Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle-adventure game published by Ubisoft and was released back in 2014. It is inspired by memorabilia and letters collected from World War I.
Story + Gameplay
The story revolves around 5 main characters (except the person on the logo positioned on the far right). I can’t say too much because I’d really like to avoid spoiling as much as possible. War stories always gives you a clutch-your-heart kind of feeling. It’s a great story about love, friendship, loyalty, sacrifice, and tragedy. Despite having more than one or two main characters, the flow of the story was seamless and not at all abrupt or confusing.
Each new chapter introduces new types of gameplay/minigames. It is similar to a point-and-click, finding the necessary items to trade/use to be able to progress. Your usual travel companion is the dog medic named Walt who helps you sneak through enemy premises to be able to steal keys, fetching far-away objects to throw at soldiers/obstacles, and activate levers to reach your destination. Each character has their own perks; one carries a wire cutter, and one even carries a spoon (to dig through certain places). You also come across different collectibles or mementos with historical significance.
You can die even without participating in a mini-game. You can see Emile digging in the photo above on the lower left: hitting a missile with your spoon will kill him. On the photo beside it, Walt gets caught in barbed wire whilst soldiers are trying to fix a tractor; something goes wrong. The visuals are very constant and your perspective while playing doesn’t change; just additional art as shown in the first and fourth photos. The game’s design is just like an animated comic book.
Finding collectibles is difficult sometimes because you really have to notice the background. Unlike in the PS4, the iPhone signals the player with a question mark every time you come across a collectible. I replayed this game so I could give it a proper review, and again I found myself in tears when I finished it.
Graphics + Controls
This is as usual, is one of my favorite parts when playing games. I checked the concept art and sketches (check their dev diary here!) of Valiant Hearts on the iPhone (which explains the faded hand telling me to poke the screen). The art is consistent all throughout the game and is also very creative and works perfectly in sync with the sound effects and the background music. Not only that, but it really pays attention to detail. Even the small clumps of smoke that come from when you run on dirt is part of the visuals. It’s very creative and gives a good segue to what comes next.
Some games have the obvious ways of telling the player that it’s a cutscene and if it’s game time; you can usually tell from the graphics of the game, but Valiant Hearts retains the same quality all throughout. It gives you cues and instructions prior to whatever the event will be; it’s not similar to Until Dawn or The Last of Us kind of cues where sometimes you are unprepared to evade a potential death during a cutscene.
In my opinion, it’s much easier to play on a console that allows you to use a controller because it may be difficult to point or direct Emile to dig in certain places. I tried playing on the iPhone and I died multiple times trying to get Emile through the bomb-infested dirt when I got through without a problem while playing on the PS4.
Although I mentioned Until Dawn and The Last of Us earlier, Valiant Hearts is not necessarily as scary, gory, and heavy. The comic book-like graphics make it much more light and less scary because of the absence of gore. It makes it a more kid-friendly game although it’s rated for teens. My brother at 12 really liked it, and was genuinely interested in the history. In between chapters, the narrator explains what’s going on and Emile and other characters also voice out the letters they write. Some collectibles you find are letters from certain soldiers (see first three photos), but I don’t know (although I doubt) if those are actual letters found back then.
Beautiful music. It gives a lot of impact and can really capture the ambiance or mood of the game. I never once forgot its essence; war is no joke. Sound effects are spot-on and perfect. The narration and voice-overs (including the dog sounds) are well done especially when played along with the game’s graphics. The voice acting, though simple, holds so much meaning. All-in-all very immersive. I like how they retain the language of the characters: every time Walt does something for Emile, Emile pets him and says “Merci”. Freddie is an American and also exclaims in English, not just because the version of the game is in English.
One of the main differences I see from the game when I play using the iPhone vs. the PS4 is that the developers really made it more social media-friendly. It’s easy to share information to Facebook or Twitter on mobile phones which is a feature that I think was very smart of them to add. I don’t know if it’s a glitch by the game itself or if it’s because of the phone, but the game sometimes crashes and exits (only noticed on iPhone, it never happens on the PS4… probably the phone’s fault and not the app). It also seems to have additional content, including a back story on the dog medic Walt.
It’s not a very long game, I think I was able to finish it in a day or two, depending on how well you can play the minigames or figure out the puzzles. I replayed it as well, and even though I’m aware of what to do next, I still have to think and be cautious otherwise I lose. It’s really not a waste of your money.
Rating: 9 / 10
Purchase the game via Steam, App Store, Google Play.
If you download Valiant Hearts on your phone, you’ll be asked to pay per episode.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War won Best Animated Video Game award in 42nd Annie Awards and Best Narrative / Games for Change awards in the 2014 Game Awards.