Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Xbox One)

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Thursday, July 3, 2014

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is, on the surface, a simplistic side scrolling puzzle adventure game, but when you delve deeper into the game, its focus on war is exceptional and thought provoking. While most games set during times of war and conflict set you on a path to kill everything that moves, while doing all it can to leave no room for reflection, Valiant Hearts does a great job of making you sit back and reflect on what happens in each level.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War puts you in command of four different characters that are all intertwined during World War I. After the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand catapulted Europe into war and Germany subsequently declares war on Russia, many European countries began deporting German citizens. Karl – one of your players – is deported from France (leaving behind his wife and daughter) and then drafted into the German army. Emile, Marie’s father, is likewise drafted, but into the French army. You’ll also play as Eddie, an American soldier, and Anna, a Belgian student who’s also a battlefield nurse.

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Over the course of the game, you’ll be tasked with completing levels through many famous fights. As I stated earlier, there’s no true combat, as such, in Valiant Hearts. You’ll have some fun puzzle solving to advance, and you are able to melee an unsuspecting guard or two, but there’s no shooting (aside from a minor mission involving a tank) and no true killing.

While being a fun puzzle solving game, one of the biggest appeals to me was its focus on historical facts, too. Before each level you’re given a prompt to check out (if you so choose) a bunch of facts about the battle you’re taking part in and general facts about the war. In one level, you’re battling through Douaumont Fort, while another you’re experiencing the fright of making it through a battlefield laced with chlorine gas. It’s both captivating and tragic.

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When it comes to the puzzles themselves, they aren’t overly difficult to solve, and when they were difficult, I never felt frustrated to the point that it would detract from my immersion in the story. You can also enable hints that span out from bare-bones tips of what you’re supposed to do to fully solving the puzzle for you. It takes a minute between tips, so you’re given plenty of time to solve it yourself rather than taking the easy way out. Whether you’re digging trenches, using your dog companion to fetch items and collectables (I’ll get to the latter in a second) or safecracking, there’s a ton of variety, even if the challenges aren’t too demanding. My favorite puzzle involved escaping from a POW camp at night and sneaking past spotlights and guard posts.

To go along with the historical facts at the beginning of each level, you’re also given a ton of collectables to discover. There are over one hundred collectables (I think the final number is around one hundred and twenty-three) to obtain, with no two being the same. Each collectable also doubles as a fact from WWI, adding another layer of depth to the game.

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One of the other aspects that I enjoyed most about Valiant Hearts is its art direction. Its unique style was gorgeous in the beginning as you peruse through rural France, but it’s equally as gorgeous in its depth in later levels as you make your way through more intricate levels during trench warfare. More importantly, the art style never dampens the sense of horror and despair in the game.

One of the few places the game stumbles is with its flat villain – Baron Von Dorf. One of the points the story goes to great lengths to emphasize is the universal horror of war and how it affected people of all nationalities. Because of that emphasis, it seems such a waste to create such a shallow character that ends up being more caricature than character.

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While the games campaign isn’t overly long (around six to eight hours depending on how thorough you are finding collectables), its attention to detail, art style and unique focus on the emotions of war really make Valiant Hearts stand out. Valiant Hearts is more focused on how people are affected by the horrific violence of WWI rather than having you recreate it. Because of this, you’re able to get a deeper amount of immersion than most war games aim to give you. For some this might be discouraging, but for those who aren’t immediately discouraged should definitely buy this game. Even if you’re not sold, you won’t find many games more-worthy of your fifteen dollars.

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Valiant Hearts focuses on how lives are torn apart, how anyone can be a hero and how you can never underestimate madness. It’s a small-scale humanized perspective of the war and succeeds at salvaging those little acts of heroism and love from a world overcome by incredible and unfathomable violence.

Valiant Hearts is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC. For more information on Valiant Hearts, please check out the following http://valianthearts.ubi.com/game/en-gb/home/index.aspx.

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The Good

+ Gripping narrative of the war using a unique perspective.

+ Fantastic art style.

+ Addition of detailed history into each level.

+ Tons of collectables.


The Bad

- Lack of challenge for most of the puzzles.

- Lackluster villain.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War
Verdict9

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