The Dark Side of Beauty
By Brett Wolf
Reviewed on Xbox One
Released on August 24, 2016 on Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher: Blue Isle Studios Developer: Blue Isle Studios
This is an automated message from the Player2Review Labs. Hello Soldiers! Your mission is to explore the remote area in the Rocky Mountains, known as the Valley. Stories portray that this area has mystical presence hidden within. You will be accompanied by a great scientist in search of an ancient relic concealed deep within the Valley. You will enter and assist with extraction. Your mission is classified and you will be briefed on arrival. Good luck solider and be careful out there.
Valley is a first-person action/adventure game developed by Blue Isle Studios (developers of Slenderman: The Arrival). The story follows our nameless, silent protagonist (who you can choose to be male or female) on their journey to find the LifeSeed, a rumored mythological relic that has the power to destroy the world. While searching for the LifeSeed, the protagonist’s canoe crashes and ends up in the ‘Valley’, where you stumble upon a World War II project similar to the Manhattan Project. The hero encounters a mechanized suit known as the L.E.A.F. suit, giving him the ability run faster, jump higher, and the ability to manipulate life and death. The suit also comes equipped with audio logs from the WWII project that unravels a terrifying plot of using the Valley’s mythological abilities for personal gain and to unravel the evils of man.
The gameplay of Valley is presented as a first person oriented platformer for the most part, in which you control the L.E.A.F. suit to traverse the terrain of the ‘Valley’. This title has elements of platforming that become more and more advanced as the suit is upgraded, going from simple jumping to double jumping and even being able to run on water at a certain point. While there are enemies in the game, the majority of the time played will be spent enjoying the atmosphere and story. There are periods of the game that are free of enemies just so you can enjoy the environment around you and get more immersed in the narrative. The silent protagonist really helps the immersion of this game and is similar to the earlier Bioshock titles where the lack of dialogue really helps put the player into the position of the hero. Valley shines tremendously when it makes you really feel like you are a shipwrecked archeologist trying to right some wrongs that happened to this beautiful landscape. The overall scope of this game is definitely a complete package. It is backed by an original story, complemented by an innovative weapon attached to the L.E.A.F. suit that allows you to destroy the enemies and bring trees and animals back to life. Bringing trees back to life helps in multiple ways as it drops acorns, one of the collectibles, and it will preserve the life of the valley. The acorns are used to open some of the doors throughout the story and other optional passages to achieve upgrades for the suit. The health system in this title is interesting as your life bar and the ammo for your weapon is one in the same. You literally shoot your life away while fighting enemies, however, dying does not set you back. You respawn in the same spot as where you perish. The downside of dying has a much larger penalty then just restarting at a checkpoint. Dying causes the Valley’s life to decrease and bringing back trees and animals back to life will bring the health back up. There is an achievement for beating the game without the Valley running out of life and this is not too bad actually. If you die, just bring five or six trees back to life and it will take you back to full health. I never encountered any area in the game where I died multiple times in a short span of time so it was extremely easy to keep the health near the top. Valley is extremely enjoyable with a rich storyline and I feel that the limited fighting makes it an enjoyable story for anyone.
This game’s visuals are absolutely stunning. The beauty of the environment is breathtaking making you feel like you are actually there. From the cave systems to the dark desolate facilities, you are immersed within this title the whole way through. This beauty makes the portions of the game that is just exploration worthwhile and causes you to want to look around every corner. The soundtrack of this title is nothing short of amazing. The ear pleasing sounds work wonders with the tone of the game and the music playing during the platforming sections give you the chills. It is just an awesome experience. The main enemies in the game, the Dark Spirits, are made terrifying with the dark scenery and the unnerving music that plays before their reveal. The soundtrack and visuals make the urge for exploration come naturally just to take in the setting.
Valley has a large amount of replayability, so much that the objective after the story finishes is to explore the secrets of the Valley. In line with the acorns, the game features other collectibles of medallions and pages. The medallions are used to access a pyramid that you stumble upon near the end of the game that holds upgrades for the attachments of the suit. These allow you to run even faster or run on water for an extended period of time. The medallions are located within military munition crates that are scattered all around the game. These crates hold medallions, acorns, or energy upgrades and while some are along the path, the others are scattered in desolate locations around the map. The pages, on the other hand, are an Easter Egg from Slenderman as you are tasked with collecting the eight pages from the game. The replayability is also prevalent from the Metroid-Vania style of the game where you can go back to previous areas and use your upgrades from later areas to find more of the secrets. There are places in the first couple levels that require you to run on the water or to walk up the walls, which you cannot do naturally until the later levels in the game.
Valley is a stellar experience that should be played. It brings all the things that make a video game experience phenomenal and would be a mistake to pass up. While the game stands at a $20 USD price point, I believe that is more than fair for a game of this nature. The story alone is eight to ten hours and the additional exploration adds even more time to that. I do not feel that the price point is too high as it has as much experience as some Triple-A games that are priced at $60. I recommend this game to the fullest and I would not hesitate to pick this game up again. So if you are ready, it is time to strap into your L.E.A.F suit and save the world.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 9.5/10
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