Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle/adventure game that was released June, 2014 by Ubisoft. It is playable on Windows, Playstation 3 & 4, Xbox 360 and finally for the iOS. The game has received mostly positive reviews across all platforms.
The game is inspired by the events of “the great war” also known as World War I. The game focuses mainly on the conflict between France and Germany. It is broken down into chapters and focuses on four main characters whom have different perspectives of the war yet their tales are interlinked.
As I said earlier, Valiant Hearts is based on the Great War. However instead of putting emphasis on the war and the fighting, it brings to life the personal struggles of the characters. You don’t even fire a gun while playing Valiant Hearts: The Great War. It focuses on the lengths that some people are willing to go to meet their self-given mission. Each character has a reason for doing what they do, whether it is a sense of duty, revenge or hoping to reunite with a loved one. I found the story to be rather enjoyable, showing how people are affected by the war.
The art style of the game was very enjoyable, it was impressive to see how flexible it was. It was able to convey the feeling of calm of rural France but was able to handle the horrors of being on the front lines of war. It does not attempt to hide the horrors of war; the 2D cartoon style shows the bodies of fallen soldiers, buildings being destroyed and people being pushed to their limit.
The same could be said for the characters. Despite being 2D, the characters are not ‘flat’ despite their appearances. The characters have their own background story, and seeing how they moved throughout the game reveals a lot about them. Freddie, the American soldier bravely enters into war as if he was a man on a mission and would be deterred from his goal. Anna moves around in a rush as she tries to save the lives of the wounded soldiers while hoping to find her father. The voice-acting was phenomenal. There is not necessarily a lot of dialogue between characters, often being told by the narrator but the intelligible grunts and sounds they make amazingly convey a lot to the player.
However, there is a slight problem in regards to the voice-acting. There is an inconsistency in the voice that Emile uses. He is portrayed as a French farmer but his voice interchanges between French and British accents. On an unrelated note, it striked me as odd how Emile goes through rest of the game without any military uniform after he escapes from a German camp. I highly doubt people would be entering into battle wearing a tank top/apron and army pants.
I do have a slight issue with Freddie’s storyline as it seems too predictable. It is the familiar story of how a man goes on a mission for revenge after the death of the woman he loves. For me, it does not really fit well into the theme of war as the death of a loved one is something that cannot be avoided.
The gameplay focuses on puzzles instead of running with guns blazing. The game combines a lot of simple elements to create clever environmental puzzles. Sometimes you have to throw an object to distract an enemy or activating an inaccessible lever, issuing a command to the loyal canine companion to retrieve an object or finding the missing gears for a machine. The puzzles are not complicated to solve nor is it extremely easy. The puzzles are challenging enough to keep the player engaged. If a player should become stumped on a puzzle or take too long to complete it, a hint will appear. At certain stages, I found the prompt to look at the hint to be annoying especially when I knew how to solve a puzzle and was just taking the time to explore the area before proceeding.
Throughout the game, there are little collectibles that you can find. Finding these items serve no real purpose, other than to give historical facts about to the item you found (e.g trench shovel). Speaking about historical, I thought it was a good idea to include the fact boxes. It is optional so if you don’t want to read it, you are not forced too. However the prompt for it irritating and it constantly flashed in the corner of the screen. It just seems to clash with the style created by the game’s art. I felt the game did a great job in presenting the historical events through the world itself, but the idea was a nice touch. They did present the information in a great way although the footnote style wasn’t completely necessary.
Nevertheless, it feels like the game clashes with itself at times. In the beginning, the game states that it freely adapted the stories. At times, it feels more like a game than a historical re-enactment but then it suddenly throws in the grim reality which ruins the whimsical scenes.