Valiant Hearts: The Great War – PlayStation 4 (PSN)
Platform: Sony PlayStation 4
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Nerd Rating: 9/10
The key to any great game is an amazing story. Graphics and innovation alone cannot hold a game up to greatness. While both are important in their own way, they should not be held more important than the story the game is trying to tell. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one such game whose driving force is its touching story, but it also has the added advantage of being artistically stunning.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War follows the heart-touching story of four unlikely friends and their faithful dog companion. Their stories are intertwined in a complicated web amidst the backdrop of the front line of World War I. In order to return to their loved ones, these friends must find a way to survive the great war.
This heart-wrenching story is told through a series of action-based puzzles. Each character has their own dedicated set of skills that you will use to solve the puzzles that present themselves. Puzzles can range from finding a way to save one of the friends from certain death to bringing a German officer his beer and sausages.
I cannot say enough good things about this game. Valiant Hearts has artwork that is stunning, it is respectful towards the history behind the game and tells an amazing story that made me both smile and cry. The music of this game had the same effect. While Valiant Hearts made excellent use of a full orchestra for the majority of the game, the game’s use of a solitary piano playing haunting, yet beautiful music is still what sticks out in my mind. The scenes with the piano usually hint at something really bad about to happen and an impending emotional rollercoaster ride. This game is an artistic masterpiece in many meanings of the word.
For the most part, all of the levels are unique in both design and purpose. Most levels will be set during a specific battle in World War I. In one level you could be driving across France in a Model T avoiding falling bombs but, in the next you could be trying to survive in the trenches. Admittedly, the trench levels can get a bit repetitive but this isn’t a huge issue because they serve to build up to a unique ending to that same level.
Without clear dialogue from the characters, it is vital that the artwork can speak for itself. The team of artists behind Valiant Hearts did a wonderful job of creating wonderfully artistic world that speaks so well with the story. The art is just as much a part of the story as the main characters are. For me, this made the game feels that much more immersive.
While Valiant Hearts comes across as cartoon-ish at times, it is very respectful of the history that the game is based upon. Much like the Animus Database feature in Assassin’s Creed, Valiant Hearts provides pages upon pages of historical context that enriches the story, but isn’t necessary to understanding the game. One of my favorite features of the historical journal is the colorization of famous World War I photographs. I’m a gigantic history nerd, so the fact that they colorized these photos made my nerdy feelings weep with joy (a bit off topic, but if you’re interested in colorized history you should really check out the History Channel’s Blood and Glory: The Civil War in Color).
We are all very familiar that World War I was not a time of great happiness, but there are heart touching stories that pop up that humanizes the soldiers and the war (The Christmas Truce). Valiant Hearts‘ characters have tragic stories that only get more tragic as the game continues, but through the tragedy, there are nuggets of love and joy. One of the things that Valiant Hearts is really successful at is portraying the war in a way that doesn’t feel like a textbook, but rather a complex story with real people and real feelings that is unfortunately caught in the middle of a tragic situation.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a beautifully crafted game that thoroughly explores the complexities of a dark period of human history. Valiant Hearts: The Great War is an emotional roller-coaster that is both beautiful and haunting. I wholeheartedly recommend this game to everyone, even if puzzle games aren’t your thing.
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