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Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

A Valiant Review

Disclaimer: I played this game on PC and other playthroughs may yield different results.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War follows four soldiers and a dog as they battle their way through the First World War. The stories of the four characters are intertwined and very frequently they find fate keeps bringing them back together. It starts with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and touches subjects like soldiers being drafted, and the invention of the tank, as well as the turning points of the war with battles such as Vimy Ridge.

The amount of respect that Ubisoft Montpellier shows for the people that actually fought in the war is honourable. There are so many historical facts in the game, not only through gameplay but also from a historical tab page in the menu. In this menu are short paragraphs about the battles you play, as well as other things such as soldiers moral during the battle and so on.

The art style of this game was very well chosen. It has a charming comic book aesthetic which is bleak yet comforting. The colour palette is very dull, with drained blues, greens, and browns yet very vibrant bright reds.

This game has a story that is very compelling. The characters are constantly being dealt a bad hand, yet keep managing to come out on top. The main theme of the story is finding hope where there is no hope to find. This comes through very well. Some moments can be dark, some happy and others gruesome but there is always that glimmer of hope, that spot of red in an otherwise dull and bleak background. A lot of this story is driven with very fitting music, whether it is a depressing song in a serious moment or an uplifting song during a fun moment. It all helps drive the emotions that the developers want from the player.
Although the story is very well written, and well executed I find that they pull a lot of punches. The story is about finding hope where there is none to find, but I felt that some of these moments could have felt a little more hopeless, or a little more realistic. For this game being set in one of the most horrific wars in humanity there weren’t many sections where I felt that the permanent death of my character was a serious possibility.

This is a puzzle game that feels like an action-adventure game. The fact that the developers managed to succeed in doing such a feat is amazing to say the least. Not only that, but they don’t get stuck in the trope of holding the players hand. The game demands that the players know their surroundings and doesn’t assume that the player is an idiot. Although they did add a hint feature so if you couldn’t understand a puzzle then you could get some help. Sometimes this is mandatory as some of the puzzles can be very cryptic (although I could just be an idiot). Though the difficulty is high on the puzzles, completing them without a hint feels extremely rewarding in its own right.

            Not everything is a puzzle though, and some moments are very streamline. These moments can be some of the best because the music is recognizable and uplifting while the gameplay is quite humorous as well. These parts, although a rarity, always managed to put a smile on my face and even make me laugh. Even some of the more depressing sections could be fun, like playing the battle of Vimy Ridge. For me as a Canadian that made me extremely happy to be a part of.

            At times the game can be extremely tense, and make me feel like I need to be faster because something is at risk. These moments, however, are usually ruined by taking the wrong turn and finding a dead end, or even from an overly difficult puzzle. This becomes increasingly apparent as the game begins to climax. There were also visual and technical glitches, although the technical ones are very rare, and the visual glitches never really ruined any moments for me.

            War affects so many people, both on the front line, and back at the homestead. This game really makes you appreciate what soldiers went through during not only the First World War, but every war before and after. Soldiers live a very different life from the average person. They all put their lives on the line for something bigger than them, bigger than everyone. They fight to give others a chance, to give us the freedom and liberty to make our own choices. It shows the struggle that these human beings endure to give us a better life. These people may be forsaken, but they will never be forgotten and games like Valiant Hearts: The Great War give them the respect they deserve while also sending a meaningful message to those that play it. That message is that there will always be hope, no matter how hopeless a situation is, there is always hope that things will get better.


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