The Valley is one of those games I first looked at and said :Nah, not really”. Fast forward a ways and I get goaded into playing it in order to snag another title I had my eye on. I can honestly say, after playing The Valley, I am embarrassed I didn’t give The Valley more of a shot when I first heard about it.
The Valley sees a young eager explorer looking for an ancient artifact called “the lifeseed”. So off you set out to an isolated mountain range, and the valley that lies within. Once you get there, you discover that the army had been there previously, so off you go to see if you can’t discover what happened. Along the way you discover a bionic suit that helps you run, jump, control life and death, and return from the dead. Yes, you read those last two right, but they aren’t the most interesting. No seriously, they do play a part in the puzzle solving and general state of the valley/health mechanic, but it’s the running and jumping, and later swinging, that is really great. So join this First-Person adventure into the wilderness of excitement and suspense!
When you first start off, you move about standard speed for what you’d expect from a “walking simulator”, which is what I was expecting The Valley to be like. And then you get the bionic exoskeleton. And then you start running. And you find a hill. And you run down the hill. And then time and space bleeds into one as you break all known laws of physics with how fast you run. And then you find a small hill. And you jump off the hill at full bore. And then the Doctor Who theme starts playing.
Seriously though, the game sets you up at the beginning to be a slow paced walking type deal, and then you get this old military suit and you’re running around faster than a cheetah, jumping over huge gaps, and just flying around with a combination of science and magic, and it feels really great. As you meander through the world of “The Valley”, picking up medals and acorns, to let you into hidden bonus areas, you’ll snag upgrades that let you swing, double jump, fire life at dead plants/animals, and enemies, and siphon it out of creatures or plants.
The life energy is an interesting idea, as whenever you die, most likely by walking into a puddle you didn’t realize was there because the texture is about 96% transparent and sinking, you “eat” a portion of the “life energy” in the valley to bring you back. The more you die, the more the valley dies. If you exhaust the life force of the valley, then you can’t be brought back anymore. You can also fling life energy at violent creatures to pacify them, which gets more useful as the game progresses.
As you explore the rather vast region, you want to keep your eye out for possible upgrades. Some are easy to find, some really aren’t. Sometimes you can spend 30 minutes making your way through an area, only to realize there isn’t actually anything there, and the devs just put it in for no reason. On the plus side, if you return to a completed area, the game notifies you of what you’re missing, although you aren’t given any hints as to where those things might be.
That’s the crux of The Valley: you run, jump, shoot, and play god with the power over life and death that you now hold thanks to your super bionic legs. The game definitely isn’t perfect, as I kept on tearing at plotholes and weird environment sizing, design choices, or in-game explanations or choices. I mean, only people with the bionic suits could realistically get anywhere, and the game even has a note commenting about engineers dying trying to install stuff for the select group of suit-wearers to fling themselves around. And the notes, my word the notes, it’s like if everyone didn’t write down what they were thinking they would explode.
The worst is probably a note that blatantly admits to stealing office supplies and maybe engaging in illegal activities, or calling your boss “an egomaniacal madman”. WHO LEAVES A NOTE LYING AROUND LIKE THAT?!?