Valiant Hearts: The Great War
System(s): PS4 (Also available for PC, Xbox One)
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Publisher (Developer): Ubisoft (Ubisoft Montpelier)
ESRB Rating: “T” for Teen
War is often glorified when it comes to the world of modern video games, but never explicitly detailed as an abhorrent, turbulent time for everyone involved. It’s cool to suit up and go oscar mike to your next rally point, guns blazing in a future wasteland, but slowing down every so often to consider the repercussions of your actions or the landscape you’re exploring is always a good idea. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one of the most refreshing games you’ll play all year.
War never changes
This journey through World War I is simultaneously touching and disturbing, recounting a story that could only have been told by way of a video game. Ubisoft Montpelier’s excellent 2-D puzzle adventure is exemplary of what can be done when subject matter is simultaneously respected and given a treatment that doesn’t assume players are only out for blood or redemption through violence.
Valiant Hearts takes place between September 1914’s Battle of Marne and ends up in April 1917, as the United States becomes involved with more of the fighting. While it wavers between lighthearted to disheartening, it spans 24 levels that find players interacting with 2D characters and hand-drawn environments, switching between different protagonists here and there.
Heroes of the Great War
As you’re introduced to each new level, scenes open up with several different tasks. For instance, you may need to steal a uniform in order to sneak past enemies. In order to do this, you’ll have to complete several different prerequisites first. The difficulty lies in figuring out which order you need to approach these tasks in, and who to call upon to do them.
You’ve got Freddie, Anna, and Emile, three characters of different nationalities brought together by the consequences of war. Their varied personalities, especially Anna, given the fact that she’s a combat nurse, lend a more human feel to a game that could just as easily have been an impersonal war game that never attempted to make any real connection with the player.
The circumstances under which you’ll command your little troupe of players wildly vary. This isn’t a high-octane action game by any stretch of the imagination, but by the end of the game you’ll have sawed off a soldier’s limb, found yourself locked in air combat with German bomber planes, and having saved civilians who have no place in the gruesome throes of war.
Despite some of the multi-tiered puzzles, however, this isn’t a difficult sort of game. What becomes difficult is staying calm and blinking back the tears that will inevitably spring to your eyes as you progress through the heartrending narrative. I surmise that it’s easier than it could have been mainly due to the fact that it’s a historical piece in which you reap rewards in the form of factual information and memorabilia localized to actual World War I veterans.
Hug a veteran today
The focus is on learning about and appreciating those who gave their lives and livelihoods to fight for the cause in this war, and that shines through in a big way. While sometimes the game can bog down a bit during quieter segments, you also have time to reflect on those who sacrificed themselves so that, eventually, we’d even be able to play this game and write about it today.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is more simplistic than you might have surmised originally, but if you’re looking for something a little different with historical roots that you can feel good about playing and supporting, this is a fantastic choice.
Site [Ubisoft Montpelier]