written by Celeste Tainari B. (@elidmorvive)
Announced at E3, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is an indie game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, released on PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, and PS4. The game is a character driven, puzzle based, 2D side scroller that centers around the World War I time frame. And lets just say that many companies have attempted to have their games focused around this time frame and failed, but I can say that Ubisoft did this game exceptionally well (I mean, we're also talking about the people who made the Assassin's Creed franchise.) So anything really history driven is more than likely going to be great.
Valiant Hearts follows 4 characters and a pup (dog really) from different nations that explains the life changing events their characters face throughout the course of the war. Not only that, but as you progress throughout the game, certain events will happen in which letters, photographs, and artifacts pop up that allow the player to view what all the soldiers faced throughout the entire war. Some of these letters are actually real letters that were collected during the war and were allowed to be shared in this game. Touching and a little frightening if I say so myself, to know you're actually reading the words and thoughts of a Soldier during WWI. (Note, the last Veteran of WWI recently passed in 2012.)
What makes this game even greater (besides the comic strip paneling, drawing style, and the fact it gives you pretty much an entire history lesson) is that the educational intel isn't being forced or thrown into your face. Its simple and straight to the point. None of that TLDR. (tl;dr) But incase you happen to be an addict for history, it provides a link to where you can read up on more.
Anyways, back to the main point of this game; Emile, who is one of the 4 playable characters of the game, is a Frenchman and is reinstated back into his national army. Karl, his son-in-law, is kicked out of France due to his German citizenship. Veterinian Anna just wants to know where her father suddenly disappeared off to, and Freddie is a US citizen living in France, who used revenge to justify joining the war. Walt is the real character everyone really cares about, because who doesn't want to run around and help the other 4 characters solve puzzles while being an adorable dog?
Valiant Hearts is a beautifully constructered and wonderful game to look at. The UbiArt Engine, which is used in other Ubisoft titles like Rayman and Child of Light, holds almost a kind of comic book style feel, which comes into display especially during some of the action sequences.
The puzzles in the game can at times be alittle to confusing at first, especially when during actual game play there isn't a lot of communication, just symbols and grunt noises the other characters produce. Once you get the hang of it though, as to what the puzzle is aiming towards, the puzzles aren't hard at all. Not only that, but each character has their own kind of genre of puzzles. An example being Anna's medical skills being a mini game that has a beat to it.
I can't really say I have any issues with this game. The gameplay is smooth, no tech issues (atleast when it came to my computer) the puzzles were easy to handle, and reading through the diaries and history logs wasn't painful that I would rather skip over it just to get to the game play. Plus, the main story that drives these characters together is one that keeps you wanting to play til you finish.
As a closure to this review, I would say that Valiant Hearts: The Great War is definitely one of a kind. We as gamers are used to, when refered to war/action related games, that we're staring through the rear sight of a weapon. We're waiting or calculating, or just blindly firing to get the next kill. But this game actually focuses more on trying to portray how WWI was. It's great to be able to see a game where you spend more time aiding others rather than trying to kill them
A very passionate and touching story, based on World War I. Presented in a unique cartoon stylized puzzle driven 2D side scroller.
+ Amazing art and unique style
+ Character animations are well done
+ One-of-a-kind ever-changing gameplay
+ Doesn't pander
- Narration a bit much at times
- Freddie's story felt lacking
- Moments of poo execution in the story