VALIANT HEARTS: THE GREAT WAR
By Dennis "CallMeBackdraft" Aspers on October 26, 2015
XBox's Games with Gold had a very nice surprise for us in store this month. As a free game, they not only provided us with the complete first season of TellTale Games' The Walking Dead series, but also with a game I've been meaning to play for quite some time now, but never seemed to get around to: Valiant Hearts.
Between 1914 and 1918 the first world war raged through Europe, and several other countries worldwide. Over 17 million dead and many more injured men, women and children had to be mourned. It's a history of pain and suffering, but also of overcoming hardships, dear friends and extreme bravery. So, let's delve a little deeper into the lives of five of these Valiant Hearts.
Valiant Hearts tells the stories of Emile, Freddy, Karl, Anne and their trusty four legged companion Walt. When we got to play this game we were unaware of the fun this game would bring us. But even though it put a smile on our faces a good number of times, right after it would put us in our place and confront us with the drama, frustration and most of all the tragedy of the war that was raging, ever present all around us.
This side-scrolling puzzle adventure game, developed by Ubisoft is a real treat to play. Though the puzzles are not all that hard and if you are struggling, the game will give you the option to use a hint, the story is fantastic, as is the art-style and the in-game music. And although you may not suspect it at first glance, Valiant Hearts is an immersive experience like none we've ever seen in the 2D side-scrolling genre. The story-telling is done magnificently, which creates a bond between player and character, even to a point where you really start genuinely caring what happens to the character. The sympathy you feel for the characters you control, makes you think twice before rushing headlong into a fight.
Valiant Hearts has solid gameplay and fantastic scenery which, while this is a 2D side-scrolling game, adds a lot of depth to the beautiful artwork and environments you see on your screen. And even though it is a game about war, you as a player will not fire a single bullet. Ok, granted, you'll get to throw some dynamite around, but you won't actually fire a gun. You guide your characters through different kinds of levels that demand a different approach from level to level, sometimes alone and other times as a team. During these levels, you will find out how each of the characters is influenced by the war and how they relate to each other. While Emile is drafted, Karl is deported to Germany and Freddie lost his wife to the war, after being married for just a couple of minutes. Anne is not a warrior; she is a healer, in search of her scientist father, who has been captured by the Germans and is forced to work on their sickening war machines. Walt is a dog of war, trained to be just that. And, may we add, he is a damn good friend.
During and especially after playing this game, you will most likely realize that the main reason of existence for this game is to tell a story; not only does it tell the fictional story of the characters you control, but also provides you with the harsh and sometimes disturbing facts of the First World War. As you progress through the game, you will find pieces of information, scattered across the level. Collect these and you will be able to build up a compendium of World War 1 facts. So, in essence, Valiant hearts is not just a side-scrolling adventure, but also raises awareness for the atrocities, committed during WWI. And believe me when I tell you, Valiant Hearts does this very well; it is somewhat of an emotional roller coaster, but all things said and done, we can look at it as an homage to the men, women and children that fought, nursed and cried during the 4 years, 3 months and 2 weeks of pure human brutality that was the First World War.
We would recommend this game to just about anybody; people that are interested in history, people that like puzzle games, people that like side scrolling adventure games and so on, and so on. Just keep in mind, this game can and most likely will hit an emotional nerve or two.
VALIANT HEARTS: THE GREAT WAR
June 24, 2014