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PAX East 2012: A Valley Without Wind and a smorgasbord of information
by Andrew Whipple III

Side-scrolling action titles just so happen to be one of my favorite genres in the business. Unfortunately for myself, they've gone by the wayside since the Super Nintendo has come and gone. Sure, there's been a sprinkle of titles here and there, like Shadow Complex and Outland, but it's only temporarily satiated my unquenchable hunger for more Metroidvania-esque games. Arcen Games seems to share my curse and thus is offering up their game, A Valley Without Wind, to help break it once and for all.

Easily taking the crown for coolest name at the show, AVWW seems poised to take much more home with it than a simple bauble. Set in a world where time itself is shattered, AVWW is a complete 2D side-scroller with a huge emphasis on exploration, combat and co-operative play. Yeah, THAT kind of co-operative play.

For those of you who thought Castlevania: Harmony of Despair was going to be the answer to this unfilled void in the genre like I did, I can tell you that AVWW will not disappoint in the same way. Two to eight players will be able to join into the same game and they will not be restricted to the same confines as other games might set in place. Chris Park, lead designer and founder of Arcen Games explained to me in our interview that once you join a game, you can work together or go off on your own. Whatever you decide to do, the monsters will change in difficulty to compensate for your actions. Intrigued now?

AVWW contains gameplay that's familiar to any Metroidvania lover and that means there will be plenty of spaces to explore, loot to grab and dudes to destroy. However, one of the most unique features of this game is the procedurally generated map. Unlike old-school Metroid or Castlevania titles where the map was always the same, AVWW promises that it's literally impossible to get the same map twice. You see, as you move from space to space, the game randomly generates the next section so you'll never know what's coming. So that deep ravine with the flame demons your buddy was complaining to you about? Maybe all you got was a small room filled with daisies and a yellow monkey. Just sayin'.

Having an endless world to explore is definitely exciting, but it wouldn't take long to get annoying if you couldn't get back to areas that were important to the story. Arcen has you covered though, as there's special stones that can warp you to areas without requiring you to backtrack through the trillion-mile cave network you just came through. There will also be a world map with certain areas that are marked and will not change, such as the Overlord's Keep. This will allow you to decide when you think you might be ready to take on the next challenge.

AVWW sort of does away with the typical equipment clichés and instead trades it out for enchantments. These magical abilities can be picked up everywhere and each does something relatively low-key or profound. For instance, one of the first enchants we found made us immune to any kind of fall-damage. Another made our body emit a small, radial light that allowed us to see in darkened areas. Since you can equip new enchants whenever you'd like, this new system has high-potential for some seriously awesome moments in the game. Apparently later you can 'Storm Dash' which acts much like the high-velocity pieces of technology in other Metroidvania games that allows for insane speed and new puzzle solving mechanics.

Combat-wise, the game seems to work well with all the options you're given. You can actually pause the game at any time to mouse over an enemy to find his weaknesses and strengths. Another cool thing about AVWW's combat is the skill tree and magical abilities. We didn't get to tinker around too much with it, but Chris Park stated that you can actually combine certain abilities to create a more brutal offense. He also said that you can find scrolls throughout the world that can do things like transforming your character into a bat. However, if you don't have another scroll to turn back, you could be stuck that way forever. I don't know what it is, but something about that delights me.

AVWW is set to release on April 23rd for Steam as well as several other platforms for $15 but if you pre-order it's just $10. Arcen Games has promised to support their title and if the past is any indication, when AVWW launches we're going to see constant updates. Will this be the one Metroidvania game to rule them all? Check back in a few weeks and we'll know the answer.

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- Andrew Whipple III

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