“It is the year 888. Wind-blasted snow fields have covered the world of Environ for centuries. Survivors in this ice age are few and isolated, caged by the bitter cold. If they travel, the world itself seeks to devour them.” And so begins A Valley Without Wind, a “procedurally generated 2D side-scrolling adventure” from Arcen Games.
You begin A Valley Without Wind by giving your world a name, and choosing a character. The characters have a list of stats beneath them, and you can choose based on your personal preferences, although it is best to avoid characters that have a lot of red numbers, as that indicates weakness. The action starts in your settlement, where you will begin the task of padding your inventory and acquiring EXP. The twist in A Valley Without Wind is that it is your entire civilization that gains experience and levels up, not just your character. Your settlement has various helpful areas that you will utilize throughout the game. The guardian stones provide you with health and magic as well as information. The workbenches are used to craft the items, spells, and scrolls that are necessary to advance in the game.
The crafting feature is quite in-depth. You must first find crafting books, which are kind of like cookbooks that give you the ability to create new items. These can only be opened in front of a guardian stone, where you will learn the skills. You them need to go to the individual workbenches to actually craft the spell, scroll, or object. In order to craft an item, you’ll need to have both learned how to make it and have all the ingredients necessary. These are picked up in the environment, or given to you. Exploring areas fully is important if you want to have a lit of spells at your disposal.
Once you have finished all the tasks assigned to you at the settlement, you will be ready to move out into the world. And what a world it is. It is pretty cool to walk your character around the map and just watch new areas appear. Each area is marked with a number that denotes the level of the enemies you will face there. Obviously, when your civilization is still new you’ll want to start with 1’s and work your way up. It should be noted that you can change difficulty levels in your settlement, if things feel too easy or too hard. There is a wide range to choose from, meaning you can tailor your experience to your tastes, from Featherweight for beginners all the way to The Chosen One. What’s really cool is that you can also choose the level of attacks you face, from forgiving to wily to absurd.
While A Valley Without Wind is generally described as a survival/adventure game, it’s really much more than that. The main storyline in the game does focus on survival, not just of your individual character (a glyphbearer), but of your entire civilization. However, there are also heavy doses of RPG, strategy, and simulation that offer the player a lot in the way of variety of play. It also gives it a lot of complexity that can make it a little difficult to pick up and play at first. There is some tutorial built into the game, but it isn’t always enough to help you figure out what you need to do next. Christopher Park, Arcen Games’ founder, has written a very informative and infinitely helpful getting started guide (check it out here) that gives you a great run-down on how to get your civilization off to a good start. Of course, you can go and read it online, but it would be much more convenient if there was something like this that could be accessed in-game, for gamers who need a little help getting things off the ground.
The thing that struck me first about A Valley Without Wind is that it is absolutely vast. This is a game that you can sink hours and hours into, and still feel as though you’ve only started. While it is still in beta, there is an impressive amount of content to keep you busy, as well as a promise of much more to come. If you are interested in trying it out, there is a six level demo available. Gamers who wish to purchase the game can pre-order now at half price ($10), which unlocks the beta now, and the full game at release.