Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a beautiful 2D side scrolling puzzle adventure game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier. The game was inspired by letters written during WWI and so is based closely on events in this period.
You play and follow the journeys of four characters. As their stories intertwine, you share in the difficulties, battles, heartache and comradery that it entails. This game really tugs on more than a few heart strings and invokes emotion. You really are glad when they make it through a tight spot and also not so happy when things don’t go as planned. There are few games that still manage to tug at the heart strings, this is one of them.
The story follows actual historical events and interjects these characters into them.
You watch and participate in crucial battles and events of WWI. The game provides numerous facts about the specific scenario you’re involved in. I found myself actually taking the time to sit and read each and every one. They aren’t lengthy and offer a better understanding of the events unfolding before you. They provided greater meaning to the actions and missions you play through. Beyond this, they also make you aware and somewhat heavy hearted concerning the reality of what actually occurred back then.
The animation style feels appropriate and resonates well with era portrayed. It has a simple elegance to it.
The environments, while maintaining bleak undertones, vary enough to keep you paying attention to all of it. It avoids the more vibrant colours except for red of course. I appreciate the tenor this sets, it adheres to the grim epitomes of war. On occasion the music and sound bring a lighter tone but overall they uphold a sombre demeanour that complement the scenarios well.
The puzzle aspect provides a decent challenge and there are also other gameplay elements such as boss battles and vehicle segments to stop gameplay from stagnating. While a few puzzles felt too easy, most maintained a good challenge. The puzzles that ‘got me good’ where usually eloquently simple. I’d wonder around looking intensely at everything in the environment only for the simplicity of it to hit me, leaving me amused at my own over complicating of it. The game provides a simple kind of fun in-between all the solemnity.
I very much enjoy the factual element of the story. While you follow these characters, their humanity is well portrayed as they have their own wants, needs, humility, compassion and sense of loss. You can’t help but feel with them. There are a few unlikely near death scenarios, while this took away from the reality, I was okay with it as you really want all the characters to make it through the war.
Gameplay is simple, the game is more so about the story it tells.
While it does offer fun puzzles and a few action scenes it also gives an important and memorable history lesson that is mostly lost on the younger generations, myself included. It’s nice to see a war game that does not dramatically fantasize this era of history with alien technology, supernaturally armed Nazis or some other sci-fi/fantasy spin on it.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War isn’t that long so I definitely recommend sitting down and giving the game the small amount of time it demands.