Amongst the wit and adrenalin of Ubisoft’s E3 Conference came a solemn reminder of our collective past with Valiant Hearts: The Great War. This sombre puzzle-based retelling of the experiences of World War One focuses on an family split apart by war and their struggle for reconciliation and revenge.
From the developers who brought us the current Rayman franchise and the eagerly awaited Assassins Creed: Unity, Valiant Hearts looks to be another venture into more serious, story-led games in the vein as Beyond Good and Evil – which is a welcome addition to the current catalogue. Developed on the same engine as Child of light (UbiArt Framework), it has a similar artistic feel but despite its appearance, is less like you are wandering in a painted world. This feels more like a comic book where you encounter new dangers as you journey though every page and within each chapter, you’ll come up against new battles to be won.
Valiant Hearts’ storyline is an incredibly compelling one. Merging the stories of several playable characters into a heart-breaking tale of struggle, sacrifice and loss in an extremely bleak environment. This of course is ten aided by the game’s chosen visual style. Its colour pallet is purposely austere, the lack of warmth or contrast really focuses the tone of the game allowing the player to really get into the whole ethos of the story. The entire plot is supported by diary entries from the lead characters and facts from the war sprinkled throughout the game, anchoring the game into its period whilst giving an insight into the trials the characters had to go through.
Gameplay mechanics are fairly straightforward. I experienced this game on the PC, so movement was directed via the arrows and actions using various keys to the left. Throughout the game there are handy pop-ups to indicate when you have a new diary/fact/item or if there is a hint available to aid your quest: however the later are not as helpful as they could be. I spent around ten minutes moving a munitions crate to no avail prompting the hint (a carrier pigeon) to flash a helpful wing at me, only to find it showing me exactly what I was doing – to add insult to injury, I completed that puzzle in a completely different way by just throwing things at stuff! (my go to approach). The addition of Walt the dog to the roster is an interesting choice, there are limited options when you get control of him and some of his ‘hints’ are not as clear as they could be, endlessly pawing at a spot on the group only to be able to do nothing with it as human or canine becomes a little infuriating. These are, however, small flaws within a truly intriguing puzzle-based game: laced with red-herrings, time based tasks explicitly linked to the horrors of war and some obtuse little brain teasers, this game blends story with game-play in an engaging way.
The four leads have their own distinct personality, back-story and rationale for joining the war: Some were forced, some volunteered and some sort retribution. We start with Emile and Karl – a farmer enlisted into the French military and his German son-in-law who was forced from France when the war began and had to join the German Army; Freddie, an American who volunteered for the French Army after a German bombing killed his family and Anna, a Belgium student whose father has been kidnapped by the Germans and happens to be a bit handy with the healing. There is also Walt the Dog, no one knows where he comes from but he is German Medical Dog who cares not who he helps but only of belly-rubs which is very advantageous for our heroes. All the stories intertwine in a fairly fluid manner, giving the player not only an enemy in the German Army but a clear antagonist in Baron Von Dorf – the cause of most of the misery for our heroes. Each characters story is interesting and unique to them, allowing them to have a specific set of skills linked to their sections of the game and keeping the player interested during the various missions.
Overall this is one of the most interesting games I have played in a while, it draws the player in with alluring visuals and a compelling story, immersing them in the time period and compelling them to look deeper into our collective past. It may have some flaws but they can be overlooked as it is not enough to distract from the sheer artistry of this game. Whomever plays this game cannot help but be drawn into the narrative and I challenge you not to be moved by this tale. No matter how you feel about this time period: be you disinterested by our past or only drawn to frag-fests, play this game and be moved.
[tabgroup][tab title=”The Good“]
Beautiful Visual Style
Endearing Characters and Story
Interwoven with real life events and facts
[/tab][tab title=”The Bad“]
Gameplay is a little slow
Some of the Cut Scenes are pretty long