War makes men mad.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platform: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS4, Ps3, PC, iOS, Android
Reviewed On: Xbox One
I don’t know a lot about World War I other than it might be the focus of EA’s next Battlefield game. I do know that it hasn’t been the focal setting of many games, whereas World War II has been heavily played out. The developers at Ubisoft Montpellier strove to change this fact – those behind Rayman Legends and Child of Light – and have brought us an artistic title that takes place in 1914 as Germany declares War on Russia.
Valiant Hearts is a game about War, but not a War game. The story follows the path of four characters: the Frenchman Emile, his German son-in-law Karl, American soldier Freddie, and a Belgian nurse named Anna. The main focus of the story is Karl, as he is deported from France, separated from his wife Marie and child, and then drafted into the German army. Marie’s father, and Karl’s father-in-law Emile is drafted into the French army. What follows is a tale of Karl and Emile fighting the war on opposing sides, crossing paths occasionally, and trying to survive. Freddie, an American soldier who volunteered to join the French army fights alongside Emile, and they all cross paths with Anna, a Belgian student / battlefield nurse, and Walt, a Doberman Pinscher dog, throughout the tale.
The game is broken up into 4 different parts, and each part consisting of 6-7 chapters, each following the path of the different characters interwoven through the different stages of the war. The tale concludes in 1917.
VALIANT HEARTS IS A GAME ABOUT WAR
BUT NOT A WAR GAME
Valiant Hearts is a 2D animated puzzle based game. Before progressing through each chapter, the character we’re playing needs to complete certain objectives. These puzzles generally involve obtaining certain items needed for that situation and delivered to the correct people or used to open a new stage. There is little to no dialogue in the game, and the NPCs in the game will just display a picture of the object or action required. In the wartime segments of the game, the player has to survive gunfire segments from enemy soldiers or planes, bombing runs, and stealth levels where the player has to avoid the patrols of enemy soldiers, by hiding in shadowed areas.
Some of these segments are really when done, for example when running through the fields at night during a bombing run, to avoid enemy signs, you need to run when the sky is dark. When the bombs hit, they will light up the stage, so you need to make sure you’re hidden.
There is no gunplay during the game, but there are times the player needs to use a melee attack to knock out an unsuspecting guard. The player will need to punch through debris that may be blocking the path or throw dynamite to clear areas or throw an object to break a window. Each character that we play also has different traits. Emile has a shovel, and can dig through soft dirt to avoid gunfire or planted explosives, Freddie carries shears to cut through barb-wire barricades, and Anna is able to treat injuries, which is done through quick-time events.
CARTOONY, BUT NOT-FOR-KIDS CARTOONY
Another example is a stage where we’re stuck inside a house that has been the focus of a chemical attack. We’re wearing a gas mask, but inside, all that’s visible is the green smog. We need to find windows and smash them to help vent the gas so that we can see then next area.
The dog, Walt, is also utilized throughout the campaign. He can be commanded to fetch objects or activate switches. The enemy soldiers ignore him, so he’s utilized to grab items behind enemy lines.
The art is all hand drawn and animated and cartoony, but not-for-kids cartoony, and it’s evident that Ubisoft has put a lot of love into the art and design of this game, and invested time to tell a tale about survival, sacrifice, and friendship. The game is inspired by real letters written during the events of World War 1 and throughout the game the player unlocks facts about the history of the War, and collectibles with their own unique history.
The campaign is a fairly lengthy affair, for a game of its type, and it does play a bit slow. Some of the wartime segments are completed through trial and error, but the puzzles are fairly straight forward. The game even has a hint system in place if you get stuck at a certain segment for too long. As well, the narration between chapters can be a bit dry, but that comes with telling a sombre tale of War.
Perfect for those that like illustrated games, World War narratives, or playing fetch with the dog.
On the achievement front, the game is very generous. There are some story related ones that can’t be missed, and some for collectibles. The others are for completing a segment perfectly or going beyond the call of duty, and these are almost too generous, considering the difficulty of the game. The issue is the XBOX One’s default 1000G per game regardless of their triple A or indie status. Some of these achievement are miss-able, and you’ll need to restart that chapter.
Brothers’ Keeper (Save your entire platoon during the battle of Somme) – 70G
King of the Hill 145 (Shoot the German flag with the cannon at Vimy’s Ridge) – 55G