'Valiant Hearts: The Great War' Brings A New Perspective To World War I

June 30, 2014

There was once a time when the video game release calendar was flooded with war games. Most of those titles relied on World War II as their source material, leaving the first World War relegated to only a couple titles here and there. The Great War's unceremonious impetus, mixed with the slow and strategic manner of trench warfare never really made for compelling gameplay experiences, and most games that were set during this unfortunate period relied on the introduction of aerial combat to give gamers something to sink their teeth into. It wasn't until recently that Ubisoft attempted to bring a bit more of a narrative to the period with the 2D, action-puzzler Valiant Hearts: The Great War, which introduces a whole new take on World War I.

Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Publisher: Ubisoft

Coming off of their development of Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends, Ubisoft Montpellier clearly wanted to do something new with the UbiArt Framework (the underlying engine of both those games and Valiant Hearts). Instead of digging in and making another 2D platformer, the studio decided to try and bring World War I to life, and give it some heart. The UbiArt Framework makes the game both very accessible to play, and beautiful to look at, continuing the tradition started by Rayman and Child of Light, proving once again that Ubi's in-house engine can really do some interesting things.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War tells the story of four people (and one dog) who are trying to survive the first World War, and take down the evil heads of the German army, Baron Von Dorf. The player follows the intertwined storylines of Karl, Emile, Freddie, and Anna, each of whom has been pulled into the war against their will, and is now just hoping to survive, while protecting their loved ones. Their tales are sad, from beginning to end: Karl was deported from France, forced to leave his wife, and then drafted into the German army. Emile, Karl's father-in-law, is drafted into serving for the French army and is soon captured by the same outfit where Karl is assigned. Freddie is an American mercenary who is on the hunt for Baron Von Dorf. Anna is looking to save her father, a scientist who has been forced to work for the German army. As their story unfolds, players must use each character's skills to solve puzzles, and assist each other in order to ensure their safety, both on and off of the battlefield.

The gameplay probably isn't exactly what you would expect from a war game, in that there isn't a whole lot of shooting. While you are trained to use weapons, you brain sees the most action in The Great War. There is a constant flow of puzzles that are scattered throughout blown out towns to deep in the trenches. You must use your wits, a bit of stealth, and some assistance from an adorable dog to complete your missions, and save your friends and family.

Players can try and navigate the the war ravaged countryside of Valiant Hearts on PlayStation 3s and 4s, Xbox 360s and Ones, and PCs.

The overarching story of Valiant Hearts is told through letters, and comes from the perspective of four very relatable characters. It's very easy to grow attached to each of your friends as they struggle to survive through horrific events, many of which are based on actual moments that helped define the war. In fact, Ubisoft went so far as to partner with the production team behind the Apocalypse, World War I documentary, so that they could provide loads of historically accurate facts about the battles, the weaponry, even the items found throughout the game. So, in addition to wonderfully crafted gameplay, a compelling story that's set in a beautiful hell, the game is full of interesting tidbits of knowledge. Who knows, you might actually learn something worthwhile while enjoying this amazing little game.