Valiant Hearts: The Great War is an adventure puzzle game from Ubisoft Montreal which takes you on an gripping journey through World War One, reminding us that war isn’t something to be glamorised and enjoyed but should instead be feared and avoided at all cost. With lots of puzzling scenarios from launching full scale attacks, prison escapes and rescuing the wounded on the battlefield this game is unlike other war games before it as it shows you what the war was like from both sides of the divide. The game also becomes a learning experience great for encouraging younger gamers to develop an interest in history as it teaches you all about the Great War, discussing everything from facts and figures at major battles to detailing the unusual items people would use day in and day out to get by during the tough times.
As soon as the game starts you can tell that you’ll be taken on an emotional roller coaster as the music sends shivers down your spine; to me the tune tells the story itself creating a sense that times are dark and all hope seems lost but at the same time encourages you to keep fighting on. It all begins in 1914 before the war has even commenced, German people residing in France are being forced back to their homeland. This is where we meet Karl, a young German man forced to relocate to Germany leaving his wife and new born baby behind in France; his wife Marie is the daughter of Emile, a French farmer who following the declaration of war gets conscripted to the French army. This already shows the impact the war had on families, tearing them apart and destroying lives before fighting had even broken out. From here you’ll journey through various events in World War One following the lives of a handful of people whose destinies cross paths and leave them having to help one another in order to survive and find a way of escaping this terrible war so they can all return to normality.
There are five playable characters in total, the first two as mentioned above are Emile and Karl who are introduced from the offset, from here Emile meets an American volunteer in the French army called Freddie who fights for revenge after the war consumed the life of his dear bride. The next companion you’ll find is Walt, a Doberman Pincher trained by the German military to be a medic dog. Split off from his German owner he saves Emile’s life and plays a pivotal role as your loyal sidekick throughout the game which truly gives meaning to a dog being Man’s Best Friend. The final soul whose destiny intertwines with the others is Anna, a Belgian volunteer who quit school and began working in a Paris munitions factory to do all she could to support the allied troops. Unfortunately she soon learns that her father, a Belgian scientist, is kidnapped by the Germans and is being used to create war machines for them against his will, she then leaves her job to attempt to rescue her lost father bumping into Emile, Freddie and Walt along the way.
The game is made using Ubisoft’s UbiArt framework that most will recognise from being used in the last couple of Rayman games as well as Child of Light. It allows for the designers to create great artwork that is brought to life on the screens of your TVs and Monitors whilst limiting the amount of repetitive tasks that many developers usually face. It worked well in previous games and Valiant Hearts is no exception; the 2.5D comic book graphics makes the game really stand out as an artistic masterpiece and remind me of the kind of graphic design you’d see in Professor Layton games on Nintendo devices. This has allowed developers to portray the message of the seriousness of war in the game by including great detail and at the same toned down the feel of the game to make it suitable for younger gamers by not having to show bullets ripping through a soldier’s skull and blood splattering everywhere.
As for the gameplay itself it’s like any other Ubisoft game, great fun and full of brilliant little puzzles that will have you running all over the level to try and piece everything together so you can achieve your goal. There will be times where you’re cut off from any allies having to sneak around undetected, other periods where you have to work as a team to help take out turrets to allow troops to get past, the one constant thing being that you never really escape the war going on around you. From the muddy disease filled trenches to the crumbling cities that have been subject to gas attacks leaving thousands left for dead, it really hits home how bad people had it during these times.
As you make your way through these levels trying to reach the end you’ll also find little collectible items ranging from German helmets to letters and other random items that soldiers would have made use of during the war. This is where the game becomes somewhat educational as every time you discover a collectible you’ll be able to access a menu that will give you some in depth information about the items and how important they became during the war even though now they’d seem like trivial things you wouldn’t think twice about. Alongside that you’ll also receive facts and figures about some of the main events that happened during the Great War such as the battles of Marne and the Somme, plus more facts about special weapons and vehicles such as the German Airships better known as Zeppelins and special troops such as the Indian soldiers who took part in battles such as Ypres. If that wasn’t enough though you can also unlock diary entries of each of the characters to get a better understanding of what it was actually like living through these dark times and how each of them react differently to the same scenarios that they witness.
For me Valiant Hearts is definitely one of the games of the summer; it has everything you could want in a game such as adventure, challenges, a gripping story and also an educational element. It’ll tug on your heart strings as you follow the highs and lows of Emile and his friends while they make their perilous journey through Belgium, France and Germany to try and survive so they can all see their loved ones again or get revenge for those who have been unjustly taken from them. It’s refreshing to see a game show the more serious side of war, not making it seem all fun and games like it can be portrayed in the likes of Call of Duty where people seem to get off on the more people they kill. Plus finally there is a game that shows the two sides of the coin, I’ve not known any other war game to really tell two tales except for Command & Conquer which is fictitious, but for once we finally see how difficult those times were for German people as well as the allied forces. If there is one game you’re setting aside money for this summer, make sure this is it.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.