Valley (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 09.11.2016

Review for Valley on Xbox One

It seems that the Life Seed, once considered a myth, is now believed to be hidden deep in the Rocky Mountains. An intrepid archaeologist has taken it upon himself to uncover this legendary artefact. After an unfortunate accident while canoeing to the rumoured location, he stumbles upon a L.E.A.F. suit. Since its acronym stands for "Leap Effortlessly through Air Functionality," there's little doubt that this suit will greatly assist his efforts. If an exoskeleton of unparalleled power has managed to go undiscovered for decades, then there are certain to be even more mysteries in the Valley.

In facetious terms, this first-person adventure could be described as a "running and jumping simulator." There is plenty of joy to be found in sprinting through forests, and then effortlessly leaping over mile-long chasms. Not many games have captured these moments so perfectly. As the search for the Life Seed progresses, the explorer will come across a number of suit upgrades. Aside from outright flying, there are few better ways to achieve dominance over gravity than with a double-jump.

It never hurts to have a grappling hook, or specialised soles for clambering up magnetised walls. The one disadvantage of this suit is that it's quite heavy, so bodies of water should be avoided. For reasons that exist only to serve the World War 2-era backstory, the suit is also equipped with a tape recorder. Dozens of notes can also be found, which provide sufficient explanation as to what happened in the valley.

Screenshot for Valley on Xbox One

For reasons that will become apparent as the game progresses, the L.E.A.F. suit can also manipulate life itself. By expending energy, the wearer of the suit can revive plants and animals. If the suit is low on power, they can also replenish energy by taking it from the living. Furthermore, the suit makes its wearer practically immortal. Whenever the explorer dies (via falling or "other means"), they are almost immediately returned to the land of the living. The trade-off is that everything around them dies. To put it into video game terms, the valley has a life meter. Portions are lost whenever the player dies, but they can be restored by healing the local flora and fauna.

With regards to the life/death system, there is some disconnect between the story and game. While the ramifications of such an incredible technology are endless, it doesn't affect the player all that much. The deal with energy is that it's everywhere. Sometimes it's found in floating orbs, other times in generators. Although the suit starts with very little energy reserves, anyone who takes the time to explore can find plenty of additional units. It's like in The Legend of Zelda, where it isn't necessary to find a lot of heart containers, but all the same, everyone is compelled to acquire every last one of them. Whatever the case, death and the subsequent loss of surrounding life are easily mitigated; all it takes is the revival of a few nearby trees.

Screenshot for Valley on Xbox One

While the bulk of the game is spent exploring and platforming, there is also a little bit of combat to engage in. There are swarms of hostile creatures known as Amrita. They can fire projectiles that sap the suit's energy, eventually becoming fatal if it's exhausted. Unless the player is taking on a self-imposed "low energy" challenge, these creatures really aren't threatening. It might be worth taking the trouble to dispose of them, as some can drop special acorns that function as keys. Acorns can also drop from recently revived trees, further incentivising gamers to make the valley just a little bit greener.

While this adventure is almost entirely linear, players are free to return to previous areas, in case they missed an upgrade or some other collectible. Even in extreme cases where the life meter is fully depleted, the player is merely returned to the beginning of the level. This highlights one of the unfortunate side-effects of Valley. The game world was designed to be reasonably inhabited and researched by humans, which means that aside from the presence of Amrita, there aren't any traps or other dangers beyond falling in water. It would be a bit much to expect turrets, mines, or laser force fields, but it still seems like more could be done to make the world less static.

Screenshot for Valley on Xbox One

Since large portions of the game take place in dilapidated facilities, maybe there could have been crumbling infrastructure, falling rocks, or…well, that wouldn't be possible. First off, if the suit got crushed, then it would become unusable, prematurely ending the game. Another issue is that since the levels are designed to be revisited, creating one-way paths or platforms that permanently disappeared would ruin everything.

While it should be applauded that this adventure was designed with those concessions in mind, it doesn't make for a tense experience. Even with the lush visuals and interesting story, gamers are going to be left wanting a challenge. The L.E.A.F. suit has a lot of cool powers, but there aren't any situations that require its users to take full advantage of its capabilities. Some optional time trials or specialised obstacle courses would have gone a long way towards alleviating that issue. Some more non-linear exploration would have been nice, as well.

Screenshot for Valley on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

5/10
Rated 5 out of 10

Average

The trouble with Valley is that it has to employ various design decisions in order for both the story and game to function. It wants to have adventurous aspects, but it also wants threats that players must combat. Being able to run fast and jump incredibly far is an awesome and satisfying experience, but it never grows to be anything more than that. The boss encounter towards the end is remarkable, yet also completely out of place. It's emblematic of a game that lacks a cohesive vision. A video game that involves superhuman exoskeleton suits, the ability to manipulate life, and takes place in and around a forgotten WW2 weapons research facility isn't something that can be neatly wrapped up in a five-hour long adventure. The music and graphics are quite excellent, though.

Developer

Blue Isle

Publisher

Blue Isle Studios

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  5/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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