Now if you think The Valley is a simulator where you run through the Welsh countryside, dodging sheep and going to places with unpronounceable names, well sorry to disappoint you but there is no sheep. However The Valley is a vast game where you can run and explore in a super exoskeleton suit and have the ability to grant life and death to all things around you. Intrigued? Then let me tell you more.
Developed and published by Blue Isle Studios, The Valley plunges you deep into the Colorado’s Rocky Mountains to a secret Valley where you attempt to find the “Lifeseed”, the ultimate seed of unwieldly power. However, I have to say that the initial intro seemed somewhat disjointed and came across as an afterthought. You could in fact remove it, as it doesn’t add anything to the story, but once the answering machine intro is over what you are left with is a first person adventure with a truly immersive story for those that want to investigate it.
Arriving in the Valley you soon start to unpeel the story and discover that you weren’t the first person here. Scattered audio recordings and notes located throughout the game tell of how the Valley has been part of a large government research project investigating the lifeseed with the aim to build the ultimate super weapon to assist them in the war (WWII). The notes and recordings fit nicely into the game and appear as clear floating text on the screen or are played through your L.E.A.F suit (I will get to this in a moment) and don’t appear as big pop ups distracting you from the game. It’s a little thing I know but really does add to the smoothness and beauty of the game. Along with these discoveries as mentioned comes the L.E.A.F suit (Leap Effortlessly through Air Functionality), a super exoskeleton developed by the army that allows you to run very fast and jump extreme distances.
Starting off very cautiously at first I soon found myself tearing around the Valley at extreme speeds and leaping distances by the simple push of the A button. This brings an exhilarating but controlled aspect to the game that is truly satisfying, but add to this the suit’s ability to give and take life to anything in the Valley. This is where things really do start to get interesting. Your life is the Valleys life, when you die part of the Valley dies. Health can be replenished to the Valley by granting life to dead trees, animals etc. but this drains your own power supply. Conversely, taking life from the Valley replenishes you. Like in the real world there is a real balance that needs to be found. Orbs and other pickups can be collected throughout the game so don’t worry if you think you are going to have to spend half the game stressing over this choice, it just sits in the background and reminds you that every action has a consequence. Word of warning though when the Valley dies you die, game over.
During the game you uncover army supply crates that include upgrades to your L.E.A.F suit, allowing you to double jump, jump further, and one of my favorite has to be the Viper Coil. In simple terms, this is a grappling hook that allows you to reach those higher, hard to reach places but also allows you to swing from one point to another. So not only can I run like Flash, jump like Superman but also swing through the air like Spiderman. Seriously, ignore the bad comparisons, these extra add-ons and boosts allow you to explore more of the game, unlocking some truly great places.
The main story moves you through various areas and even though you have an expanse of environment to search and explore, certain places can seem a little linear. If you do go off the beaten track you can discover several hidden areas that are unlockable using medallions. These can be found and picked up in crates throughout the Valley and unlock further information regarding the storyline and potential L.E.A.F upgrades. This brings a mixture of exploration and adventure to the game and can give you something to do if you fancy going off the storyline for a bit.
The Valley though isn’t all fluffy bunnies and deer. It contains lots of things that will try and kill you. However with your L.E.A.F suit you can pacify these by firing your energy orbs at them, whilst dodging frantically from side to side so as to not get hit. By this point you should be at home in the L.E.A.F suit and should be able to handle this with ease. This does take time though and also depletes your energy store so its a good idea to look for alternative ways to deal with them. I’m not going to tell you how though, that’s for you to work out.
The Valley is a real credit to Blue Isle Studios. It has smooth gameplay and graphics that you can get lost in and really does excel in the fluid movement around the environment. It’s on a par with what you would expect in the likes of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. If you fancy getting lost in a stunning story with so many hidden secrets, where your actions have consequences and can be the difference between life and death, then don your L.E.A.F suit and come explore The Valley.