PS4 / Rated T
Adventure / Educational / Puzzle
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier Studios
World War I was a really ugly war. It was the time of rapid advancements in military technology, but that often meant that the men on the front line where the subjects of their tests. Numerous people, from all sides of the conflict, lost their lives in some of the worst conditions known to man. We often look at the war in terms of numbers; in terms of how many people died. What about the individual stories? What about the individual people who experienced the war first hand? Valiant Hearts: The Great War tackles the story of five characters and their struggles and triumphs during the time of the First World War
Don’t let the bright and colorful visuals, done beautifully by the UbiArt Framework, fool you into thinking that this is a bright and cheery story, because the story is the complete opposite of cheery. Yes, the five different characters experience their fair share of triumphs throughout the story, but the struggles and hardships far outweigh the rays of sunshine. Valiant Hearts: The Great War doesn’t have a happy ending. It’s not supposed to.
The game looks into the lives of Emile, Karl, Freddie, Anna, and Walt the dog as they try to retain their humanity amid the terrors and horrors of the war. Destiny shines upon them all as their stories are interconnected and intertwined as their paths come together. They all experience some form of friendship, love, sacrifice, and tragedy along the way, some more than others. It’s a unique story, inspired by the letters written during WWI, and it offers a different and eye-opening perspective to the travesty that was The Great War.
As I mentioned before, the game looks amazing. Everything is hand drawn via Ubisoft’s crafty artist framework, UbiArt. The 2D side-scrolling levels pop off the screen with their effective use of color. It’s a fitting art style for such a game. The characters don’t talk too much, which just seems right considering the situation that the characters are in. The story is presented beautifully though use of nice-looking hand drawn cut scenes and a voice narrating the action on the battlefield.
The game’s gameplay comes in the form of adventure-style puzzle solving, with some brief sequences of action here and there. Often times you are on the frontline, moving around picking up items to use for the one or two big puzzles per level. Nothing was entirely too hard, and the puzzles offered a little bit of challenge. There were a couple tough puzzles, but there is a well-done hint system that pushes you in the right direction without giving you the outright answer.
I would have liked to see a little more puzzles that offered more of a challenge. Most of the puzzles were often too easy to solve, and they often involved picking up items here and there, which started to get a little old after a while. However, I have to commend all of the puzzles for having a purpose. They all drove the story, whether you were infiltrating enemy territory or reuniting loved ones.
More action sequences would have also been nice. The action sequences often consisted of dodging enemy fire by finding cover, sneaking out of POW camps, and taxi missions. The taxi missions were driving sequences, where you have to dodge different obstacles. The game shines through its adventure-style gameplay, but the action sequences provided a brief change of pace.
The game encourages some exploration in its levels in the form of hidden historical items that are scattered throughout the levels. These items provide the player with little bits of history about the hundreds of items that were used during the war. These items were pretty tough to find, with some being hidden in places I would never have thought to look. It was satisfying to find all of these items at the end of each level. At the beginning of each level, there are also some historical facts that the player can read on their own time. I highly recommend taking in all of the history that the game gives you, because it really adds to the experience, and it surprisingly enhanced some elements of the story.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a game like no other. It was a moving experience, one that provides a special and personal look into the darkness that the war brought on the people who were a part of it. I instantly clung to the characters that the game provided me with, which made the ending a little hard to swallow. It inspires a lot of emotions and it hits all the right spots. I can’t think of another war game that really captured the spirit and horror of the war in a better way.