However, to make up for these shortcomings, the game does advertise one element of itself that stays constant throughout the entirety of the experience. This element is planning. The game consistently wants the player to complete a daunting amount of objectives all at the same time, and to effectively complete those objectives one must coordinate when, where, and how those objects should be completed and in what order. Resource management and planning is definitely something that is absent from the genre of action-platformers. However, planning is an element that’s easy to ruin when attempting to implement it into an action game; a developer can easily end up making the player ignore the planning because of material oversaturation or a developer can easily end up making a player ready to accuse the developer of stretching playtime because of hard-to-acquire materials. I personally believe that A Valley Without Wind fails to achieve the right balance that it wanted to present, but I’ll discuss how the game fails this crucial part later on.
The music is thankfully much more straightforward. The soundtrack consists of mainly electronic melodies backed by what sound like acoustic instruments. While I do not find these songs to have any bad qualities on their own, the structure of the game forces a handful of songs to be played over and over. This has the unfortunate side effect of causing the electronic melodies to become excruciatingly harder to listen to each time they start. Needless to say, this is a game where it is best to load up your personal music collection or stock up on several podcasts. As for sound effects, they are unremarkable at their best and at their worst.
However, to dethrone the overlord, one must be very powerful and have strong spells that perform a hefty amount of damage. This is where the planning comes in; the player must gather upgrade orbs and materials in order to advance their spells. While materials can be found in very specific areas by either destroying background entities or finding them in “Stash” rooms, upgrade orbs must be obtained through doing missions. These missions range from protecting crates from meteor storms to ascending towers filled with bosses.
Speaking of the continent map, while it is possible to visit any tile at any desired time, a windstorm will be covering a majority of the continent tiles. This windstorm increases the levels of the enemies by about two or three above the continent’s normal enemy level. The only way to get rid of these windstorms is to create a windmill, which will push back the storm by a total of four tile spaces. A one-use power that will create a windmill is one of the occasional awards that the player will get alongside upgrade orbs for completing missions. However, in order to have the ability to create a windmill the player must have the appropriate survivors with the appropriate level of skill in a specific profession and AAAAAAA!!!
The biggest reason as to the game’s failure of implementing planning is due to the procedural generation aspect. Except for the beginning continent tile of the first continent, every single room and area is generated by the game. This allows for a truly massive world, where one can easily spend over a handful of hours exploring a single continent tile. However, because of the nature of procedural generation, many areas and rooms end up looking too similar. For buildings, the procedural generation ends up looking more like random generation because a majority of the room structures are heavily re-used. These similar-looking areas and rooms do not encourage the player to venture into them, especially when they are dull and have nonexistent or unnoticeable differences.
An element that I am not quite decided on is the permanent death mechanic of the game. Yes, this game has permanent death, but there is a comforting catch; if the players current character dies, the new character will inherit all of the previous characters items and spells. There are specific character stats, so there is a reason to keep particularly powerful characters around rather than just throwing them into the pile of other dead characters. But the aspect that I have a bit of a problem with is that it is very easy to keep a specific character alive. The game outright says that the player will die within a matter of several hours, for goodness’ sakes the game has achievements which award the player for letting a certain amount of characters die, but it is not a stretch to go on for entire continents without a single character dying. Maybe this is just my skill blurring my perception of the normal player, but I do not see many players having to change to new characters often.
In conclusion, I don’t feel A Valley Without Wind does the platforming or action aspects of its design especially badly. The platforming does not feel off and battles with enemies do not drag on or feel boring. The problem I have with this game is that the major ideas (an enormous, procedurally-generated world and planning) fall flat or just do not work in entertaining ways. The permadeath mechanic also feels a bit confused, which does not alleviate the problem of the two major ideas failing.