The Strongest Bond

Ubisoft aren’t holding back when it comes to releasing smaller indie titles and blockbuster hits. Recently we’ve had Child of Light breeze on by (and receive quite a lot of praise) and in under two weeks Watch Dogs releases. Both by the same publisher with two completely different visions. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is another title coming very soon that adds to the diverse and unique range of games Ubisoft are releasing and I had the chance to go hands on with it recently and just like Child of Light – I was left very impressed.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War takes place during the first World War. If you’ve done any bit of history in high school you should know the general premise of what’s going on here. I’m a history nut and playing through Valiant Hearts was an excellent experience, not only because it put me into a world I had studied so vastly years ago but because it plays out such a serious undertone in a quirky and enjoyable way. Every war is a consequence of action and it always costs thousands of lives. There’s no mistaking that it’s one of the most serious and saddening things we live with as humans on planet earth. We’ve seen many games replicate the struggle and heroisms of war (a.k.a Call of Duty, Medal of Honor etc) and while I enjoy those games and the story they aim to tell, Valiant Hearts explores war in a very different way. When I came into Ubisoft I expected a game that was dark and gritty, but what I got was a different style of that combining both grit and humor together into one unique and enjoyable experience. The game doesn’t take itself incredibly seriously and that’s shown by the way the characters mumble and gibber around, but on the other hand the game depicts a world gone mad and the Nazi regime attempting to take over the world. Combining two entirely different spectrums of human emotion is something so unique and enjoyable that by the time the preview was over I was craving for more. Valiant Hearts is so unique at heart (no pun intended) that the way the team have managed to balance the seriousness of the situation and the way it is played out is genuinely first class. Mix that in with the unlockable diary entries that tell the real story of the situation you’ve just completed and you’ve got an excellent history lesson and a game all in one.

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Valiant Hearts runs on the UbiArt Framework Engine which has helmed other Ubi titles like Rayman Origins, Legends and Child of Light. What struck me very quickly was the way the art design is so different to the other titles that I’ve seen run on the engine. Valiant Hearts looks more like a quirky animated film than it does a game and that’s an entirely good thing. Where Child of Light felt (and looked) like a blissful painting of a fairytale, Valiant Hearts feels like a 2D animated adventure. The way the game looks contrasts so heavily with the subject matter as well and I really enjoyed that. I love the fact that this game looks the way it does and that it doesn’t fall into the gritty grey’s and blacks that other war titles have used before it. It establishes its own identity and it’s something that will pop for many gamers upon booting up the game for the first time.

The actual gameplay in Valiant Hearts is very similar to Child of Light (minus the flying). You navigate the 2D (mixed in with 3D) world and interact with objects and complete puzzles. It’s nothing new to the genre but that’s not a bad thing. The puzzles I played through didn’t seem too difficult and I managed to breeze through them after a small bit of thinking. Using weapons is somewhat like the old Worms games as you basically aim with a guide and throw whatever you’re holding, whether that be a grenade or TNT. It’s all very simple but at the same time it’s quite easy to get a hold of and really lets the story take the spotlight. I’m glad that Ubisoft Montpellier decided to not make the game’s controls too complicated as it’s clear that the story is at the forefront of the experience and it allowed me just to sit back and take in what was on offer throughout each scenario presented. Another part of the game that truly impressed me was the soundtrack. I’m a big fan of soundtracks in video games and Valiant Hearts’ soundtrack was full of emotion and hard-hitting music that established the mood very quickly and had me caring for everything that was happening on screen. I can see this being one of the best parts about the game as it truly adds to the immersion and establishes such a rich and emotional tone that it’s hard not to care about everything that’s happening with your valiant protagonists.

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While I only had the opportunity to play as three (out of five) of the protagonists in the game, I enjoyed every moment I had with them. It seems like each of their stories overlap over time and are explored in an interesting and unique way. They also have different abilities that can be used to navigate the puzzles (or problems) presented in the game. Each of the characters didn’t feel too different from one another but their unique abilities made for enough difference to make it enjoyable and not feel repetitive. There were also some great mini-game like sequences that I enjoyed with a big smile on my face. I really hope that these sequences are littered throughout the final game as I enjoyed every moment of them and was yearning for more when they had finished. I’m hopeful that the diversity explored within the preview of Valiant Hearts rings true in the final game because I genuinely had a lot of fun exploring each characters abilities and their overlapping stories during the crisis of World War 1.

While most of the game played like a breeze there were a couple of bugs that came to fruition during my playthrough. The most prominent one was an invisible wall that had blocked me from continuing my progress throughout the chapter but I’m sure that they’ll be ironed out before release. Other than that though, there weren’t many problems at all with my experience and I truly enjoyed my time with Valiant Hearts.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is looking like another gem from Ubisoft as it presents a wonderful, coherent story about the grim world of World War 1 whilst mixing in a quirky art style and an enchanting soundtrack. As a history nut, I’m truly excited to see what the game offers when it releases on the 25th of June. While there were a couple of little bugs that hindered my immersion, Valiant Hearts: The Great War looks like an excellent game that’ll tell an emotional story about the hardships of war in a unique and enjoyable way. I’m certainlexcited to see more on the game come release and if you’re into anything to do with World War 1 or are even into great storytelling – you might want to keep an eye on this one.

Valiant Hearts will be available on Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PS4 and PC Digitally June 25th 2014.