Quick Note: Old school adventure game steeped in real history, Valiant Hearts is great for anyone looking to relax and learn at the same time. If you're jonesing for deep action and fast paced game play, look elsewhere, but this game is proof of how a fun game can be entertaining to the point you don't even realize you're learning something.
History is such a large and vast subject that it is so hard to dive into without skipping entire sections of it or glossing over details. So making a game aimed at one specific historical event is a daunting task for any studio. However, Ubisoft Montpellier has pulled it off with Valiant Hearts by focusing on the characters affected by the Great War while presenting the game in such a way that you learn something without even realize you're being taught.
Valiant Hearts spans the time from the start of World War I through just before the United States joins the war, with the story and characters inspired by the events of The Great War as well as letters and other pieces of memorabilia from those who lived it. The characters are fictitious, but they are so well written it and carry so much of the weight of the time period it doesn't matter.
Throughout the course of the game, players will jump perspectives between four characters that are connected through an overarching narrative. Emile is a Frenchman with a young daughter who is pregnant with her husband Karl's child. Working on the family farm, the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand turns France into a paranoid country, one that forces all immigrants, including the German native Karl, out.
|The art style is unique and works to accentuate both the horrors of war and the human element very well.|
The depth of the story and characters is even more surprising when you take into account the cartoon art style. Utilizing the same engine as Child of Light and Rayman, the game is 2D and colorful, with the barren and grey battlefields broken up by vibrant red airplanes and explosions. The characters also do not talk, which means each scene is acted out. This fits well with the art style of the game, giving it an almost puppet show like feeling. I think it was smart to only use one voice actor for narrating between scenes, because otherwise the dissonance between the art style and voice acting would cause Valiant Hearts to lose some of it's charm and feel more generic.
|Puzzles are entertaining, but not really brain busting.|
|Walt to the rescue!|
Aside from the characters, the best part of Valiant Hearts has to be the collectibles and the history they deliver. The team at Ubisoft Montpellier partnered with a World War I documentary crew behind Apocalypse, a five part look into the history of World War I. Each artifact has a significance to it in the fact that it has history behind it.
|I learned more from this game on World War I than my entire educational career, and it wasn't painful for a second.|
|Despite pulling you away from the action for a minute or two, the collectibles are tied to so much interesting information it's worth the break.|
8.5 out of 10