A demo for Falling Squirrel's The Vale was released last week, giving many players their first taste of an audio-only adventure unlike any other. The Vale is a first-person action RPG played by using only sounds to navigate through the world, engage in combat, and complete quests.
You play as Alex, a princess who has been has been made warden of a Keep on the outskirts of the kingdom by her recently deceased father, the king. Alex has been blind since birth, but taught how to fight and survive in the medieval world of The Vale by her uncle. On the way to her new home, Alex's caravan is attacked by an invading army. Alex survives, but is left alone with nothing but a broken, rusty sword, and and injured companion that acts as her guide. Together, they set out to find her way home and, hopefully, save the kingdom.
The demo is a linear journey through the opening scenes that teach you how to navigate and engage in combat using only sound while also introducing the characters in the world of The Vale. The opening scene in which Alex's caravan gets overtaken by the invading army is an incredibly cinematic experience represented in a mind blowing soundscape. The thud of horsemen approaching, the rain of arrows on the wooded carriage, and the distant sound of battle all work together to create a truly immersive experience.
Moving Alex around is as simple as rotating in place with the left stick and then pushing it forward to walk; what many know as tank controls. In combat, the left stick is used to aim the shield while the right stick is used to attack. It's intuitive, easy to pick up, but also quickly becomes quite challenging as enemies come at you from all direction, signally various attacks with audio cues. The early fights in the demo make it pretty obvious when an enemy is about to attack you: they take slow, thudding steps as they move around and then start each attack with a long battle cry. It's pretty easy to see how complicated combat will become once the enemies become less predictable and you begin to work in spells and other techniques.
It all sounds incredibly ambitious, especially once you consider gear progression, side quests, and every other trapping of an RPG that Falling Squirrel needed to find a way to make work without so much as an inventory screen. Everything I've experienced so far has me convinced that they've not only pulled it off, but that a foundation has been laid for the audio game genre to see some really incredible games in the future.
The performances, at least in the demo, are all to a quality seldom achieved even in mainstream AAA gaming. Alex in particular has a really strong voice, and I'm excited to see where her journey takes her when the full game releases.
For more info and access to the demo, visit Falling Squirrel's website.