In keeping with Valiant Heart’s subject matter, I salute it. It’s not every game that can take something like World War I and spin such an intriguing web of story, puzzle and history. Sure it has a few short comings, but for the most part I found it charming, interesting and most importantly enjoyable to play.
Valiant Hearts takes place over the period of WWI. The main story centres around the reunifying of two lovers who are separated at the start of the game because of the War. The gameplay, however, goes beyond this story arc and allows you to play as four separate characters; each with their own story to tell but ultimately heading towards getting our star-crossed lovers back together.
The four characters Emile (French), Karl (German), Freddie (American) and Anna (Belgian) are an interesting mix because they all bring different elements to the game. Although their separate paths do cross from time to time they also remain quite distinct, each with their own back story and each bringing their own perspective of the war.
The story literally starts with the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the events that led up to the beginning of WWI. It is during the initial prologue we learn how Karl and Anna become separated. The great thing here is that the events creating the storyline are completely real. German citizens were forcibly deported from France in the build up to the conflict.
And it’s something that Ubisoft are able to use throughout the game, the entwining of real events and the story the game is trying to tell. The use of chlorine gas, German zeppelin bombing raids, The Battle of The Somme… they’re all here. Not in too much detail though, I hasten to add.
This light-hearted look at the war has its pros and cons. The pros were in the art style adopted by Ubisoft for this game. Valiant Hearts looks stunning, and at times it feels more like you are part of an interactive cartoon rather than a video game. The characters and the environment, it’s something that suited the story well.
However it could be argued that it paints over what was a terrible, horrible conflict in too much glibness. The Battle of the Somme, for example, provided the backdrop for a showdown between Freddie and the antagonist Von Dorf. This is a battle that saw over one million troops injured or killed in four months, and I found myself questioning if the game paid enough respect to the source material by having a hero hightailing over a cartoon wasteland chasing a German airship.
The puzzles, such as they were, should cause the player too many problems. Most of the time you will need to complete task A in order to do task B. Sometimes this might extrapolate to several things to do in order to progress the story. In any event if you do get stuck there is a ‘Help’ option to offer you hints and tips.
Although puzzles make up the bulk of the game there are a few extra levels to mix things up a bit. The taxi missions sees you controlling a car and avoiding certain objects thrown in your general direction. There are also healing levels where you save people via a series of Quick Time Events. There are trophies to be earned here, too.
Furthermore (and as with most games these days) there are collectibles to find. These consist of historical artefacts which, when found, unlock facts you can read to find out more about the war itself. It’s a bit like going to a museum, finding an exhibit and reading the little card next to it. Some of these I found genuinely interesting.
In summary I enjoyed the game. It might have felt a bit ‘samey’ towards the end but by that point I was wrapped up in the story and wanted to know how it ended. There’s even a little twist right near the end (if you can call it that, without spoiling anything). A superficial look at World War I maybe, but still an entertaining little game the looks great and plays very well.