Hearts & Minds
There’s something about a game with some heart that has always appealed to me. Even titles with the most boring and mundane mechanics, visuals and overall gameplay still have the potential to win me over if the game includes a bit of emotion or characters that I can grow attached to. After seeing the short preview for Valiant Hearts: The Great War at Ubisoft’s E3 press conference, I must admit I thought that this would be one of those games that offers little more than a semi deep story. Man was I wrong.
Taking on the role of several different characters this adorably animated puzzle platformer has you moving across battlefields, trenches and cities in the midst of World War 1. The puzzles themselves have just the right level of challenge and logic to them and are reminiscent of those you would find in Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee and The Lost Vikings sometimes requiring the use of multiple characters and their speciality. And the most beautiful bit is that each puzzle doesn’t feel as though it’s there just for the sake of it. Instead they feel as though they belong there. They tie in to the story seamlessly and because you feel a deep attachment to the characters in Valiant Hearts you don’t need any encouragement to solve each problem. Helping out these cute little sprites is the only reason you need to keep playing.
The game follows the story of a family torn apart by war. Karl, a German married to a French girl is deported from France and eventually drafted into the German Army. Days later Karl’s father in law Emile is then drafted into the French army where he meets and befriends Freddie, an American with his own personal agenda, a battlefield nurse named anna searching for her kidnapped father and a german shepherd. As the paths of each character cross and intertwine a tragic story of struggle, friendship and family unravels and despite the animated style and the Sims type gibberish dialogue you are easily drawn in to the plight of these characters.
In addition to all of this, as the player you’re given an in depth understanding of the horrors of The Great War. Chemical warfare, battlefield medical treatment, prisoners of war, civilian casualties. It’s all there and no matter how difficult it may be to comprehend what life in Europe was like back then, this game tells those tales in a remarkable way. It sounds very cliché but this game really does make you think.
Valliant Hearts is by no means a blockbuster title. It’s not a game that will have you coming back for months and months. But it is a game that you will remember, and more should be made like it.
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platforms: PC (Reviewed), Xbox One, PS4, PS3 and 360
A review copy of the game was provided by the publisher