Landed quietly on Steam, Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in August 2016, Valley is the latest work from Blue Isle Studios (best known for Slender: The Arrival), a first person game offering a mix of exploration, action and adventure. Did this independent studio manage to create another masterpiece?
You wake up somewhere what seem to be deep within the Rockies after a canoeing accident, known as The Valley, excavated by scientist which were supposedly trying to create the deadliest weapons of all time with some sort of strange energy found in the region. Starting as a “walking simulator” (like Layers of Fear), you are an archaeologist trying to prove this “Lifeseed” energy exist, and you soon discover the L.E.A.F. exoskeleton suit (Leap Effortlessly though Air Functionality), granting you both superhuman movement abilities as well as the power to harness life itself. The suits seems to have been built back in the post-WWII days, by an agency called what seems to be a government agency called Pendulum. The script is very good and takes us into the secrets of the arms race of the Second World War. Although completely created, there’s some real history facts and names that makes this story believable, build as some sort of hidden moral behind it, always open to interpretations.
The LEAF suit – at the core the gameplay – will give you the ability to run as fast as a cheetah, jump to dizzying heights, use a grappling hook, but as mentioned above, the main feature of your new suit will be to revive (or kill) the varied list of creatures that inhabit the valley, as well as its flora species. You’ll eventually set on an adventure to discover the history of this mysterious place and quickly understand that your own life is linked to the Valley, as each time you die, the place also decays. Valley offers an interesting gameplay, with some inspirations to the parkour of Mirror’s Edge and Dying Light, sending you into the air, slide on hills and rush through the lands with intense speeds. Learning to control the exoskeleton is made in a very intuitive way, without any difficulty, and I personally never stumbled in the game as the grip felt almost natural.
Level design wise, each region of the Valley has its own atmosphere that I took immense pleasure to discover. No bugs, no lag, no framerate drop… nothing at all, smooth as butter, with the same high quality of graphics and technical settings from beginning to end. Only downside if one would say which is the ability to “play God” and save the environment is great, but it would have been nice to have a greater choice of flora and fauna to revive.
On the purely graphical front, Blue Isle Entertainment had already shown us what they can do with Slender: The Arrival, which was far from ugly. With Valley, the developer have upped the game, offering us a worthy achievement of major studios! The textures, lighting, water effects are a treat to the eyes… But It does suffer in the end only one pitfall: the enemies can appear surprisingly flat, which kind of breaks the mood of the settings. Valley nevertheless also offers a rather heterogeneous environment filled with nature, disused buildings, dark caves. The soundtrack, meanwhile, is intensely amazing, with an excellent music composition, immersive and full of emotions and never overplayed.
Valley had seduced me from the beginning, and what a joy was it to play this game and discover the backstory of Valley. Between a rich story that one must discover over the hidden letters and audiologs, the soundtrack that captivated me, the ultra fast gameplay and a graphic production that sometimes makes you want to stop to enjoy the scenery, Blue Isle Studios clearly went outside of the box and shows an undeniable quality. Expect all in all though no more than six hours to finish Valley, but you’ll certainly try to search for every nook and cranny to discover all of the secrets that are hidden in the Wendigo Lake.
Valley was reviewed using an Xbox One downloadable code provided by Blue Isles Studios.The game is also available on PlayStation 4 and PC in digital releases. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Awesome and fluid control scheme
• Great visual design and soundscape
• An intriguing and fascinating story
• Can be finished quite quickly
• I really want more of it