Valley – A Life-Giving Review
Blue Isle Studios is not a household name. To date, the indie team has only two games under their collective belts: Slender: The Arrival, and its latest, Valley. With only 13 members, Blue Isle’s foray into the first-person shooter genre was an unexpected hit, beautifully imagined with a wonderfully realized environment and a score to match. Enter the valley and revel in the quiescence it has to offer. Oh, and pardon the puns.
The only way I heard of Valley was from PlayStation’s flash sale. I was looking for a decent game to download, and came across this one. I couldn’t find any definitive reviews online and was skeptical of a $20 price tag for a game and developer I hadn’t heard of. So when I saw it listed under the flash sale for five bucks, I snagged it. And after playing, I would have paid the full price.
Valley isn’t an inherently long game, nor is it difficult, by any definition of the word. The game is more existential than that. It isn’t about length, or difficulty, or even revolutionary gameplay. It’s about affecting change. The entirety of the game is nothing but allegory for what our earth is currently experiencing. Allow me to delve deeper into this chasm (oh look, another pun).
Valley’s narrative begins with an unnamed protagonist thrust into a strange land, rife with odd wildlife and ruins of ancient human civilizations. Shortly after the exposè, the player comes across a L.E.A.F. (Leap Effortlessly through Air Functionality) exosuit, enabling the player to run, jump, and swing long distances at top speeds. More than that, it gives the player a god-like ability to give and take life. The suit is a remnant of World War II experiments conducted to create a way to end the war. However, as the power of the suit reveals, there are extreme consequences to these experiments, and they are directly related to the valley.
The L.E.A.F. suit’s capability to give and take life is inexorably tied to the setting. Much like our own world, everything is connected. In Valley, it is on much simpler terms, but the notion still stands. The player’s exosuit both channels life energy and siphons it. The trade off is multi-fold; the suit requires the energy of the valley to give life, in the form of blue orbs (these are vital to the game’s narrative) as well as siphon the life energy from the valley’s inhabitants to replenish the suit’s power. This is a unique trait that mirrors our own world: nothing may be created nor destroyed. The valley gives life for a life, and takes life for a life, all tied together. The player must be aware of the balance, as we must in our own reality.
As the protagonist begins to unearth what mysteries lie in wait, audio logs teach us what the hell we are actually doing in the valley. It’s all in search of the Life Seed, which–obviously–is an item of immense power, one in which the engineers during WWII sought after to end the war once and for all. As one can expect, even when good intentions abound, even the most well-plotted plan can go awry, and that’s what happened. Now, armed with the L.E.A.F. we seek to undo what was done. Just beware of the costs.
For want of keeping this review spoiler free, that is where my discussion of the narrative (the orbs from earlier remain a large part of this) ends. As much as I could continue discussing it, this game offers more than a successfully deep narrative.
The soundtrack is an absolute treasure. I will leave the full album here, for your listening pleasure.
Full of somber pianissimo moments, to thrilling fortissimo sections, the score (by Aakaash Rao, Brenden Frank, Selcuk Bor) aids the narrative with such amazement, it swiftly became one of my all-time favorite video game soundtracks. Even the menu music is something I just sit and listen to. It adds so much to the narrative and the serenity that comes with exploring the valley. The game would not be the same without it, and it is absolutely one of my most favorite parts of the game.
That being said, as you have seen from my screenshots, the world is simply beautiful. Everything about this game is beautiful. Blue Isle has made a name for themselves with Valley and I truly hope they are able to continue in this vein.
I give Valley a