I’ve been meaning to write a review for Valdis Story: Abyssal City for about a month now since my second play through of the game. And I may find myself doing a third or fourth one eventually since, at this time of the review, more content is supposed to come out for the game.
The backstory of Valdis Story involves a war going on between angels and demons, and a crew of heroes who do not side with either army. The crew ends up separated in a hidden city underwater, known as Sitheil, and you play as either Wyatt or Reina as one of them tries to gather everyone back together and figure out what secrets this city holds.
The gameplay is an open world 2d adventure, or ‘metroidvania’ for lack of a better term. Indeed, you will need to obtain other abilities before certain areas can be accessed. These abilities are actually tied into the different types of magical elements you will find, such as the ability that comes with Ice magic to create small platforms, or the very handy double jump received from another element. As you keep unlocking these powers you will be able to get access to new areas and travel into locations that you could not before. That feeling of being able to finally retrieve an item that has been teasing your for hours is the norm for this sort of genre.
The magical powers you unlock are also tied into the gameplay, which is focused on combat. It is usually paced very well; it rarely feels boring or too confusing. You have your basic melee attacks of one being a weaker but quicker strike at the enemy while another button does a stronger but slower attack. These attacks can be used to make combos. The magic elements you pick up can also tag into those combos as well if you know which type of spells to use. Higher combos are not there to just land more blows, but will also reward the player with bonus experience if enemies are killed during a combo. One final mechanic to mention in the gameplay is focus mode. Just as one may expect, when character goes into focus mode they are generally granted some buffs. This does not just include full health and stronger attacks, but there are some special skills that will only work during focus mode such as being granted more HP, being able to steal mana, or even having the chance to resurrect upon death.
The game does have some RPG elements in it. As mentioned, there are experience points for leveling up your character. Every time you level up, some of your stats will improve, and you will also get a stat point and an ability point to use. Stat points are used to level up certain statistics; strength, agility, intelligence, or luck. It should be pretty obvious what most of these would improve: strength grants you better attack and more HP, agility will help land critical blows and increase the time length of your focus mode, intelligence effects magic attack and damage, and luck can have an effect on any number of those stats. Some of these attributes, such as strength or agility, can have additional effects such as making certain moves or skills more powerful.
Just like what stat points do for your statistics, skill points will allow you to gain a new skill. There are actually 3 different skill trees for each character, and you only have a limited amount of skill points you will get throughout the entire game. While this may sound like you will just choose on tree and stick with it for each character, there is a good chance that you will put points into the other branches for certain skills and abilities, and it actually works out pretty well. It adds a nice balance to the game since you cannot simply level up until you obtain all the skills available. It forces you to think about where you want to invest your points and what sort of play style you want. If you do feel like you made mistakes on where you invested your stat and skill points, there is a way to respec, but the items you need to acquire can be hard to come by last time I played.
Moving onto the game world itself, Sitheil is an interconnected world full of dungeons and towns. Each town usually has items to sell and upgrades to obtain, while the dungeons serve as the meat of the game itself. Each dungeon usually has a few members of your crew to find, along with items and other secrets to obtain. Of course, once you obtain new powers you will probably want to revisit some of these areas to get into rooms or areas you couldn’t enter previously. Finding crew members and items tend to have their own rewards. Crew members assist you in a few different ways; either by providing aid during a battle, or perhaps acting as a vendor of some sort, so it’s worth finding as many as you can. Of course, there are items you can find that can help upgrade your equipment, or provide you with new equipment. There is a transit system in the game so that way players can move around the game’s world a bit faster.
One notable exception to mention are boss fights. Valdis Story puts an interesting spin on them. Unlike many games where beating a boss maybe the achievement itself, don’t be surprise if you find yourself replaying the same boss battle over and over again; not to beat it, but instead to perfect it. Each boss battle ends with the player being rated a grade; the higher the grade, the better the reward. The rewards are not just more experience, but also permanent stat gains which could include more HP, attack power, agility points, etc. This mechanic is both clever and frustrating. During my playthrough I rarely felt like I could accept a low grade since this meant missing out on stat points. In more than one occasion I was fighting the same boss over and over again that I was already skilled enough to beat, but not with a grade I found to be acceptable. It can lead one to a dilemma; do you refight the same boss that gave you so much trouble in hope of a better result, or do you accept your losses so you can continue the game? While this isn’t the first game I’ve played that had a grading system, it may be the first one where I cared about it since it directly affected my stats.
When it comes to the story, there is some lore behind the world itself and the city of Sitheil that the player will end up learning about. The main characters have their own backstory and personality as well. While certainly not a heavily story driven game, it is a game that is able to tell one that most will find interesting and non-intrusive to the gameplay. It doesn’t try to be too convoluted or bore us with a ton of exposition; instead, it generally tells the player what they need to know, and then moves on. It was able to hold my attention while never feeling overbearing. I even replayed it a second time so I could see the dialogue differences between Wyatt and Reina. It should be mentioned that, while Wyatt and Reina do play slightly differently, the overall progression of the game stays the same. Yes, they do use different weapons, and have different dialogue throughout the story, but the intended layout of the dungeons and bosses do not change based on what character you choose.
Finally, I want to address the soundtrack. Just like its artwork, Valdis Story has a soundtrack that matches its atmosphere and setting very well. There were not any tunes that I ever felt were out of place, and generally they complimented the area or event I was in at the time. While I do admit that this is not a soundtrack I would listen to outside of the game, it serves its purpose very well. Zach Parrish deserves a lot of credit for his work.
Valdis Story is a solid and gorgeous 2D open world game, even in general that is packed full of these sort of games. At this time, I would be interested in playing a sequel to this game if it ever receives one. The asking price of 14.99 is quite fair for what you get.