After writing up its Indie Pitch, I believed it would venture forth into the cold, discriminating world of indie game launches with an extra bullet in its magazine, but that I would be largely uninvolved and perhaps unaware of its performance, as I have to believe with most indie games that ping my inbox. Instead, A Valley Without Wind and its developer, Arcen Games, began to appear in my daily news feed. A whisper of beta updates. The flash of a major-outlet review. A piercing launch on Steam. And now, the biggest shock of all: A spot in E3's IndieCade exhibition.
So finally, I gave in and played A Valley Without Wind, hoping to exorcise its presence from my Twitter feed – though like the antagonists of most ghost movies, I doubt this one will leave me alone for long.
A Valley Without Wind is straightforward in one way: It's a Metroidvania title. If you look up "Metroidvania" in the dictionary, and all that. What complicates matters is the layering: exploration, magic and pseudo-RPG elements all set in a procedurally generated world with a poppy chiptune soundtrack. A Valley Without Wind is dense, and I only played the first hour or so.
Developer Chris Park said he focused on "truly adventuring" in A Valley Without Wind, and that much is at once obvious. The background world is interactive: trees swaying and burning under spells, platforms constructed upon ice walls allowing players to reach new areas, along with a smattering of chests, abandoned apartment buildings, caves, warp gates and gems. From the first few environments alone I could sense the wealth of adventure that stretched before my valiant character – and then he died. Forever.
That's how it works in A Valley Without Wind. When a character dies, it dies forever, leaving behind a gravestone detailing its demise as a warning for subsequent protagonists. You don't lose any loot aside from upgrades, but the ghosts of deceased characters guard the areas where they die, adding to the challenge with each failed run-through. Park said that this mechanic – having players' past actions really matter – is his favorite.
"So if you die in a boss room, for instance, now you have to fight both the boss and the ghost," Park said in A Valley Without Wind's Indie Pitch. "If you die more than a few times, then the ghosts band together into a pack and come after one of your settlements in the strategic part of the game. Players have been responding hugely positively to mechanics like this, because it's so different from any other game and makes for some pretty interesting situations and decisions."
A Valley Without Wind is available for PC and Mac via Arcen Games, Steam, IndieCity and a few other fine distributors, and it got a major update with version 1.1 this week for E3, the details of which are viewable below.
Indie developer Arcen Games is excited to announce the inclusion of A Valley Without Wind in this year's Indiecade E3 Showcase, as well as details on the massive (and free) 1.1 update set to arrive for the game during the show next week.
Content additions and improvements abound across nearly 50 post-release beta updates set to make-up the first official AVWW post-launch release. Over 160 new room maps, 30 new enemies (such as the Nightmare Octopus and Dread Gazebo), seven new minibosses (such as the Giant Clockwork Wasp and Dark Dragon), new Freefall and Boss Delve missions, three new spells, five new enchants, five new music tracks, and over a dozen added or improved major features will be packed as part of next week's release.
It's not all about the numbers though. We've worked heavily with the game's player base to address some of the major issues that were taking away from the fun factor. A rebalanced, streamlined strategic flow to the game has been worked in, vastly improving how players can navigate and progress their individual world. The reworked gameplay also encourages spell variety and experimentation by the player.
Monster variety has also been tackled head on, not only with the aforementioned additions, but with the introduction of enemy elites and infestations/traps. Seeding of these dangers throughout all of the different regions has had yet another layer added to it, to make each chunk that much more of a unique area to the player. That goes for more than just monsters and infestations, there's better seeding in chunks regarding interior rooms, music tracks, puzzle rooms, NPCs, and more. Upgrade stones have been ditched for a reworked enchant slot system that adds flexibility to character creation/customization, with time-period bonus abilities and new options such as re-roll and rename offered for characters as well.
'What else' you say? The Opal Guardian Store is open for business and accepting your hard earned consciousness shards (which are now all the same color) collected in the wild as currency, the shopping list arrives as part of an improved planning menu, windstorms have been tweaked so that they're more fun and more of a threat to take on, exploration with the minimap is much better, and the game now offers support for texture packs.
It's truly an exhausting list of stuff, but it's all in effort to make huge refinements to the core concepts we've been building on. Almost everything you love as a player is still there and made better, and the major items annoying players have been addressed and majorly reworked.
All this will arrive during our showing of A Valley Without Wind at E3 2012. We're excited to join a slew of other indie developers to exhibit our game as part of IndieCade's Showcase booth. The booth will be open during exhibiting hours June 5-7 and is located in the Concourse Foyer at the Los Angeles Convention Center (on Level 1 in the West Hall entrance).
About A Valley Without Wind
A 2D sidescroller without a linear path. An action game with tactical combat and strategic planning. An adventure game that lets you free-roam a vast, procedurally-generated world. A Valley Without Wind defies genre stereotypes. Unlike other procedurally-generated games, you also get a logical progression in difficulty, plus helpful tips and checklists to guide your travels (should you need them).
Choose for yourself how to prepare to face the vastly stronger Overlord. Complete a variety of missions to earn arcane rewards, and/or roam the wilds to uncover secret missions and stashes of magical loot. Customize your characters with unique combinations of enchants and spells that change how you move, jump, and fight. Or rescue people and bring them back to your settlement, recruiting them to help you in return.
You choose how to play, and the world adapts around you.
The full version is available now on PC and Mac. A demo is also available, and grants full access to the game/multiplayer with only some tier restrictions. Even though AVWW has launched, it continues to grow with new content and improvements added nearly every weekday. Follow the game and its updates/discussions on Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and Twitter. To be a part of how AVWW evolves in any and/or all of its aspects join the ongoing discussion taking place within our forums.
For members of the media: review keys and press kits are available upon request.
About Arcen Games
Arcen Games entered the PC indie scene in 2009 with their cult classic AI War: Fleet Command, which was named the 40th best-reviewed PC game of the year by MetaCritic. Their second year was a busy one, seeing the release of The Zenith Remnant, the first full expansion for AI War; Tidalis, an innovative block-based puzzle with casual appeal and hardcore depth; and Children of Neinzul, a micro-expansion for AI War with all profits benefiting the Child's Play charity, of which Arcen is a platinum sponsor.
AI War's third and largest expansion Light of the Spire marked Arcen's first release of 2011, and now the company has shifted its focus and excitement to the development of A Valley Without Wind. Originally a one-man shop, Arcen Games has grown to have half a dozen part-time or fulltime contributors to its various titles. For all the latest news, media coverage, and some of our other musings, follow us on our developer and individual game pages on Facebook or on Twitter: @ArcenGames; as well as Arcen lead Chris Park's Games By Design blog.