Daily updates on video games and popular culture, along with Australia’s grooviest gaming podcast.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review

Posted by Peter Nickless On Wednesday 23 July 2014Comments Off

Available on XBO, PS4, PC, 360 and PS3 l Published by Ubisoft l Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier l Classified PG l Supports 1 player

REVIEW IN BRIEF > Valiant Hearts places an emphasis on storytelling over gameplay, but that’s okay when the whole experience is as enjoyable as this. You’ll feel the human impact of war on the characters as they strive to maintain family and friendship and delight in the beautiful art style and emotive music on offer.  While simple to play and easy to complete, Valiant Hearts will stay with you long after you have reached the end of your first play-through.

REVIEW IN FULL > Ubisoft Montpellier has definitely been on a winner since unveiling its UbiArt Framework with Rayman Origins. This system allows for hand drawn art to be used seamlessly in games like never before. Valiant Hearts uses this tool well to bring a clean European comic book aesthetic to the grim and foreboding theatres of World War I.

Each chapter opens with a narration and an arrestingly animated sequence giving immediate context and emotion to the level to be played. You’ll likely be charmed and delighted by these set-ups, which continually propel you forward in a desire to engage these characters through the simple but enjoyable gameplay.

The storyline is engrossing, captivating and stunningly told, and always places the human element first…

The game tells its story through the eyes of the various characters you play.  You start as the Frenchman Emile who has been drafted for the war effort.  His first level is also used to show you the game mechanics. You solve simple puzzles, such as collecting the right items from people in a train station or running though battle avoiding falling bombs and climbing over obstacles.

Your role then swaps to the American Freddie as he too must fight. Anna, a nurse, must try to reach the front line, healing soldiers as she goes, in the hope of finding her husband Karl, who has been forced to fight on the German side. The wider storyline is engrossing, captivating and stunningly told, and always places the human element first in your mind, even when you’re chasing the dastardly villain of the piece, Baron von Dorf.

The game generally consists of areas in which simple puzzles must be solved and fetch quests undertaken. Switches must be collected, or items found in a particular order around the map and it’s all very simple. This is not the kind of game where you will get stuck or frustrated. It wants you to progress and it is no less fun for doing so.

After a while the lack of overall variety can begin to tell, but there are also driving levels and boss fights to add some level of challenge to the mix. The greatest joy comes purely from experiencing the world on offer. You’ll be continually charmed by the small touches and the moving moments that characters face as their stories progress. Using the wonderfully disarming dog to collect gas masks and rescue people is something you’ll almost certainly remember for a long time.

Each level contains collectibles in the form of artefacts, and photos of WWI are also unlocked as you progress. These provide background to real life events and help to create the right amount of verisimilitude as you are drawn further into the harsh conditions of war. Key historical moments like the gas attacks at Ypres and the waste of life at the Somme are incorporated into the gameplay and impact the characters’ lives. Civilians are shown to be affected by this new form of warfare just as much as the soldiers stuck in the trenches.

Using the wonderfully disarming dog to rescue people is something you’ll almost certainly remember for a long time.

Graphically, this game impresses with its subtleties. While not packing the vibrant visual punch of the Rayman games, its muted colours and clean lines display a thoughtful sense of design and style. It’s hard not to be continually absorbed into this world because it is so well communicated through its artwork. The subtleties and animations are so thoroughly beguiling.

Music adds a lot of depth to the experience and is tastefully used. It ebbs and flows throughout the game and builds the emotional depth of the cut-scenes. While the characters converse in a languageless babble, the voiced narration for the overall story is exceptional.

Valiant Hearts is a wonderful game, both for the way it presents itself and for the emotional depth of the experience it creates. While not very challenging in gameplay terms, it brings a clear sense of character and story to the puzzle platform genre and is the most enjoyable game of its type since Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.

Related Posts

Comments are closed.