This ain’t your mama’s Metroidvania game
There’s a certain sense of nostalgia that gets tapped into whenever I load up a 2D sidescrolling exploration platformer, or as their known now a “Metroidvania” experience. Long mornings turned into evenings as I went over every little pixel with every tool in my arsenal, to discover every passage to get every treasure in games like Symphony of the Night and Super Metroid. Recent indie release A Valley Without Wind wants to tap into that while throwing in the proverbial kitchen sink for good measure, so stick with me for a bit.
A Valley Without Wind isn’t just shoehorned into the “Metroidvania” sub-genre. It’s more of a roguelike than anything, but it looks and plays like a platformer. There are also adventure, mining, and city-planning elements – but really it’s whatever you want to make of it.
The world you enter, Environ, has been completely decimated. It’s also mixing time periods. Ancient ruins can exist next to futuristic housing that has been completely abandoned. There’s an evil overlord in the world, but you have to build up your powers before confronting them. You can also die. Permanently. This is not a “take you by the hand and show you where to go while throwing easy enemies at you” game. It’s difficult to understand, and will take great patience to learn. And that’s just what the developers intended.
Don’t come looking to A Valley Without Wind for some long, epic story. It’s not here. You will tell the story of your time with the game to your friends and anyone else who will listen. That’s the story. This game will swallow your time without a care in the world. Each time you enter a new “continent,” it is randomly generated, so don’t go looking to message boards for help. You have nothing but the tooltips and graves of other players to guide you on your way.
Almost endlessly this game will be giving you information, too much so at times. It’s a big, completely non-linear experience with tons of elements that seemingly fit together, but are not easy to put together. This will certainly turn a lot of players off, as it did for me, but there are many of you who will find this game utterly fascinating. That I wasn’t a big fan is a testament to the desire of the creators to make something wholly unique.
It’s hard for me to give this game a glowing recommendation. I honestly didn’t enjoy my time with it as much as I’d hoped. My gaming life isn’t looking for a roguelike platformer with no end that offers almost everything every game ever made has presented, and I’m sure I’m not alone. A Valley Without Wind isn’t fancy, and the graphics almost look like placeholders for something else to come along that never does – but it is completely dense with material and things to learn. There’s little doubt that this will be a rewarding experience for someone who has the patience to learn it.
[While available on multiple platforms, our review was constructed using the PC version]