Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review
|ESRB rating: RP
release date: Jun 25, 14
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Most games about war make the insane violence fun, more fun than it should be. Valiant Hearts: The Great War takes a completely different approach, and not just with gameplay. Instead of giving gamers the pleasure of shooting the enemy in nasty ways, such as Wolfenstein: The New Order, players are shown the true horrors and sadness of war. Ubisoft Montpellier chose World War I for that upbeat setting, a war that doesn’t get much mention in video games or movies, but was one of the most horrific battles across Europe thanks to trench warfare and the Germans’ experiments with chlorine gas bombs. Players will get to discover the delight all that has to offer, and never once will their characters shoot someone in the face.
Say your prayers!
It's gonna fire any second, isn't it?
Valiant Hearts is a point-and-click puzzle game that stars four different characters all brought together by the sad fate of World War I. Karl is a German living in France, who is exiled back to Germany at the start of the war. Once he returns to his homeland, he is drafted into the army. His father-in-law, Emile, is also drafted into the French army. Emile befriends an American, Freddie, who is fighting in the French army to avenge his wife murdered by the war. Anna is a veterinary student studying in Belgium whose scientist father was kidnapped by Baron von Dorf of the German army to help Germany develop weapons of mass destruction. She befriends Emile and Freddie while traveling to Germany to rescue her father. Emile also befriends a war dog, who becomes quite vital in solving nearly every puzzle the game has to offer.
Each character has their own special “ability” when it comes to solving puzzles. Freddie carries bolt cutters with him at all times, allowing him to cut through nasty razor wire when needed. Emile often has a shovel, ideal for digging tunnels and trenches throughout the French landscape. Now the dog has the most abilities and therefore, he is the most useful. He will bark at anything you shouldn’t go near, for starters, not that that ever stopped me from stepping on a landmine or walking into gas. The player can also order the dog to travel via little doggy tunnels, which will either place the dog in an area that the character can’t reach or help the dog avoid attempting travel via ladder. The dog can also fetch items, collectibles, distract guards, and activate levels when asked to. It’s no wonder that the Germans favored these pooches so much.
For the most part, the puzzles are fairly simple and many are rather straightforward. Like point-and-click adventure games, the puzzles revolve around finding objects and using them to get past a particular obstacle. Often, it requires throwing said object, like throwing dynamite through a flame to light it and throwing it with enough accuracy to land where you want it to detonate. Or throwing a wine bottle to distract a guard so the character can sneak up on him and knock him out.
At about halfway through the game, I was a little bored with the puzzles given. They were not only quite obvious, but they weren’t that complicated either. I wasn’t counting on Portal-like puzzles, especially since the game is a sidescroller, but I was looking for something a bit more complex, such as the puzzles found in Broken Age or the King’s Quest games. It’s in the last half that the puzzles evolve a bit more. You’re still basically performing more of the same--you never really learn many more game mechanics than those given within the first 30-45 minutes--but what you are supposed to do to achieve your goal is not as obvious. You know what you need to do, but it’s less clear how to do so. I got a bit stuck a couple of times in this back half, and I had to rely on the game’s hint system to point me in the right direction. Yes, there is a hint system. Ubisoft does not want you to rage quit due to frustration.
The game focuses more on atmosphere than action, which is brilliantly played in the gorgeous 2D art and music;
Puzzles are repetitive and will be considered by most to be too easy, and as such, the replayability factor is quite low.