Well it been a long time, too long, but finally I’m back guys, and this time I want to talk to you all about a game that’s very dear to me, Valiant Hearts: The Great War. It’s the first game in years that actually made feel, and I mean really feel, and made me want to see it through to the end as if my life depended on it. Gladly my life didn’t depend on it, but the same can’t be said for the game’s characters.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle adventure game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. The game itself is inspired by letters written during World War 1 by the people fighting it and those who also supported the troops. The game revolves around four characters who help a young German soldier find his love in this story of survival, sacrifice, and friendship.
The game is powered by Ubisoft Framework and was released for Microsoft Windows, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One in June 2014, followed later by ports for Android and iOS. It has also previously been released as free to play on PS Plus and Xbox Live Gold.
The game is a 2D side-scrolling puzzle game which takes place during World War 1 putting players in the shoes of four main characters; Emile, the aging Frenchman, Karl, his German son-in-law, Freddie, the American soldier and Anna, the Belgian nurse.
The game is split into four main chapters, which in turn are split into several sections. The player is required to solve logic puzzles to progress through the story, which generally involves finding certain items needed for the situation, although some situations involve surviving heavy gunfire, stealth sections and car chase sequences set to classic pieces of music.
The player is made to interact with objects, perform melee attacks and throw objects such as bricks and grenades. Each character also has a unique trait such as Emile has his trusty shovel to dig through soft soil, Freddie cuts through barbed wire with his shears and with some precise button presses, Anna will treat patients for injuries. To finish off the diverse cast, we have Walt, a dog that can gain access to tight spots, fetch items, activate switches and move past the enemy without arousing suspicion.
In each section, there are also hidden items which unlock real facts and photo’s, which document what actually happened during the war and information on the people involved, which is an interesting addition, and was a major factor to what made me go back and play it after I had finished the main game and help me gain my 100% achievement status. Also, when stuck on a puzzle, the game has a hint system that activates after the player has been stuck on one puzzle for a certain amount of time, should you choose to use it.
Now onto the story. It begins in 1914 as Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, which causes the Austro-Hungarian Empire to declare war on Serbia. Behind allied with Serbia, Russia declares war on Austro-Hungary, and in response, Germany declares war on Russia. Anticipating war, France deports all German citizens. Here we find Karl, one of the many deported Germans being forcibly torn from his dear wife Marie and their son Victor. Karl is then drafted into the German army. In a twist of fate, Marie’s father is also drafted into the French army.
As the game starts, the player is in control of Emile as he takes part in his basic training, which is used as a short tutorial of the controls, before being thrown into The Battle at the Marne, where his unit is immediately wiped out and Emile is shot, wounded and captured, and forced to cook for the Germans. His captor is Baron Von Dorf, who uses advanced weapons, such as chlorine gas and zeppelins to advance the war. In an unbelievable coincidence, Karl is serving under the command of Von Dorf as a soldier and Emile immediately recognizes him. However, Karl is forced to flee the camp with Von Dorf when the allied forces attack. In the ensuing confusion, Emile escapes and meets Freddie; an American who volunteered to join the French army after a bombing raid by Von Dorf killed his wife.
On their journey, Emile and Freddie meet Anna, the Belgian student turned battlefield nurse, and Walt, a Doberman pinscher trained by the German army. Anna’s reason for being there is that her father was kidnapped by Von Dorf, and is being forced to develop advanced weapons of war for him. The three of them follow Von Dorf’s zeppelin from Ypres to Riems. When Von Dorf’s zeppelin crashes, he escapes with Anna’s father in a bi-plane. Surviving the crash of the zeppelin, Karl is captured as a prisoner of war. Anna accompanies Karl in the prison and heals his wounds.
Emile and Freddie persist with their pursuit of Von Dorf, for revenge, and to rescue Anna’s father. They attack Von Dorf at Fort Douaumont at Verdun, and find his newest weapon, a large heavily armoured tank. They manage to rescue Anna’s father, but Von Dorf escapes yet again. Whilst separated from Emile, Freddie pursues Von Dorf and corners him during the Battle of the Somme and gives him a good kicking atop the ruined tank. Finally, despite his desire for revenge, Freddie spares Von Dorf’s life, realizing he has nothing to gain from killing him as that won’t bring his wife back to him. Von Dorf is demoted for his failures, and sent away from the frontlines, which to the power hungry, status-obsessed Von Dorf, is a fate worse than death.
We next find Karl in a prisoner of war camp, where he learns his son is ill. Karl escapes the prison camp and meets Anna. Anna drives Karl to Saint-Mihiel to return to his farm but gets captured by German soldiers occupying the area. Karl manages to escape when allied troops mount an attack and he returns to the farm. Upon reaching the farm, he finds it has been shelled with chlorine gas. To save Marie’s life, he gives his gas mask to her, but in turn, succumbs to the gas. In yet another twist of fate, Anna arrives at the farm and saves Karl’s life. When he finally recovers, Karl is reunited with his wife and son.
Back on the frontlines, Emile is forced to take part in the brutal Nivelle Offensive. Emile finally snaps when his commanding officer constantly sends troops into the line of fire, and hits him with his shovel, killing him in the process. Emile is sentenced to death by firing squad. Before his death, Emile sends a final letter to Marie, telling her of his hatred of war, and wishing that she and her family can find happiness. Sometime later Karl, Marie, and their son visit Emile’s grave, along with Walt the dog to mourn his death. The story ends in 1917 when the United States join the war to fight on the western front.
The whole story is heart-breaking from start to finish and even though a play through only takes around four or five hours to completion, by the time you get there, you will feel absolutely drained by the emotional turmoil the game puts you through. I remember after my first play through, I literally had to sit down for ten minutes just to comprehend what I had just taken part in. I felt like I was there with them, and in turn felt the heartache at the end. If you can play this through and not feel anything, you’re made of stone. This game is obviously a work of true passion by all involved.
The writers have gone above and beyond with the script. Perfectly written dialog, delivered with perfect timing and tone, has you wanting more. This is made even more powerful by the amazing score, which sets the tone of all the scenes. This is all topped off by the gorgeous artwork of Paul Tumelaire, who is also one of the writers and the games co- director, who manages to bring it all to life with a graphic novel style, and characters and backgrounds that look very much like a cross of Herge’s Tin Tin and Asterix. All this combined with beautiful set pieces and engaging puzzles and gameplay, and you get a game that takes you on an amazing journey. The game, in my opinion, is nothing short of a masterpiece and is in my top three games of all-time list. It’s a shame that this game has flown under the radar with most gamers, but I can see that this game will become a cult classic among gamers who have a more niche taste in games.
All I can say to finish is that this is an amazing game that despite being short, still leaves you feeling like you have spent your money wisely and even though getting all of the achievements is fairly easy, you will happily go back and play through certain segments again just to collect everything you can. In conclusion, if you want a shooter that glamourizes the prospect of war, play Call of Duty, or Battlefield, but if you want to take a journey with a group of people who despite not being real you will regard as friends by the end, and you want to feel, and I mean really feel, play Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
Check out the video below to see the best reaction video to the ending of a game I have ever seen, I know how she feels.
Hope to be back soon with more to tickle your taste buds.