A century after the beginning of the First World War, the developers at UbiSoft Montpellier would give players a chance to experience the conflict in a way that is not only educational but also an impressive story in its own right.
The story for Valiant Hearts: The Great War revolves around four characters whose paths cross often during the course of the game. Starting with Emile who is drafted into the French army, you soon run into American volunteer Freddie, Belgian medic Anna and Emile’s son-in-law Karl who was also drafted but to fight for the Germans. In addition, there’s Walt; an army dog that soon befriends them and becomes a useful ally who is key in solving a few puzzles too.
The game is consists of four chapters that each have their own discrete levels that advance the story as you complete specific objectives. They are feel most like adventure games with progression usually a result of solving puzzles through finding the right items and manipulating the environment. None of these puzzles are too complex and the game does go out of its way to highlight your goals. In a nice touch for casual players, it also includes a time driven hint system if you get stuck in one part for too long.
Breaking up these sections are a handful of boss battles and driving sequences that play out more like simple action games. These sections can sometimes be more challenging than the other levels but the difficulty in general is not too punishing – you can tell that the intent is to allow players to get through to the end. It may take time but you will get there. All of these sections are just long enough for people to pick up and play if they have a few minutes to spare so lends itself well to anyone wanting to take their time in progressing through the game.
The presentation in Valiant Hearts is outstanding. The game uses an exaggerated comic book slash graphic novel style which I think they use especially well considering the serious content they are dealing with. With the serious stories being told, often nasty and depressing, it seems to give them some leverage in being confronting without the concern of restricting their audience through the more realistic depictions used in many modern shooters.
The audio is excellent with a soundtrack and effects that really compliment the game. The main theme with it’s focus on a piano driven melody feels melancholic but it’s memorable, fitting and more importantly totally works. Additionally the narrator is a constant who is well used making the experience feel like a story from The History Channel – the stories themselves may not be true or realistic but does make it feel authentic.
As you progress through the game you also unlock historical facts, including photos, that do feel that the game is striving to be more than just pure entertainment and give you an understanding that there may be creative license involved but it does come form a valid source. I almost wish we saw more from this side but it must have been a difficult decision for the developers to decide if it was worth including in the first place.
If you’re looking for a single player game with a strong story about a war that you’re less familiar with this could be a good place to start. Valiant Hearts: The Great War excels with it’s subject matter and might just be the kick you need to explore this moment in history.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is available now on PC, Xbox, PlayStation and mobile platforms.