Valiant Hearts : The Great War review
When Valiant Hearts : The Great War came out back in 2014, I didn’t really pay attention to it until Microsoft announced it was going to be a free game with the games for gold deal and that was when the game grabbed my attention. I downloaded it and instantly put on my backlog, it got left untouched until I was looking for a game to play while I downloaded Mad Max and I put it on. Within the first moments I was hooked.
As soon as you start the Story, you are thrown right into the moments that led to the start of WW1. Archduke of Austria Franz Ferdinand has been killed and that sets off a chain reaction of diplomatic treaties. Germany declares war on Russia and France declares war on Germany and many other countries declare war on each other. After the game is done telling us the back story this is were our four main playable characters get introduced, all of them get caught up in this but we see only two of them first. One of them is a French farmer called Emile and the other is a German guy called Karl who lives with Emile on his farm. Karl also happens to be Emile’s son-in-law. When war breaks out Karl is forced to leave France and leave behind his wife Marie as well as Emile, Karl is then enlisted into the German army. Emile however has to leave his farm and go enlist into the French army. He travels to the barracks, gets trained up and gets dispatched right to the front lines. After this we meet our 3rd Main character Freddie, he is a American immigrant living in France who happens to be getting married right when the war starts, zeppelins fly in and blitz the church he is getting married in killing his wife. Enraged by anger Freddie enrols in the French army seeking vengeance and looking to reciprocate the anger he felt onto the Germans.
As the war progresses so does our characters separate stories until two of them cross paths when Freddie saves Emile from dying. Freddie realises Emile who he saved has a son-in-law that happens to be German and also happens to be stationed with a German Commando called Von Dorf. Both of them are travelling on a zeppelin. Freddie pinpoints this Von Dorf as the person that ruined his life and vows to murder him if he gets the chance. Emile wants to get back to Karl so the both of them work together. This is were our last main playable character is introduced. Her name is Anna, she is a nurse living in Paris and her goal is to get back to her farther who lives in the north of France. Her father told her not to travel to see him until the war is over but once she learns that the Germans are attacking her hometown where her father lives, Anna feels like she has no choice but to come to her fathers rescue and travel to her home town. But before that she reads a newspaper article saying the French need volunteers to taxi the troops to the front line. Anna volunteers for this and transports some troops to the front line on the border of France and Belgium. While Anna is there she experiences the horrors of the war first hand and vows to never leave the front line until the war is over. But with a ironic stroke of luck she encounters our other main characters at the front line and saves them from a deadly gas attack. From here she learns about the Germans plan and pleads to the others to come to her hometown and help her against the Germans which they willingly accept.
All our main characters go to Anna’s hometown were they find Von Dorf has kidnapped Anna’s father and took him onto the zeppelin, Our crew then hunt down this zeppelin and take it down, it then crash lands in the wilderness. That’s when our set of hero’s reach the crash site but only Karl is there, he is saved by Anna but he tells her Von Dorf escaped with her father on an aircraft before the zeppelin crashed. With two chapters in the game gone, we learn all our main characters motivations, we also learn who the bad guy is and how the war is playing out right before our own eyes. How the developers managed to connect all the characters together in the story in such a brilliant way is a testament to how great the story telling is in Valiant Hearts : The Great War. I wont talk about the story much more but I will this, how the story unfolds after this point up until the penultimate ending is truly masterful and very emotional. I have no shame in saying this is the first game I have ever played in were the ending made me cry my eyes out, it was so impactful!
The Characters in Valiant Hearts all have certain unique abilities. Emile’s is digging and this allows him to traverse the level in ways other characters cant, it also allows him to access hidden locations in the level were you could find collectibles hidden within them. Freddie’s ability is having bolt cutters at the ready whenever you need to cut a rope to progress your current objective or to cut barbwire on the battlefield which could be blocking your path to getting to the next part of the level. Anna as a nurse has the ability to heal wounded people whenever necessary. Once you’ve interacted with the person who needs medical attention, you are presented with a mini game where you have to press the corresponding buttons at the right time, doing so heals the person. Karl gets his abilities later on in the game when you play as him, you unlock the ability to change uniforms and gain a gas mask which grants you passage through poisonous gas sections but both of these are restricted to one level each respectively. We also find a dog in the story who helps us along the way, by pressing the bumpers the game lets you tell him to interact with an object of your choosing that is either far away or is part of a puzzle. Most of the time the dog is needed in most situations, you need him to finish puzzles and gain most of the collectibles in the game.
Gameplay wise, Valiant hearts is a 2.5D side scroller puzzle game that in the grand scheme of things is a very simple game with very simple controls. All you have to learn is pressing A is to interact, pressing X to attack, Y to bring up your tabs for historical facts, diary entries and collectibles that you may or may not have earned, pressing the bumpers highlights what your dog can interact with, triggers lets you throw something and moving the left stick or the d-pad allows your character to move. This is a very easy and straight forward button map to follow. The puzzle aspect of the game can be quite challenging but if you are stuck on the same area for too long, the game provides you with hints to move you along and help you proceed. Each main area you pass through, the game gives you a list of historical facts to read based on that area or facts that relate back to your current story objective for instance, during the story you fight in a battle where chlorine gas is used for the first time by the Germans and the game give you a certain history fact based solely upon that. In my opinion this is one of the best features in the game, giving the player a history lesson while progressing through the game really does entice the player to keep playing to find and learn out more. Also in each area is a new list of collectible items to be found by the player. With each new chapter comes new diary entries from our characters for the player to read. All in all the gameplay while simple is solid enough to pass.
Presentation in this game is great, art design is on point, the depth of the voice acting is limited to just a narrator but it somehow works and having the main characters not actually speak makes their actions in the game speak much more louder than what words could have done. Menus are easy to navigate. The massive plus of the presentation is how beautiful and very atmospheric the music in the game is. A lot of the significant points in the game hold up really well because the music is great and it really sets the tone and the mood. This game shows how important music can be in games and how music should be an integral part of every game that comes out from now on.
The Achievement list is very straight forward and self explanatory, most of the achievements you will get by playing the game, there is a few mission specific ones that are not to hard to do and one for grabbing all of the collectibles. Not to hard and you should have the completion at the end of your 6-8 journey in the game.
+ Great Storytelling
+ Presentation including music is spectacular
+ a enjoyable six hour long history lesson
- gameplay can get samey at times