September 29th, 2012 | By Dominic Tarason
As a huge fan of Arcen Games’ previous outing – AI War: Fleet Command – I really didn’t go into A Valley Without Wind wanting to dislike it, but the experience just left me cold. The underlying concepts were enticing, but the art style felt like a mash-up of default Poser models and Photoshop effects, the core gameplay felt poorly defined, and there was just something about the way that the game moved that gave me blinding headaches after just a couple hours of play. While the latter point seems to be just limited to myself, the critical reaction to the game was fairly muted across the board. It seems a good decision, then, that Arcen are officially calling a Mulligan on the first release of the game, and are skipping straight to the sequel.
As revealed in this extensive development blog-post, AVWW2 will be free for anyone with the original game. Not only is the game getting a complete visual overhaul (the above picture being a mock-up gameplay shot using the new art assets), but the core gameplay is getting reworked as well. The biggest change is actually a return from the beta era of AVWW – city-building is coming back. Heavily inspired by the SNES platform/strategy hybrid Actraiser, you’ll be alternating between expanding your town and adventuring out in the field. At home you’ll be assigning citizens to duties around the homestead, producing resources and gear, and gearing up for adventures. On the platforming side, you’ll be fighting enemies and clearing new lands for colonization.
There’s going to be a much heavier focus on victory this time. Where AVWW was effectively an infinite treadmill, AVWW2 sets you a goal right from the start – kill the evil overlord of the continent and his five lieutenants and free the land. Game flow on the overworld will play out as a turn-based strategy game, with enemy forces pushing at your borders. The on-foot action sounds more interesting as well, with the levels being randomly generated once more, but this time using hand-built building blocks rather than being a fractal maze. Think along the lines of Spelunky, with its familiar chambers but random arrangements of them each time.
Even the controls are getting a massive overhaul, lending more weight to the Metroid/Actraiser inspirations. Free mouse aiming is no longer in, and is being replaced with pure keyboard/gamepad-driven platforming action. If the levels and combat are designed with this in mind, it could result in a much more satisfying game to play. The core theme seems to be traditional metroidvania gameplay married to a suite of Actraiser-style strategy elements in a persistent world and a constant, singular threat to deal with, as in AI War.
AVWW2 won’t be ready to show to the world for some time, but Arcen hope that the first beta builds will be rolling out sometime this November. I knew that no matter what state AVWW launched in, that Arcen would give it all the post-release support it needs. It seems that they’re going above and beyond people’s highest expectations with this new take on the formula, though. I wish them good luck and a following wind, and can’t wait to try out the revised, refreshed and redesigned AVWW2 later this year. Keep an eye on IGM for more news on this fascinating project as it unfolds.