Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Console: Xbox One
Reviewed by V1
Despite being a game set during the first World War, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is not an FPS or 3rd Person action game. It’s a 2D sidescrolling puzzle game with some action scenes splicey splicey’d in. These action scenes play out as boss battles, or some of the bigger set pieces in the game, but most of the game will be spent walking though the gorgeous levels solving mostly easy fetch quest style puzzles. I say mostly easy because there are some puzzles which annoyed me. The solution may be obvious, but the game won’t allow you to solve the puzzle unless you’ve done everything else leading up to that point. Some of the more illogical puzzles can be quite frustrating. Thankfully there’s an optional hint system available, so any broken controllers can’t be blamed on Ubisoft!!! Despite these few instances the gameplay is enjoyable for the vast majority of the game, but in my opinion is merely the background to main selling point in this game, the characters & story.
Valiant Hearts is set across France & Germany & lasts the entirety of WW1 (1914 – 1918). The story centres round 5 main characters. Karl, a German living in France, drafted to fight for his country. Walt, a German dog used in trench warfare. Emile, Karl’s Father-in-Law & a middle-aged farmer from France. Anna a Belgian nurse & Freddie, an American soldier fighting for the French army. All 5 characters stories are intertwined & the overall story is beautifully narrated through cutscenes & limited character vocalisations (characters are mostly mute & interact via speech bubbles). The weakest part of the game for me was the portrayal of the German army & the main villan in particular. Baron Von Dorf is more of a Benny Hill skit than a leader in the German army. His bumbling about is pantomime baddie at its worst & at odds with just about everything else in the game.
The remainder of the story is told through diary entries, historical artifacts & optional background on specific battles, war techniques & significant events from WW1. I thoroughly enjoyed these extras & believe they helped immerse myself into the game even more. I also appreciate the context they put on some of the more poignant parts of the story. However I understand that some will not be as receptive as others. There is a stark contrast between the real life pictures shown & the cartoony representation in the game itself. But like I said above, these are optional so you can ignore them if you want.
Valiant Hearts is the most recent game created using the beautiful Ubiart engine, (others including Rayman Legends & Child of Light) & while it may not be as immediately stunning to gawk at, it certainly has its charm & its own style. It looks less like a living watercolour painting & more like an animated comic book complete with picture in picture moments to aid storytelling or instil a sense of urgency during gameplay. Characters models are well drawn & animated & manage to convey a great range of emotion despite speaking a nonsense babbling language. Another thing to note is the superb soundtrack, especially when reading about the real world events. The gorgeous piano score fits well with the tone of the game & is definitely capable of tugging at the heart strings.
• Story, narration & all 5 main characters.
• Art style & animation.
• Amazing score.
• Background info to add context.
• Baron Von Dorf
• Some obscure/illogical puzzles
Overall: At only 15 quid Valiant Hearts: The Great War is well worth a buy. It took me about 8 hours to beat it, but could be done in about 6 if you ignore the collectibles & background info. I thoroughly enjoyed the story & I thought the puzzles are fun, if a bit silly at points. 8/10