Lighter, Purified Sections Of The Overworld
Melding genre's seems to be all the rage at the moment in gaming, but at least A Valley without Wind 2 has the excuse of being a sequel. This strategy/2D Action game doesn't look like much on the surface, but the valley goes deep...
There are two parts of the game, the overworld strategy part, and the 2D side scroller. Firstly, the side scroller - this is where you'll spend much of the game, when you "embark" on the world map. You aim is to push through the level, surviving as best as possible, in order to destroy a "wind generator" at the end of the map (eventually making A Valley Without Wind I assume). This causes a turn to pass on the overworld, as well as "purifying" some neighboring squares, allowing your recruited rebellion members to build or scavenge on those squares.
Rebellion members and their actions form the main basis of the overworld challenge - you have a set number of turns to prepare some space before the Overlord leaves his lair to start wandering the land. You have to stockpile food and scrap (the building material), as well as rescue more rebellion members from newly freed squares that you purify. The Overlord, once active, will walk around, destroying tiles and all their associated bonuses, and killing your rebellion members. And this is where the game gets very strategic - you have to expand in several directions at once in order to give the overlord the run around. But you also need to level up, or use your rebellion members to activate parts of the scenery for various effects.
Balancing all of these effects was fairly easy for me; but then I started on the 2nd lowest difficulty (the default is 3rd lowest, and there's another 2 or three difficulties above that. Yes I'm a coward). I can very easily see the game being vastly more challenging as you have fewer turns to prepare and fewer resources to harvest.
The side scrolling isn't the best; the combination of (generally fairly impressive) procedurally generated levels and sometimes confusing graphical effects makes them something to push through rather than savour. Having said that, you'll want to be pushing through anyway, as you don't get any XP from killing enemies, only the reward at the end of the dungeon. The magic system (the only form of combat you have) is rather diverse, with 4-5 different branches of magic, each with different spell combinations and mechanics, and you unlock entire new pages of magic (another 5 branches) as you level up.
I feel the game is rather exceptional for the price - a genuine challenge, procedurally generated content all over, and huge amounts of replay value. There are some downsides, but I'm unwilling to be too harsh on the graphics - although sometimes unclear, that is usually intentional (night time, caves), and overall everything is visible if you advance at a careful pace; something that you must do anyway at higher difficulties. The sound is not terribly remarkable all in all, but has some very good parts, and fits the retro theme of the game. One of the most impressive parts is how it manages to give you that "just one more turn" feeling that helps make games like Civilisation so addictive.
Some people disagree; but this isn't a game for everyone. It is fairly niche, and sacrifices mass market appeal for a strong roguelike feeling.
At the end of the day, this is a) a fairly indie looking game and b) a side scrolling platformer. If you don't think you can manage that combination, this will probably not be the game for you. However, if you are a fan of roguelikes, survival strategy and 2D side scrollers and want a genuine challenge, I think you will find this game very much to your taste.
The Side Scrolling Action.