King’s Videogame Review: A Valley Without Wind 2…

King's Game Review: A Valley Without Wind 2

King’s Videogame Review: A Valley Without Wind 2…

Welcome to this review of A Valley Without Wind 2. This is a full review of the game and my experiences I had while playing. The SoundCloud player there will let you play one of the most epic themes for an indie game I’ve ever heard. It plays every time you open the game so you should listen to it while you read this review…

What Is This Game?…

AVWW2 is a blending of strategy and platforming genres into one 2D game experience. The gameplay alternates between two different modes: turn-based strategy and side-scrolling platformer action. Your basic goal is to ensure that your Resistance survives long enough for you to gain enough power to defeat Demonaica. In order to do so, you’ll need to level up in power, acquire higher level mage classes, find feats that give you special abilities and customize your character with perks. In this game, your able to switch between five different mage classes which change the type and abilities of your spells. Feats that you find allow you to gain special abilities that you’ll need in order to progress through the game. Perks let you fine-tune your character in order to allow you to approach a situation differently and more effectively.

AVWW2 Wind Generator

The Wind Generator you must destroy

The turn-based strategy mode is centered on the strategic map. On this map, you only get to move your resistance members around the map so that they can recruit a new member, capture/inhabit a building and a variety of other tasks. At the same time, Demoniaca, the main villain, and his forces will be constantly pursuing your resistance members while his henchmen will attempt to recapture you in the platforming sections. Once you run out of Resistance members, the game is over. The side-scrolling platforming section is where you’ll probably spend most of your time playing. You’ll visit a variety of different locations inhabited by plenty of creatures to rip your face off with their own attacks. Your main goal is to get up to level 16 so you can acquire more powerful spells and abilities. To that end, purifying regions of the stormy weather will be a constant task throughout the game. Keep in mind that by doing so, you’ll end your turn.

History Of The Game and the Developers…

PC Game developer

Arcen Games is a long time small independent developer of PC and Mac games. They specialize in creating unique 2D game experiences with plenty of content and new takes on old-school game mechanics. Arcen made a name for itself in their first game: AI War: Fleet Command which was a co-op space RTS game with a powerful AI you had to combat. After creating AI War, the company moved to making a new type of Puzzle game: Tidalis. Tidalis was a unique match-3 puzzle game that used a different kind of mechanic: “streams”. They then went on to create A Valley Without Wind. A tactical sidescroller platformer with city-building elements in a giant procedurally-generated world. Arcen’s mission is to deliver an unparalleled experience, have pro-consumer practices and an anti-DRM stance. Find out more about Arcen Games here. That said, AVWW2 does require a license key to verify that you’re the legitimate owner of the game. This license key doesn’t connect to any sort of server so it works perfectly fine offline but any time you reinstall the game, you’ll need to input the license key again.

A Valley Without Wind 2 was originally going to be an art expansion to the original A Valley Without Wind game. The original game had received a lot of criticism for its art style after it launched. So Arcen got the assistance of another company, Black Cat Studios, to work with them on the art. While working on the expansion, Arcen’s devs realized that they had changed the game so much that it was becoming a new experience. As they didn’t want to get rid of the first one, since it was such a unique and different experience, they decided to make a sequel instead and allow players to experience both of them. Thus, A Valley Without Wind 2 was born.

The Game’s Story…

AVWW 2 Strategy Map

The Beginning…

It has been two years since the events of the first game. Things have changed and the Glyph-bearers aren’t present. There is now an evil overlord named Demonaica who rules Environ. I’ve noticed that Environ seems to create a lot of dictators in these games. You’re a mage of the Resistance who has infiltrated into Demonaica’s inner circle in order to gain power to defeat him. The game starts out with you just having received the power of the Oblivion Crystals. These crystals grant the bearer immortality and have given Demonaica and his lieutenants the rule they’ve held for this long. Upon receiving the crystals, the Resistance attacks the stronghold in order to help you escape. From there, you must fight Demonaica and his henchmen and overthrow their power. The question is, shall you and the Resistance prevail?

I really like how the story is front and center in this game. You get an idea of who your character is and what the Resistance is about, even if you do only talk to one of them for the majority of the game. The lieutenants and Demonaica will also converse with you when your fighting them which I thought was a nice touch to give you an idea of what they are like. The conversations aren’t too long either so the action keeps up a good tempo without any long story sequences. One thing I would have liked to have seen more of would be the main character feeling guilt or something over the deeds they had done in order to get the Oblivion crystals. With the exception of a couple mentions about it at the beginning of the campaign, they won’t bring it up ever again. Even after a few of the lieutenants you’re fighting also bring it up.

But then, I sit here wondering if Arcen did that intentionally. To leave you guessing at your mage’s true intentions. Maybe they were just using the Resistance to gain power enough to rule the land by themselves. There was a hint dropped that seemed to suggest it at one point. So who knows, maybe its just clever writing. I also liked the henchmen in the game. They had quite a bit more depth to them than I had expected. Finally, I really liked that your mage would say something about the area when you first arrive in it. Sometimes it would be a comment about the landscape and sometimes it would be a bit of backstory on the world of Environ. It was clearly the primary intention of the game to have this story in the universe of Environ and was probably due to the previous game’s story being a bit more obscure and difficult to find. The game has plenty of references and 4th-wall breaking humor as well which was amusing. So good job Arcen in the execution of this story, I really enjoyed it.

AVWW2 Resistance Member

Resistance Member

The Settings Menu and Misc Information…

AVWW2 comes complete will all the settings you’re going to need for a 2D game. You can adjust the resolution, rebind all the keys and a lot of other settings you might find interesting. The game also allows for texture packs if you or someone else makes one. As far as I can tell, no one has made any texture packs for the game but there were several made for the original so some may be created for this game as well. A note about the controls. AVWW2′s balance was focused on controller and keyboard only. While it does allow for mouse aiming in the game, I don’t recommend you use it. The game wasn’t designed around the mouse for balance so it can water down the experience since you can shoot in any direction. I did try it out and didn’t like it. It was put in after the game was released due to a lot of complaints made about the lack of mouse control. I personally don’t agree with their decision to put it in the game but I can understand why since they didn’t want to alienate the anti-controller players. Still, the optimal experience is the controller. Keyboard felt a bit weird to use compared to the controller.

Gameplay Musings…

The gameplay as a whole is a different but well meshed experience. Both modes play off of each other well. I never felt like “oh this just feels weird” or anything similar. The strategy element is a nice breather between each side-scrolling section and there is plenty to think about when your moving members of the resistance around. What buildings should I capture, should I recruit this member or move him away from being possibly trapped by Demonaica and his forces? It has quite a few choices for you and what you decide could affect your chances at winning. Being able to adjust the difficulty settings of either mode of gameplay was nice for those who might not like one of them or may want a more challenging strategy experience but not as much challenging side-scrolling action.

AVWW2 Spellcasting

Casting spells

The combat is definitely more engaging and rewarding than the original game. You only have four spells you can use and I think they worked. You have a fast primary attack, a slower but stronger secondary attack, a special attack which varies depending on your class and ammo spells which are more powerful spells that you can only use in limited amounts. For the most part, the spells felt balanced to their own strengths although some were a little too situational for my tastes. The combat system is about you finding the ideal place to throw your spells while dodging the spells being thrown at you. Taken as a whole, the side-scrolling element is put together quite well. I had a lot of fun with it until the mid-late to late end of the main campaign.

I begin to notice a few problems with the combat. I was starting to die a lot more than I felt I should have. Sure, the combat should be more challenging towards the later end of the game. But it was getting to the point that I would die to simply getting needled down by all these small little monsters. Mosquitoes are the most annoying creatures in the entire game. They are really tiny little bugs that throw out a fairly damaging spell. And there are a lot of small little creatures in the game. Just hitting them was really difficult at times. I would simply run out of health before I could get to the goal due to all the damage I would take from spells. It got to the point that I was really starting to get frustrated with the combat. The floaty nature of the jumping and the large hitbox of your character feels at odd with the bullet-hell and precision that the game demands. You have so many spells being cast at you and traps to avoid that it’s nearly impossible to avoid taking a lot of damage in the course of the level. Taking on the tougher monsters becomes a bad idea as you’ll likely take a ton of damage for very little reward. Your better off just avoiding them altogether. Combine that with the difficulty of regenerating health and you end up dying multiple times. This really started to cause some frustration for me to the point that I had to lower the difficulty level of the platforming section just so I could finish the game. I don’t like that I had to do that either.

AVWW2 Flying Creatures

These flying steampunk helicopters are really difficult to deal with.

Another problem with the game I have is the structure of the platforming sections. The sections start to feel very samey the more of the game you play. Which really limits the amount of that exploration “feeling” I used to get from the original game. Its a more linear experience and while I was ok with it, I was still disappointed. I don’t really feel like replaying the game again because of that linearity. There are reasons to replay the game: different mage classes to play as, new enemies to meet and more procedural generated content to see. But given how linear the game is and the frustration I had with the combat, I don’t really want to do it all over again.

The strategy element of the game is fairly simple and straightforward, once you figure it out. As I’ve mentioned before, the main goal is to keep the members of the Resistance alive long enough for you to overthrow Demonaica. You have to salvage food and scrap, constantly recruit new members, destroy obstacles and capture/construct new buildings. There are three different types of NPCs: scouts, skirmishers and soldiers. Scouts have low health but can move across a lot of tiles. Skirmishers have middling health and speed and soldiers move over a smaller amount of tiles but have a high amount of health. Each class can activate a certain kind of building in the game so its good to have all three classes around. Each member can fight the creatures on the map as long as they have higher health than it. Otherwise, they will die. They will also die if Demonaica gets in range of them so its wise to keep them away from him. I had a few instances where Demonaica had managed to sneak up (ok, ok, I wasn’t paying close enough attention) and trap some of my Resistance members in a corner. They couldn’t run far enough away from him so they died. I really enjoyed this side of the game a lot more than the other mode. Its execution is well done and I can’t really think of anything that it needed to add. Moving your resistance members around, planning how to tackle new areas of the map all while dodging Demonaica and his forces just really worked well in this game and I had a blast with it. This was definitely the highlight of the game for me.

Demonaica and his forces pursuing the Resistance members

Demonaica and his forces pursuing the Resistance members

I didn’t get the chance to play co-op with anyone on this game but based off the information from the help menu, I am disappointed to see the lackluster amount of features it had. All that changes in multiplayer included was that the monsters gain .3 health for every player in the game and you had to ammo/health drops only went to one person. All other items were universal pickups.While it is appreciated that co-op was put into the game, I never really felt like this game would be an enriched experience with it. It’s not the worst feature by any stretch and I’m sure its fine. I just would have rather seen something more to it than it simply being there with some minor tweaks to the gameplay. You can play over LAN or find new servers to play on.

Looking at Graphics and Aesthetics…

AVWW2 Building

One of the buildings you can enter

Heavy Cat Studios came in and handled the artwork and animation this time around. While AVWW1′s graphic style was good in my opinion, I also acknowledged that it could cause eye strain and be really ugly/off-putting for some people. This time around they definitely did a better job on the graphics. There isn’t anywhere near the amount of “glare” that you would get from the graphics of the old game. It meshes well together better and I enjoyed looking at the different locations in the world. You saw some impressive buildings too. The animations are a bit wonky at times. Jumping and attack animations both from you and the attacking creatures look a little bit weird when your playing but its ignorable otherwise. Your usually more focused on not dying from all the monster attacks. The game uses plenty of different locations and settings to keep the side-scrolling part of the game nicely varied. One disappointment I have is that they removed a lot of the windows they had in the first game’s buildings. If the screenshots look off-putting to you but your intrigued by the gameplay, I recommend you try out the demo. The game looks better in motion.

Sound, Music and What You Hear…

The sounds in the game are well done. There wasn’t anything that comes to mind as being atmosphere-breaking or down right annoying. A few sounds were used a bit too frequently but they were otherwise fine.

AVWW 2 Building #2

Another structure you can enter

The music is fantastic as always. Pablo Vega did a great job again and his main theme is simply powerful as you can hear up above. There is plenty of new music and a few remade tracks from the original game as well as tracks taken directly from AI War: Fleet Command OST. While I don’t mind that he reused those tracks, I felt like the game had a few too many tracks from AI War. I should note that its only because I played so much AI War over the years that I notice it as much. But if you haven’t played AI War, you won’t notice the difference as each track is used appropriately. Besides the main theme, I really liked listening to the Desert 2, Evergreen Forest 2, Grasslands and Henchman Vorgga tracks.

Bugs, Errors or Things Gone Wrong…

The game is well polished and I never had a game-crashing bug. There were a few minor issues though. One issue was some frame-rate lag that would happen when I would select a scout-class resistance member to be moved. This would cause one of my CPU scores to rocket up to 100% usage and bring the frame-rate down a bit until I had moved them to their spot. Then everything would go back to normal. I also got stuck in the terrain as a transformed Dino once and had to take a poison pill to get out of it. That one was partly my fault, as I had tried to shrink myself while in Dino form to try and get into a crawlspace. I’m willing to bet that wasn’t intended. Still, the game shouldn’t have let me get stuck in that position in the first place. That said, these are really minor issues though and shouldn’t affect your experience while playing.

AVWW 2 Monster Mash

Oh, I nearly forgot. This happened when I was attacking the Oblivion Crystal mass. A bit hilarious looking at it now but I’m still alive, somewhere, in that pile of monsters.

Final Thoughts…

A Valley Without Wind 2 is a well polished sequel that takes some of the ideas of the previous game and puts them together in this sequel. The combat is certainly more engaging than the previous game’s with its variety of spells, mage classes and different monsters. The graphics are improved, the music is even better and the game has a clear idea of what it wants to be and executes it well. I’m usually not the biggest fan of turn-based strategy games but this one was simply fun. The linear nature of the side-scrolling areas and the combat do eventually become more frustrating later in the game so that is something to keep in mind. But that said, it was a fun experience for what it was and I don’t regret having played it. A Valley Without Wind 2 is a different kind of platforming/strategy experience in genre-mixing that you won’t want to pass by.

Necessary Buying Links…

Arcen Games Website

Arcen Games Store for AVWW2

Steam

AVWW2 Steam Link

AVWW2 GamersGate Store

AVWW2 GamersGate Store

Personal Screenshot Gallery…

I hope you guys enjoyed this review as much as I did making it. Please hit the Like button, share the post around or leave a comment if you did and until next time…

-KingIsaacLinksr

2 Comments:

  1. Only one complaint: Arcen *does* have DRM. It’s not just very draconic compared to most AAA companies.

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