Brett gets a history refresher in the beautifully designed, moving World War 1 story-side-scroller, Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
Available on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One and Xbox 360
Developed by Rayman and Beyond Good & Evil developer Ubisoft Montpellier, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a side-scrolling, action-adventure game set in World War 1. With Valiant Hearts we are once again treated to Ubisoft’s gorgeous looking in-house game engine used in titles such as Rayman Origins and Child of Light. The flexibility of the Ubiart framework engine really lets the developers go to town on the art style. Ubisoft Montpellier have really outdone themselves here with the visuals without sacrificing the seriousness of the setting in which it takes place. The characters and backdrops while cartoonish, really convey the sense of dread from the front lines of the first world war in a way that from the get go starts an emotional connection to war-torn 1914.
For an industry that has such a big emphasis on war, the first world war is one conflict that seems to be passed by. Valiant Hearts changes all that in a profound way basing its story on letters written during the war. This gives Valiant Hearts an emotional depth that i have never experienced in a war game before. The emotional impact these moments leave behind really make you feel for the young German soldier trying to find his way back to his lover and child on the other side of the war.
It’s the story of Valiant Hearts that really excels. The intertwined storylines of the characters sharing common goals while trying to survive the first world war are told in such a way that leaves you glued to the screen. Even with dialogue being kept to nothing more than grunts and groans, the story keeps flowing by narration and letters from the characters. The narration is informative and fits in with the story being told, that in a way it made me feel like i was watching a documentary. It’s cartoonish art style brings weight to the story and makes it feel like you’re playing a beautifully animated cartoon or graphic novel. From the action-packed to more heartfelt moments the style of Valiant Hearts: The Great War is something to behold and will stick with you long after the story has ended.
The other stories taking place are just as captivating and never go off on too much of a tangent, keeping the relationships of the characters close-knit and believable. As you play through the game and the war-affected towns, you hope that all of these characters stories you become so invested in make it through the war. Even with their cartoony design and over exaggerated animations, these characters plight is never glorified like many other war-based games.
Of course you also have your trusty canine companion to help you along the way. Who i must say really provides that extra emotional value while you make your way through the levels. From distracting enemies, to bringing objects to you and not to mention giving him the occasional pat or tummy rub. The moments and interactions with your trusty companion make for some of the biggest smiles and concerned moments throughout the game.
The gameplay of Valiant Hearts is a mixture of your standard side-scroller with minimal controls and a few sequences consisting of motor vehicle chase scenes and controlling turrets on the battlefield. Each character has different abilities that tries to offer up variety as far as gameplay goes, but with next to no difficulty involved in Valiant Hearts, makes those abilities more of a character trait than an addition to the overall gameplay. Each section contains puzzles that are never too difficult to solve, you could actually say they are too easy. When you throw in the overly helpful hint system you couldn’t even look at them as puzzles, but as things to do while you play an interactive history lesson. This seems to be what the developer’s focus was with this game and while most games wouldn't be able to pull off a lack of gameplay, Valiant Hearts not only pulls it off but made me want to read every single piece of historical information it had.
In the end, the story and historical value of Valiant Hearts: The Great War is its biggest draw card. It's insightful, honest and emotional implications really show that the developers treated the subject matter with respect and were looking to achieve something more than just a game taking place in the first world war. Valiant hearts is a game that could just about be given out as homework for history class with the historical titbits it gives you during it’s 6 to 7 hours of game length. It’s a beautifully crafted world that pretty much ticks all the right boxes from art style to story and really only lacks in the gameplay department. This game is a definite must-play and it’s safe to say that it is one of the best war games I've played in years.
For giving me an amazing interactive history refresher course, I'm giving Valiant Hearts: The Great War a 9 out of 10.