Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Valiant Hearts: The Great War was revealed only a few weeks ago at E3 and too much surprise released pretty quickly. It’s the fourth game to use the UbiArt Framework engine (after Rayman Origins/Legends and Child of Light) and the second to be developed by Ubisoft Montpellier.
When you think of puzzle adventure games, the last place you’d expect to be thrown into would be that of the First World War. A bloody, gritty and quite frankly horrific period that in other games would have you spend the entire time behind a rifle, playing as a clichéd ‘hero’, murdering very realistic enemies controlled by mouthy 12 year olds, who are plaguing you every five seconds. Not with Valiant Hearts.
This is game that finally deals with the horrors of war intelligently. While both allies and enemies fall around you, you are never pushed into violence throughout your adventure. It’s a 2D puzzle game that is both simple and clever at the same time. Most of these are environmental, using your equipment and surroundings to progress through the quite stunning levels that the UbiArt Engine can produce. Scattered in between the puzzles are mini games that will have you dodging, driving and escaping from enemies and explosives alike.
The most gripping part of Valiant Hearts is not the gameplay however, but the story and subject matter that Ubisoft Montpellier deals with. The First World War is often forgotten about in gaming, primarily due the popularity of the Second World War and more recently, modern warfare. The narrative is taken directly from actual letters that were sent during the Great War. This really adds to atmosphere of the game, playing through a scene that was a reconstruction based on a letter that the recipient wouldn’t receive until months after it’s happened.
The game also can be fairly funny and lighthearted in parts. And looks both beautiful and colourful in areas where other games would be grey and dark. There is also an educational part to the game, with photos to collect that give you a visual representation of what this game is based on. The soldiers (and dog) you follow throughout Valiant Hearts have different ideas and stories that you play out brilliant, all with any characters speaking a single world, just animated expertly in what is slowly becoming one of my favourite engines. This all builds up to a brilliant tear jerker of an ending that left feeling emotionally drained by the time I was done.
Valiant Hearts is a unique game, maybe not in style or substance, but in the way that it deals with the popular concept of war and gives it a more human, more personal experience. It really makes it point well and stands out in a market of military shooters that have about as much emotion in them as a brick. These are the sort of games that really give you something truly different to experience. Buy it. It’s great.