Everyone has an idea of what it's like being a game reviewer. You get early access to cool AAA quality games, you drive around in an expensive sports car and the ladies can't resist you. In reality you're cramped up in an apartment that can barely house your rig, you drive an 80's Toyota Hiace and the games you review are far from titles like Assassin's Creed 3 or Far Cry 3. Sure you get a chance to review gems like Oozi and DiRT Showdown every now and then but the majority of the games you get are far from great (or even mediocre for that matter). A Valley Without Wind 2 (AVWW2 for short) is one of those games that make a game reviewer think of changing profession...
I've never played the first game so I have no idea if AVWW2 has any connection to it. The story starts when a great evil rises to conquer the world and you, the resistance's last hope, have infiltrated the main antagonist's, Demonaica's, ranks. You've gained the trust of Demonaica and received the ultimate gift from him/her/it; a crystal that grants the wearer immortality. Using the evil's powers against it, you set out to clear the world from all things evil. The story is driven by conversations you have with the resistance, in the form of speech bubbles.
When you start a new game you're taken to the world creation screen where you can name your world. And that's about it, no sliders or anything to adjust your world settings. Once I was satisfied with the name (Gamedebatia, what else?) I was taken to the character creation screen. You're offered 4 different characters and you can reroll their attributes (health, damage and ammo) and select from which era your character is from and it's gender. Few rerolls later I had a character that suits my gamestyle; a hard-hitting skinny guy. The next screens allows you to select the class of your character. There are 5 different classes available, each with 4 different spells. The classes vary from a direct-damage based one to a class that emphasizes on more sneaky tactics for example.
The game has two distinct gameplay modes; first you strategically move and give commands to fellow resistance members and explore the world in a strategic view and when you're exploring a tile on the world map, the game turns into a platform/shooter. During these platforming sequences I had a huge flashback of the glory days of gaming; the 90's. The game plays almost like Commander Keen; you jump around the 2D levels with your keyboard and cast spells (or rather 'shoot at things') with A, S, D and F. You can also enable mouse aiming and use the legendary WASD to move around. Whichever control scheme you choose the shooting and jumping around feels very awkward; your character jumps like he's on steroids and there's no fall damage.
The enemies you'll encounter in the levels are all some kind of contraptions or mutated animals (the ugly graphics ensure you have no clue what you're fighting against); some are airborne and some follow a pre-determined pattern on the ground. Some of these... 'things' shoot projectiles at you but luckily you can shoot them down. The enemies aren't very hard to kill, just keep your mouse button pressed (when using the mouse aiming control scheme) and it'll eventually perish. When you kill an enemy, it usually drops some health or ammo that's used by your 4th spell. You can also loot new gear from chests found around the levels but unfortunately your character is limited to one gear at a time; once you pick up new gear the old one is lost. Each gear has special traits that strengthen or weaken your character. This became very evident when I picked up a nice shield and my character died. I still have no clue what happened. The aim of each level is to destroy a windstorm generator at the end of the level. Once you destroy the generator, the tile in question comes 'clean' and the adjacent tiles are opened for exploration. Destroying a generator also passes your turn on the strategic view to the forces of evil.
The strategic view reminded me of Civilization but it's very limited in terms of actions available to you. As I mentioned earlier you can move your resistance members around using your own character and build structures like a clinic or harvest food from farms. There's a morale system hidden somewhere in the game engine but I didn't notice it. Your 'troops' morale should go down when there's not enough food or something, the strategic advisor available to you made no sense. Besides building a few different structures and harvesting food you can also send your troops to attack tiles own by the enemy but those poor bastards never stand a chance; it's best to clear them yourself.
When I first booted up the game I was greeted by an awesome theme song. The theme song psyched me up; perhaps the rest of the music is as epic? Oh how wrong I was. The rest of the music sounds like it was made by someone who's just learning to use Fruity Loops. Luckily the theme song is available in the game folder as an OGG file so I can copy it before uninstalling this "game". The sounds in the game deserve no mention.
The graphics in the game are... awful. The strategic view looks a lot like Civilization II (which was released in 1996) and the platforming levels look like they've been drawn with Paint. Even the animations look horrendous; your character just waves his legs around (I think it's called 'walking') and the enemies slide on the ground. The effects aren't any better, just some puffs of smoke and ugly fire. The only available graphical option is Graphics Compression which determines how compressed the "textures" in the game are. This of course means that the game can be run practically by any rig on the planet (the minimum requirements state that you need a 1.6GHz CPU with 2GB RAM, no mention on the required GPU so I'm guessing even the legendary Riva TNT runs this). You can use custom texture packs with the game so you can easily update the graphics yourself.
In conclusion, this must be the worst game I've played in a while (maybe even the worst ever). Ugly graphics combined with terrible gameplay and crappy music ensure this one won't be taking up space on my HDD for long. Even though the game only takes up around 600MB it still feels like a waste. I'd rather fill it with Justin Bieber discography. Sure you get the first game for free when you purchase this but it's the 'purchase' part that sets my alarm ringing; almost 12€ ($15/£10) for this is an outrage. Now you must be looking at the overall score thinking "Did he forgot to change it?". Trust me, I didn't.