Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Valiant Hearts is a game that I knew nothing about until I saw the trailer shown at Ubisoft's conference at E3 this year. After seeing that trailer this game was an absolute must play. Powered by the UbiArt Framework engine, Valiant Hearts gives a very powerful look into World War I using a very puzzle/story driven approach, rather than a first-person shooter approach. The result is a very engaging, emotional look not only into the soldiers of the war, but the world around them that is affected.
The game starts with an introduction of how the first world war started, as well with the introduction of Emile and Karl; two of the characters you will play through the course of game. Karl is a German immigrant who is forced to leave France with the start of World War I, while Emile is Karl's Father-In-Law who is forced into the war through a draft. Most of the cutscenes do not have spoken dialogue by the characters, however a narrator explains the events and emotions of the characters. Even with such limited dialogue, the style and presentation of the cutscenes help deliver the story in a unique style that helps drive the story to the player. Switching between characters through the course of the game, no character feels short-changed or dragged on too long. The story brilliantly shows how the war effects the main characters, as well as their struggles to accomplish their own personal goals.
Gameplay consists of solving puzzles to advance forward. A lof of times this is done by retrieving an object and either returning that item to an NPC or a device that helps the player advance. Although they get a little tougher through the course of the game, the puzzles are fairly easy. Sometimes they consist of throwing an object to retrieve another, or retrieving one to trade for another. Finding these objects are not really too difficult, it usually involves going off further down the screen or going through a nearby door. Your hand isn't exactly being held during these, but the game keeps them short. Most of the time they are near the objective as to not frustrate the player. At times the screen will split in sort of a comic book way; such as running up a hill and the screen will split to show you an enemy firing a gun upon you off-screen. Other than the puzzles there are a few "action points" during the game. These consist of a few driving segments, where you need to avoid objects and enemies; as well as some marching segments that involves dodging mortars as they rain down on the battlefield. Not that the puzzle segments are slow or boring, but the action sequences keep things changing nicely.
Not to be forgotten is the cute dog that is shown heavily during the trailer and promotions of Valiant Hearts. You encounter him early on, and from that point follows you through the game. The dog, (no name given unfortunately) helps the player solve puzzles, sometimes reaching an object that the player cannot, or help by distracting an enemy for the main character to pass by. It's a great mechanic that's used constantly though the game and never feels boring or overused. The dog will also bark near objectives and give signs when danger might be near, giving the player a warning. At times you will use the dog in conjunction with doing something yourself to help complete a puzzle. It's great that the dog is not here for just an emotional attachment but also a great game mechanic.
All of these things are the meat in the sandwich of Valiant Hearts, while the game's presentation is the best bread you could ask for. Right off the bat, the graphics and art style are well done for the mood and tone being presented. If you played either Rayman Origins or Rayman Legends, this is the same engine that powers those game. Everything is hand-drawn and looks absolutely stunning; everything from the background to even the foreground. Running into battles, actions in the background can be seen; soldiers running, mortars being dropped, dead soldiers, destruction...do not let the cute art-style fool you; the game presents you the very brutal and unforgiving view of war. The very feeling of being in the war is done brilliantly within the battlegrounds, but also in the few points where there isn't even conflict. Whether it's in a camp seeing the wounded soldiers tend to their wounds, or in a town ravaged by an attack. The presentation of the war is done very well, and does a good job at representing history in an artful fashion.
It's tough to describe Valiant Hearts, mainly for the reason it's not something that can be done justice by reading, but rather experiencing it yourself. Rather than shooting and killing 100's of enemies, Valiant Hearts shows a beautiful story of bravery, trust, and love that present a different side of war that is not shown in other video games. Much like Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, there isn't much in terms of replay value, but the experience while playing is well worth the price of admission. Valiant Hearts probably won't test your skills too much, but it will test you emotionally.
- + Beautiful art and design
- + Story is very impactful
- - Not very lengthy
- - Not too terribly challenging
Hours: 5 (PC)
Platforms Available: PC, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, PS3