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The Vale is an audio-based RPG with a genius approach to medieval combat

The Vale: Shadow of the Crown
(Image credit: Falling Squirrel )

The Vale: Shadow of the Crown is a medieval RPG with one goal, to be accessible to players who have low to no vision. To that end there are no graphics at all, only a rich soundscape to guide you through its fantasy world. 

You play as Alexandra, a princess who was born blind and is second in line to the throne. As her older brother steps in to become king, Alexandra is sent to a small castle on the outskirts of the kingdom, but on the way there the convoy gets attacked by an invading army. Alexandra escapes and tries to find her way back home, and you need to help her on her journey, trusting only your ears and instincts.

Wanting to know how an RPG would work with only audio, I jumped into The Vale for an hour and it's quite remarkable. The story is told predominantly through character dialogue, and when you are given the chance to explore an area you're given clear goals to follow. 

For example, after escaping from the convoy attackers, Alexandra says that she needs something to drink and listens carefully for the sound of a stream in the soundscape. It sounds like there's one not too far from where she is so I use WASD to navigate a wooded area, the rustling of bushes and breaking of twigs indicating my movements until the sound of running water gets closer and I arrive at the stream. The audio is amazingly crisp, and I found myself unable to concentrate without actually closing my eyes, and totally relying on my ears.

Everything is built specifically for accessibility in mind like how every menu has audio description, including your inventory screen. The voice acting is fantastic, and totally pulls you into The Vale's ruthless medieval world.

(Image credit: Falling Squirrel)

One feature I was particularly curious about was combat. I had no idea how developers Falling Squirrel would approach it from a strict audio perspective but it's ingenious in concept. When fighting someone in combat Alexandra sticks to one spot meaning you only need to focus on which direction to swing your sword—left, right, or forward (using the arrow keys to direct your attack). 

Knowing which direction to hit relies on listening to audio queues. Some can be as obvious as an enemy yelling as they lunge at you, but others are more subtle like the clanking of armour, a person shifting their weight, or their heavy breathing. You essentially need to wait for them to attack and parry back, only then going in for a second strike for the kill. The detail in the audio is pretty extraordinary, not to mention incredibly tense.

Falling Squirrel have created something incredibly special with The Vale, and if you wanted to check it out it's available on Steam, the Epic Games Store, and itch.io. Just make sure you have good pair of headphones before playing.

Rachel Watts

Rachel had been bouncing around different gaming websites as a freelancer and staff writer for three years before settling at PC Gamer back in 2019. She mainly writes reviews, previews, and features, but on rare occasions will switch it up with news and guides. When she's not taking hundreds of screenshots of the latest indie darling, you can find her nurturing her parsnip empire in Stardew Valley and planning an axolotl uprising in Minecraft. She loves 'stop and smell the roses' games—her proudest gaming moment being the one time she kept her virtual potted plants alive for over a year.