PC/Mac/Linux
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Game Info:

A Valley Without Wind 
Developed by: Arcen Games
Released: April 24, 2012
Available on: Mac OS X (reviewed), Windows XP (or better)
Genre: 2D platformer, with some civilization management and RPG elements included
Number of players: 1 offline, unknown online
Price: $14.99 

Thank you GamersGate for sending us this game to review!

The world has been shattered – not just in space, but in time. Icy tundras can be found next to barren deserts and abandoned cities or toxic robotic graveyards. Amidst the ruins, certain people emerge to try and scrape together what they can to survive. Some of these people are called glyph bearers and have unusual powers granted to them. They need to use these powers to help others survive a wilderness filled with cruel monsters and sinister constructs, and to help them build a shelter against the effects of violent storms. If one glyph bearer falls, another will emerge to take his or her place.

This is the world as it is depicted in the game “A Valley Without Wind” by Arcen Games. The player controls a glyph bearer through a setting which is largely a platformer game. The player will have to jump from ledge to platform – and even has a spell to create more platforms – to make it from one side of the area to the other. Of course there will be environmental challenges and enemies to defeat along the way.

But that's just putting it simply. The player will also have to collect resources from the area in order to improve the wide variety of spells that they can develop. They can solve various quests in order to improve the settlement or to unlock new powers. They will run across bosses and “mini-bosses” that pose additional difficulty. They will discover occasional clues to mysteries, essentially helping to piece together the long-lost backstory of the game world. And they will have to use clever platforming skills and solve various mazes in order to complete the challenges presented.

In addition to the platforming elements, there is a bit of civilization management as well. The player can obtain the plans to build structures on an overworld map which have a variety of effects, such as improving the settlement for the character's people or pushing back the relentless storms that plague the area. In this overworld map, the player can choose which area to enter next.

A Valley Without Wind
Highlights:

Strong Points: Very flexible difficulty settings, randomization leads to different gameplay experiences, good music
Weak Points: Complex game, mediocre graphics
Moral Warnings: Magic use

If you are getting the impression that this is a fairly complicated game for a platformer, you would be correct. I've just barely scratched the surface of what this game has to offer, and haven't even gotten into the role-playing game elements or the challenges of defeating “lieutenants” in order to weaken the “overlord,” the central boss of each continent. The biggest factor to all this, however, is that the game is almost entirely random. The levels, the enemies, the location and types of quests, and even the player's starting characters are all generated randomly. Because of this, there are no walkthroughs to be found to complete the game. This aspect leads to a dynamic gaming experience that can keep the player guessing. 

Arcen Games has gone out of its way to make the game really cater to the player's desires, too. The game features multiple levels of difficulty for different aspects of the game. For example, if the player enjoys puzzle platformers, but loathes being attacked all the time, they can crank up the difficulty for the platforming element while dropping the difficulty of the monsters. The player can even turn off the civilization-management aspects of the game if they want to have more of an action-oriented experience, if they choose. Best of all, the player can change the difficulty either at the opening menu screen, or at the settlement that he or she is trying to grow. If the player thought the last area was too difficult or too easy, they can simply change it before going to the next area. The new region will be generated with these changes, and the player can determine if it is more to his or her liking.

With all the different elements to the game, it can be hard to keep track of everything that is going on. The game does provide helpful tool tips when a new gameplay element emerges, but there is still a lot to try and memorize. It can be dizzying trying to keep track of all the different goals, and sometimes it may just be best to play through the game and let the different achievements pop up as they occur, rather than trying for a specific target.

Because of the way it is structured, the game is endless. Once a player is able to defeat the overlord of a continent, they can travel to the next one and begin the cycle again. In addition, if played on Steam, there are almost 100 achievements to unlock, and the game takes advantage of the trading card system on Steam as well. As an added bonus, when this game is purchased, Arcen Games will give you the sequel at the same time. The same activation code can be used to unlock both games – or even unlock the games on Steam, if you should happen to obtain the games from a different source.

A Valley Without Wind

Score Breakdown:
Higher is better
(10/10 is perfect)

Game Score - 80%
Gameplay - 16/20
Graphics - 5/10
Sound - 10/10
Stability - 4/5
Controls - 5/5

Morality Score - 96%
Violence - 8/10
Language - 10/10
Sexual Content - 10/10
Occult/Supernatural - 10/10
Cultural/Moral/Ethical - 10/10

The music has an interesting chiptune style combined with orchestra, and even rock, which makes an intriguing, memorable soundtrack. The music changes subtly to fit the mood of the current scene and flows very well. The sound effects also are top-notch. The graphics, on the other hand, leave something to be desired. Some of the smaller enemies have an annoying tendency of blending in with the background, making it difficult to tell if your character is being damaged by enemy fire or a creature. The screen has an occasional tendency to flicker whenever the character is moving (or falling) too fast. In addition, the graphics look like they were adapted from some of the products that can be purchased for 3D rendering programs like Poser or DAZ Studio – while this isn't inherently bad in itself, it does lead to a tendency to have the characters and scenery look fairly generic. I have had an occasional issue with starting the game – the game will sometimes hang during the loading process, and I would have to force-quit in order to get out. Restarting the game after such a hang never led to any issues, though, and the game didn't freeze during actual gameplay, either.

Although there is a multiplayer element to this game, I was never able to find other people to play with when I attempted to use it. As a result, I can't report on how well the game works when there is more than one player on the screen, or if the game becomes player vs. player, or more cooperative, or both.

From a moral standpoint, the game is pretty clean. Human characters wear conservative outfits or full bodysuits which protect them against various elements, so there are no nudity elements. The closest thing to nudity that I saw was a shirt that showed one of the contemporary woman's midriff. Enemies vanish when defeated (with some robots exploding into a ball of fire), leaving behind green motes that can heal the character and glowing “consciousness shards” which serve as the in-game currency. When your character dies, it may leave behind a “vengeful spirit” that will attack you if you visit that area again, but other than that, there are no undead creatures that I've found. There are some large crystal beings that are implied to be alien in some fashion that will help you in the settlements. And although the main character is implied to use magic, the source of this magic is never explained or defined – it may be magic, or mutant powers, or alien technology... who knows?

All in all, “A Valley Without Wind” is an interesting experience. If you are the kind of person who enjoys a classic platformer experience – like the early Castlevania or Metroid games – you will probably enjoy the idea that this game can be played endlessly and never be the same. If you are the kind of person who wants an intriguing challenge and a fun blend of different game genres, then this may be a great addition to your library. However, if you prefer a game with a clear, beginning-to-end storyline or realistic, cutting-edge graphics, you may want to look elsewhere.

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About Us:

Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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