September 26, 2011 12:00 PM | Michael Rose
This morning, I have been mostly playing A Valley Without Wind - or the beta, to be more precise. If you've been following along with development, you'll know about the various changes that have occurred since we first saw it, both visually and gameplay-wise. What we're looking at now is a 2D side-scrolling exploration title, in which your main objective is to expand your empire and discover everything there is to find in the land.
My hour began with a quick skim of how to play, as A Valley Without Wind has quite a bit of depth to it. This Getting Started Guide was my saviour, and told me that I should begin by generating a procedurally-generated world, then doing all kinds of things with potions and spells and crafting and all that jazz.
So I did. Various spells and items can be forged in your civilization's main village, and then carried about on your person and used elsewhere. Spells are used for attacking enemies, healing yourself and the like, while items can be used to help your progress in the world - for example, platforms can be created from wood (chop down some trees for this) and placed to reach higher areas.
You've then got your 1-9 keys for easy to access/assign action. And with that, I was off into the big wide world, ready to kill some things and then kill some more things. The overworld map is a grid, showing what resides in each area. You hit confirm to enter an area, and the game jumps back into 2D side-scrolling.
This is where you start to meet enemies who all seem pretty angry at something or other, and will instantly lunge forward and attack you. Fortunately, most of them are pretty weak and can be taken out with a few shots of fire, or ice, or whatever you're packing. As you battle through the world, you'll see the minimap expanding at the top of the screen, and your overall exploration percentage grows, leading your civilisation to level up. This means you can explore even further into the world - and so the cycle continues.
At various intervals in the world, there are towering buildings which hold various secrets and items. These are a little confusing, as they are essentially tons of doors all over the place - exploring buildings feels a bit like that cave level in The Lion King on Mega Drive. Anyone remember that?
Unfortunately, my hour came to an end before I could find a boss battle, but I believe these are key to earning some serious EXP and expanding your reach even further. However, I did encounter some lovely visual effects in terms of atmosphere and weather, and entering each new area was exciting enough.
The beta for A Valley Without Wind is due to go live today at 10am ET, at which point you should be able to pre-order the game for half price, and hence gain access to said beta. If any of the above sounds like your kind of thing, you may well want to check it out later today.