The lights are on
What new ideas the game brings to the table and how well old ideas are presented.
How good a game looks, taking into account any flaws such as bad collision or pop-up.
Does the game’s music and sound effects get you involved or do they make you resolve to always play with the volume down?
Basically, the controller to human interface. The less you think about the hunk of plastic in your hands, the better the playability.
Flat out, just how fun the game is to play. The most important factor in rating a game.
Leading the resistance
opposing an evil demon lord requires both strategic brilliance and personal
heroism. Fortunately, The Valley Without Wind 2 gives you all the time in the
world to make decisions in the turn-based strategy portion, and magical
immortality to deal with frustrating side-scrolling battles against the demonic
hordes. Sadly, neither advantage alleviates the tedium of dealing with the
repetition endemic to the limited random level generator.
A Valley Without Wind 2's
story conceit is as brilliant as the ideas behind its weird mix of action and
strategy gameplay. You're a double agent planted years ago in the evil
overlord's inner circle, and the game starts with you betraying him as soon as
you receive your immortality-granting MacGuffin. Thus empowered, you're thrust
into the leadership of the resistance as the only one who can stand against his
monstrous armies. The game fails to follow through with plot development or
role-playing opportunities, but the setup itself is exceptional.
The strategy portion is
the best aspect of the game, where you send your lieutenants across shattered
landscapes in search of food, supplies, and allies. The overlord's armies are
always in pursuit, though, and no hiding place is ever safe - particularly once
the demon lord himself emerges and starts his implacable advance. The overall
effect is a desperate flight from overwhelming odds that the resistance can
never win. The only hope is for your allies to buy time for you to seek out the
power you need to eventually challenge the tyrant yourself. The simplicity of
its design and the limited actions available to the player in no way diminish
the tense and rewarding experience of trying to stay one step ahead of the
enemy while scrounging enough supplies to keep the resistance alive.
However, the bulk of your
time with A Valley Without Wind 2 is spent in side-scrolling action. The
creators make no bones about their love for 16-bit action/platformers, and the
influence of everything from the SNES Star Wars titles to Actraiser is clear.
Enemies dot the randomly generated landscapes, following simple patterns like
launching themselves at you, wandering aimlessly, firing bullet swarms, or
breathing fire. With no XP rewarded or doodads to collect, you're just trying
to make it to the end so you can fight the boss or clear the stage, depending
on the encounter.
You can freely switch
between the huge variety of mage classes at your disposal, picking from five at
each tier (randomly selected for each playthrough from ten total classes).
Spell effects span a wide range: direct beam attacks, player-centered
explosions, shields, homing blasts, and wall-crawling attacks are packaged
three apiece into classes like Lumbermancer and Nihilmancer. Unfortunately, my
experience led me to quickly lock into the class with the best seeking spell
(or, failing that, the most diverse attack patterns) because of the problems
that plague the level generator.
A Valley Without Wind 2
demands tight, flawless play with significant bonuses for avoiding damage and a
life pool quickly depleted by any but the weakest enemies. However, the floaty
and imprecise movement and a viewport far too small for the speed at which the
player and enemies move make avoiding damage problematic at best. On top of
that, bizarre difficulty spikes from the random placement of enemies within
random level geometry are tough to deal with. You can cruise through three entire
levels only to bounce off of a nasty configuration - which could very well be
far past the last checkpoint or even blocking your only progression path.
I enjoy the strategy
portion of A Valley Without Wind 2, but that only makes up a fraction
of the total game. The mediocre-at-best action segments that take up the
majority of players' time are rough enough to sink the overall experience below
modern gaming standards. I salute indie developers like Arcen Games for putting
unique and creative designs like this out there, but every great idea needs to
be executed well to reach its potential. A Valley Without Wind 2 just doesn't