Valiant Hearts: The Great War
It’s always great when something that’s entertaining can teach you something. Not just something that you’re doing for the purpose of learning either. Sure, you can read a non-fiction book, be entertained, and learn a lot, but you go into that with the expectation of learning. You don’t really expect to learn much while playing a video game.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one of those games that you probably come away from ‘smarter’ than you went into the experience. The game is set during World War I and focuses on the intertwining stories of the four characters you play as: Emile, Freddie, Karl, and Anna.
This trailer will give you some insight into their backgrounds.
You don’t play as the British aviator, maybe they had to cut that part out.
The gameplay is probably best described as a controller-based adventure game. There isn’t any running around and firing of guns in this war game, though there is a lot of running. I think the only thing you do with your rifle is whack people with it. There are grenades though, and you can definitely die. The checkpoints are pretty forgiving if you do, and there’s a timed hint system in case you get stuck on a puzzle. That’s most of what the game is, almost fetch-quest puzzles. Bring item A to location B so you can get to item C, things like that. It never really wore on me though. The length of the game, art style, and story within prevented any boredom from seeping in. It doesn’t hurt that the puzzles aren’t all glaringly easy too.
The game clocked in at about 6-7 hours. I forget exactly how long it took me to finish it. I wandered around wondering what the hell to do sometimes and thought it might be best to just die and restart a section other times. It’s not necessary to restart sections at all, I was just being an idiot. You can probably get a little more mileage out of it if you try to find all the collectibles in the game. I think I did a decent job looking, but still didn’t find everything. I’m really big on getting an hour of gameplay for every $2 spent. Valiant Hearts is definitely close enough to that at $15. Plus, the story and art make up for any shortcomings.
Valiant Hearts is tagged as “an animated comic book adventure” and it definitely lives up to that. It was made on the UbiArt Framework, the same that was used for the recent Rayman games, and it just makes for a beautiful game. Hopefully they’ll continue to use that to make more games that look entirely hand drawn like this. This style works particularly well for the genre.
Adventure games are usually story-driven, and this is where Valiant Hearts really shines. The story is based on letters from the front during the war. And, like I said, all four character’s stories are intertwined, and you see both sides of the conflict. It’s really about the horrors of the war though and the emotional strain it can put on a person. The collectibles I mentioned earlier all have real-world facts tied to them and each chapter presents facts related to what actually happened in that same time span or environment during the war. Like, how it was the first time gas attacks were used. It was nasty stuff. You empathize with these characters and their situations. Revealing of motivations, whether or not two people will be reunited, sacrifices made for your characters, and the ending really drive the emotion home. That ending. Man, if the ending of this doesn’t make you feel something, you’re dead inside.
I thoroughly recommend this. If you don’t know much about World War I you’ll learn a lot about what the soldiers went through, and even if you do know a lot about it you’ll probably appreciate how the facts that didn’t really need to be present are. Be prepared to think and also be emotionally affected while playing. You know, as long as you’re capable of feeling emotion.