Review | 2/27/2013 at 12:00 PM

A Valley Without Wind 2 Co-Op Review

Like a board game with action sequences

A Valley Without Wind 2 is a complicated game. It's easy to start playing but it takes several hours to really understand. It drops you in a confusing world where everything's out to get you and you're the only hope for salvation. But despite these obstacles (or perhaps because of them), A Valley Without Wind 2 is a surprisingly satisfying game with a lot of depth and variety. It takes the best parts of the original A Valley Without Wind and improves upon every aspect. The sum of its parts add up to something far greater than any genre descriptors could convey, making it one of those games that just needs to be played to be fully appreciated.

It all starts with character creation, which amounts to a randomizer that chooses a few stats along with your appearance. Honestly, these numbers don't seem to make that much of a difference once the game gets going, so there's no need to get obsessed about perfect scores across the board. Just pick your badass and get going. The game walks you through the first few steps of play with ample tutorial messages and enough advice to keep you second guessing every move. You'll feel lost, you'll be confused, but stick with it and things will slowly start making sense.

Your time in A Valley Without Wind 2 will be divided between sidescrolling action sequences and isometric strategy sections. The former serves as an embedded diversion from the latter, which is the real meat of the game. The story can be a bit muddy at times, but the basic premise is that a rampaging evil named Demonaica is loose, conquering and destroying everything he comes across. To make matters worse, he's immortal. But you, you crafty little thing, happened to steal an oblivion crystal from the overlord's keep, making you just as immortal as he is. While you may not be a keen strategist or particularly gifted at magic, the simple fact that you can't be killed nominates you as leader of the resistance. Congratulations!

Hitting the isometric strategy part of the game, A Valley Without Wind 2 gives you a handful of units to deal with and the simple direction of uncovering more land. Since Demonaica began his little war, most of the world has been shrouded in darkness. This is clearly shown on the map as shaded areas. In order to progress you need to liberate these areas, netting resources and survivors in the process. You do this by commanding troops to do everything from battle demons to building clinics and farming food. It's all handled with a simple menu interface and guided by your strategic advisor.

To actually liberate those darkened spots on the map, you need to enter and complete the sidescrolling sections of the game. A Valley Without Wind 2 isn't a platformer, per se, but it does involve platforms, jumping, and a whole lot of combat. The action sequences are all about getting from point A to point B, at which time you'll find and destroy the windstorm generator placed by Demonaica, eliminating the darkness and opening up a new piece of the map to explore. Destroying a generator also moves the isometric part of the game forward by one turn, allowing any orders you gave to be carried out. The bad guys also get to take their turn, so before you jump in and start windstorm destroying, make sure you've taken care of the tactical side of things.

Co-op play in A Valley Without Wind 2 is a great experience, assuming you have reasonably intelligent friends to play with, that is. Multiplayer is essentially single player with extra participants, allowing everyone to join in the great banning of Demonaica from the land. Simple, executed well, and lots of fun the more people that get involved.

A Valley Without Wind 2 is a bit like a board game. Picturing it on a tabletop with piles of miniatures isn't too far-fetched. The action sequences and a lot of the math would be a bit painful to act out in real life, though, so praise be to Turing. The feeling of playing a board game is present in the game, and that's an important fact to keep in mind. You get this pseudo-godlike complex going the longer you play. Your character is technically immortal, after all, and your actions are the only thing keeping these helpless people from getting crushed under the boots of Demonaica. Not only do you tell them what to do and how to do it, you also smite dozens of enemies with your wide array of spells and destroy generators with your own two hands. Basically you're the real badass here, even though A Valley Without Wind 2 never tells you to your face, especially if you chose a higher level of difficulty at the beginning.

After the release of the original A Valley Without Wind, developer Arcen Games decided an overhaul was in order. The changes from the first to the second release are staggering, but it's fair to say A Valley Without Wind 2 is a grown-up version of the original. Just about everything that made the first game fizzle has been reworked into something more engaging in the sequel. Reworked, or omitted entirely. A Valley Without Wind 2 isn't a sandbox game, for example, and even though the levels are randomly generated, there's a definite sense of progression in both the gameplay and the narrative. We reviewed the original game when it was released, so check that out for a good comparison.

Like its predecessor, A Valley Without Wind 2 will probably get the cold shoulder from a large chunk of gamers. The main reason is because it can't be easily slotted into a particular genre label. Saying it's a strategy game doesn't do it justice, and calling it a combat-oriented platformer is just as laughable. You can't have the A Valley Without Wind 2 experience without each of these elements interacting with each other, and one doesn't function well on its own. The game needs a certain element of complexity and confusion in order to work, but once you break through that, the real reward can be obtained.

Who's going to enjoy A Valley Without Wind 2? Fans of the original will, for sure, and anyone interested in a very unique tactical experience will find a lot to love here. The game doesn't exactly have a pick up and play feel to it, but it grows on you over time. The only real fault with A Valley Without Wind 2 is that it doesn't cater to a wide audience. Strangely enough, A Valley Without Wind's refusal to "sell out" is what makes it such a great game.

A Valley Without Wind 2 is the perfect example of how to stick with your IP and make it work. More sequels could do with the level of inspiration that went into this game, and being able to satisfy both newcomers and fans of the previous release is something of a minor miracle.