Developer(s) – Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher(s) – Ubisoft
Designer(s) – Credic Barthez, Simon Choquet-Botanni, Jean-Francois Le Quere, Gregory Palvadeau, Yannick Patet & Antoine Tous
Producer – Bruno Galet
PEGI – 12
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle game developed by Ubisoft with the use of the same engine incorporated in the making of other games such as Rayman Legend and Child of Light, set in World War I, and told through a number of different perspectives, making for a ton of character development and a great story. However, whilst this may be the best thing about the game, it is also distinctively satisfying and enjoyable to progress through, unlike many different mainstream titles released in recent years.
Graphics – 7.5/10
The visuals are rendered in a cartoony style, somewhat reminiscent of Child of Light, though nowhere near as elegant or beautiful. Instead, they do an unexpectedly excellent job of portraying the horrors of war, and the squalid, horrific environments and conditions that soldiers and citizens alike had to contend with at the time, with documents even provided throughout each level of the game giving in-depth descriptions of such situations, as well as rundowns of what happened during the war at each stage of the game. Though I think the general art direction of the game does take a little of the seriousness out of the game at the same time, the game’s atmosphere and soundtrack outweigh this drawback well enough.
Gameplay – 7/10
The objective of the game is to simply get from point A to point B, all the while solving a multitude of puzzles and finding as many of the game’s numerous hidden collectibles as possible, using multiple playable characters, and even a German detection dog to reach otherwise inaccessible areas. To me, it’s much more unique and variable than most other conventional war games, which all seem to encompass the same objective; shoot everything in sight, capture and area, rinse and repeat.
Controls – 10/10
There are also no issues with the game’s control scheme, which whilst this was most probably to be expected as Ubisoft have worked with the same gaming engine on multiple occasions, the fact of the matter is this game’s control scheme works more differently than the other aforementioned games made with the same engine. It baffles me that so many different kinds of games with different art directions have been made on the same hardware to the point where I can’t wait to see what they possibly do next with it.
Lifespan – 5/10
The game can take around 5 to 6 hours to finish, which is fairly long for a linear game in this day and age, but not overly impressive. I think the developers could have encompassed a wider range of puzzles throughout each stage of the game, or maybe even another side quest along with the collection of hidden trinkets (for example, having the dossiers presented at the beginning of each level being collectible, but there isn’t such a feature, and consequently, the game is made to suffer to an extent because of it in my opinion.
Storyline – 9/10
After the declaration of World War I following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, a German farmer named Karl is called up to fight and separated from his wife Marie and their baby boy Victor. Meanwhile, Marie’s elderly father Emile is called upon to fight for the French, when shortly after, he meets and befriends an American fighting for the French army named Freddie. Later on, a Belgian nurse named Anna joins Emile and Freddie along with a detector dog called Walt as they resolve to survive the war and find Karl to reunite him with his wife and child. The story focuses on such themes as love, friendship and the will to survive, and is portrayed in an extremely realistic manner, as well as in an elegant and emotionally charged one.
Originality – 7/10
Ever Since I first played this game, I’ve been hoping that more war games continue to defy convention like this game clearly has, and help them to go beyond being something encompassed into one single genre of gaming, which had already been long since established and refined before the arrival of overrated and generic series’ such as Call of Duty. With the way the market is at the moment, it seems unlikely, but innovation is always happening within the indie gaming scene, which gives me hope for the future.
Overall, Valiant Hearts isn’t one of the most engaging games I’ve ever played, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting ones to portray the themes and settings it does. Perhaps one day there may be a different war game released to more effectively provide entertainment, but this game does that far better than most other war games I’ve ever played.