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The vale, shadow of the crown

title:The vale, shadow of the crown
download page:No link!
genre:First person adventure
developer:Falling Squirrel and Creative Bites Studios
platform:windows, Xbox
release:August 2021
features:text, sound, visuals
last edit by:Dark


As your elder brother takes his place on the throne, you are made warden of a small castle on the outskirts of the kingdom. Blind from birth and sheltered for much of your childhood, you welcome your exile as a chance for a little adventure. En route to the castle, your convoy is attacked by a huge invading army. You find yourself alone in hostile lands where you must scrape together supplies and seek out allies in hopes of surviving the long, dangerous journey home. The path home follows a dark and winding valley known simply as “The Vale”. It shrouds the land’s darkest secrets including startling truths about your family’s past.
In the words of the developer, “The Vale is an audio-based action adventure game that places you in the worn leather boots of a blind adventurer.” As you might have guessed from the story excerpt above, you take control of Alex as she tries to return home. Given the situation you find yourself in, with the kingdom under attack, this won’t be a straight forward task. Fortunately, your uncle and brother have helped you prepare for any eventuality by teaching you how to use melee weapons and shields as well as archery. Cleverly, the lessons from your uncle and brother are played out as flashbacks as the game progresses, acting as a tutorial that reveals various mechanics to you as they come up.
The game can be played either using a keyboard or a gamepad, with the latter taking full advantage of analog controls and vibration. The gameplay is played from 2 perspectives. Most of the time, you’re controlling Alex in first person and have to guide her to your next objective, assisted by excellent binaural sound and a rich audio environment. Sometimes, you’ll also have to sneak up on enemies, which will require you to move slower to not get noticed. Usually this is when you’ll also get to use your bow, first turning yourself to face your target and then holding down the fire key and releasing to shoot the arrow. If you get closer to your opponents, then the game will shift into the close combat perspective. Here, instead of walking around, you use the right stick or the arrow keys to swing your weapon, while the left stick and the WASD keys let you raise your shield to block attacks. Doing combat this way feels very natural. While this may sound very easy, there is a surprising depth to it, with enemies throwing anything from rapid combos, to huge attacks that need to be interrupted by a counter of your own, to actual throwing axes and shooting arrows. Couple this with the fact you’ll often find yourself facing multiple enemies and you’ll often find yourself having to multitask and decide who to go after first. You’ll also be able to pick up different kinds of weapons to suit different play styles. From light armor and swords that let you hit fast and often, to heavier armor and huge hammers that will protect you better and let you deal more damage with huge swings, at the cost of slower stamina regeneration. And if this wasn’t enough, Alex also learns some magic abilities that let you stun enemies with a flaming shield or set your weapon on fire for extra damage, and you get to choose which spell you want to focus on improving. While the story is for the most part linear, you’ll often have an opportunity to take on some side quests which will take you to many areas, something you’ll almost certainly want to do to get more money in order to upgrade your gear. Many of these quests will often include some hidden secret areas to reward exploration. There are also a couple of points in the story where you can choose from a few different paths which further adds to the replay value.
As mentioned previously, The Vale includes some amazing audio. The environments are lush in detail. Towns bustle with activity, with vendors calling out to the passing crowds, and musicians playing in taverns. Other areas, like forests or caves, are full of creatures, dripping water, rustling trees and other ambience. Every character is also detailed, and you’re easily able to figure out what kind of armor they’re wearing or what weapon they’re using by listening to how they move and fight. The voice acting is also excellent, with many memorable characters that move the story along with some emotional, humorous or just well done dialog. All of this is accompanied by wonderful music that fits perfectly in the climate of the game, getting more intense in battle scenes and calmer during quieter scenes.
The Vale can be purchased for Windows on either Steam, Itch or Epic Games. Also, in a first for any audio game, you can also pick up a copy for Xbox.
Regardless of where you choose to buy the game, it is a must play for any gamer, thanks to its amazing atmosphere, audio, story and gameplay.


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Updates: entry 28 Jan 23 and description 28 Jan 23

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