Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review.

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Valiant Hearts shows a wonderful amount of respect and appreciation for the time period.
Valiant Hearts shows a wonderful amount of respect and appreciation for the time period.

The first world war is a period of history that isn't all too often recreated in video game form, you're much more likely to see another world war two shooter hit the market. However in many respects the bloody first world war that lasted between 1914 and 1918 was a turning point in the history of mankind and witnessed development in a great many areas of warfare, medicine, communication and so much more. It's surprising we see so little of that terrible era recreated in video games because if anything, Ubisoft's Valiant Hearts proved that there are many wonderful, tragic, heart warming and sad tales to tell.

Developed using Ubisoft's UbiArts Framework engine, the same engine powering the likes of Rayman Origin/Legends and Child of Light, Valiant Hearts tells the tales of life in the first world war through the perspective of a group of characters all affected by the war in some manner. From Karl, who whilst tending a farm with his wife Marie and child Victor is deported back to Germany to help fight the war after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, to Marie's father Emile who is soon sent to fight in the French army. Then there's Anna, a medical student living in Paris, France at the outbreak of war and Freddie a tough soldier who fights for revenge after the loss of a loved one. The tale of these few people covers the vast years of the war, capturing both the horror and immense loss of life suffered in those four years of war.

The tale of Emile, Karl, Anna, Freddie and Walt is one I won't be forgetting any time soon.
The tale of Emile, Karl, Anna, Freddie and Walt is one I won't be forgetting any time soon.

At its root Valiant Hearts is a simple puzzle game, but I'd be doing it a disservice to simply call it a puzzle game, for it is so much more. The simple puzzles are a welcomed distraction here and there, but there most certainly not the reason why Valiant Hearts stands out as a breathtaking experience of the horrors of war. Whilst its unique art style might be what you take notice of first, it quickly becomes apparent the amount of respect and research put into many areas of the game. Collecting items scattered around the level provides descriptions of a great many aspects of the war from the advancements made in medicine to the awful effects (and actions taken to prevent) chemical warfare.

In many respects Valiant Hearts attempts and succeeds at teaching players about the history of the first world war through specially written extracts that are viewable per level, covering a large sway of areas affected by war. It's this attempt to be both attractive as a video game and to teach a little bit of knowledge to players that I can't help but praise Ubisoft in somehow succeeding to do so.

As previously mentioned the art style is what might catch the eye at first with its somewhat odd joyfulness, yet it somehow captures the gritty horrors of war seen in so many photos taken from the war. There's a real charm to the imagery throughout, without it looking like it's not appreciating the source material and horrors of the time. It results in a game that's just as captivating from a visual standpoint as it does from a story standpoint. While not a particularly long tale, the story of Emile, Karl, Anna, Freddie and the ever loyal Doberman pinscher Walt is one I can't recommend enough and something I'd love to see more of in the industry. Having been a long believer that story is an essential component of a well rounded and splendid game, I'm happy to say Valiant Hearts proves this like no other game before it. Even if history might not be your main interest when jumping into Valiant Hearts: The Great War, there's more than enough heart and passion to win over anyone who gives it a try of their own.

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