speedrun your way to the end of the level.
Once a wind generator is destroyed, it opens up new tiles on your overworld. Within these areas, there is a lot of loot to be found in the same way as a game like Diablo or Torchlight. Along with all the loot comes Steam achievements triggered for whatever you find. I can’t imagine the process of getting all the achievements (as of right now there are 211(!) up for grabs), but playing through yields a steady stream of feedback for pretty much every item, upgrade that at least makes you feel like you’re accomplishing something even if you’re just screwing around (*ahem* like me). A Valley Without Wind 2 aims to be as accessible to an incredibly wide range of players with its adjustable difficulty settings. There are seven levels dealing with enemy and character strength, and things that can directly kill you. In addition to this, there are five levels for the strategic challenge of rallying and building your resistance army.
While this game allows you to mess around and hunt for loot, it is important to not lose sight of the overall goal; rising up and defeating Demonaica. If your character is defeated in a level, s/he simply respawns back at the starting point. However, if you do not properly prepare your troops by building fortifications and growing food to keep them strong and battle-ready, it is possible for it to be locked out of the endgame, forcing you to start over. On the easier difficulties this is really not much of an issue as food and supplies are plentiful. On harder difficulties however, all I can say is to choose your actions carefully.
As levels and environments are randomly generated, there are concessions that need to be made in the way of level design. There is definitely a copy/paste vibe to the visual design in the sidescrolling sections of A Valley Without Wind 2 which comes across as being a little ‘blah’ when taking them in individually. As an overall experience however, the game does an effective job of pushing you towards ‘just one more level’ until you realize you’ve put in much more time than you would have thought.
The world of A Valley Without Wind 2 is so scattershot and varied that it can be disorienting to figure out what to do and where to go. It does kind of drop you off a cliff and expect you to start flying, so that can be a little frustrating and intimidating at first. One small feature that doesn’t help is if you are using a controller — button prompts on the screen are coded (i.e. instead of saying “press the A button” it says “press the ‘GP1′ button”). Spend a bit of time in the game and you’ll figure it out, but if you’re going to enable controls it wouldn’t hurt to have actual buttons represented instead of emulator-style approximations.
As I mentioned at the beginning, this game is a Frankenstein’s Monster of elements from games such as Mega Man, ActRaiser, Diablo, Metroid, Civilization, and Castlevania, and that’s just off the top of my head. It’s a cliche to say this, but I really do believe you’d be hard pressed to find nothing appealing here. For $15 on Steam, A Valley Without Wind 2 is a great value partly because it also contains this game’s predecessor and partly because it provides a highly replayable and customizable experience, but most importantly because it’s a bold and confident take on 16-bit conventions that deserves to be supported.
[+Something for everyone to love] [+Randomly generated world highly replayable] [+Multiple difficulty levels] [+Appeals to casual and hardcore fans] [-Decent yet unspectacular platforming [-Controller settings unintuitive]