A game set in World War 1. Yes, you're reading that right. There are not many games set in this time period, and that's a shame.Thankfully Ubisoft Montpellier has stepped up to the challenge, making an adventure game that may change the hearts and minds of developers and publishers. Let's see if the game is any good.
Gameplay and Story:
The story takes place during the start of the first world war. The game starts off by showing how the war started. How World War 1 started was by one man assassinating Archbishop Franz Ferdinand. This led to each country backing one another due to various alliances. It starts in a rural province of France. One of the characters Karl, a German living in France. He is sent back to Germany for fear of hurting the country. Karl is forced to leave is wife, Marie and child behind. Karl is forced to join the German army, while Marie's Father Emile is forced to join France's army.
After his training, Emile is thrust into the war. His whole unit is wiped out, and Emile is captured. He is then made a cook, where he finds a German Shepherd. The dog helps out from time to time, brings an emotional attachments to the characters and the players. Emile escapes the German camp and finds his way back in the France forces. Karl escapes with Baron Von Dork in his Zeppelin. He then meets Freddie, an America who joined France because his wife was killed by German bombardment by Baron Von Dorf. Freddie is on a revenge mission to bring Baron Von Dorf to justice. Emile and Freddie meet Anna along the way. Anna is on her own mission to find her father.
As the four set out to fulfill their own missions, they go through most of the major battles in the war. The story goes through the whole war. The story also shows just how bad war can get. All the characters, seeing the suffering, or feel it. Karl is always worried about his wife Marie and child. As the story goes on, Marie's town gets occupied by the German's. Anna sees soldiers being blown apart as she gives medical attention to both sides of the war. The game does a great job of showing how the effects of war on people and dogs. The dog even misses his old master, and is happy to find him, once Karl gets back to a German camp. It is a sad, touching story. It will make you feel for the characters, and it will make you see why wars are terrible. By the end of the story you will get a sense of triumph and lose. It is fitting for this type of game. Talking about war is never easy, displaying it on a game, is even harder. When most games glorify war, Valiant Hearts does an excellent job of telling what war really is memories of love, loss, and for the allies, triumph.
The gamplay is varied, and for the most part fun. This is an adventure in its purest form. Each character has a unique ability to them. Freddie can break barbwire with his wire cutters. Emile can dig tunnels when the game permits it. The dog can fetch things, and go places the other characters cannot go. Anna has the ability to heal people. The healing mini-game is close to the rhythm game like rock band or guitar hero.The more sequences you get right the faster the person will heal. Over the course of the game, it does get harder. There are quite a few puzzles over the course of the game. Most of the time I never had in any trouble with them, but there were a few that did stumble me for a bit. The game does have a hint system in place. It does a decent job of moving the game forward, but, there were times even the hint did not help. One nice touch was every level had some historical background, and you could read up about it. It gave the player an option to share this on social networks, but I just liked reading about a particular event in the history of World War 1. The other game types were a classic miss the obstacles in a car. That means swerving to miss barrels, people, and other objects until you reach the destination. The boss fights are varied, and can be a challenge. I had to do a couple of tries to get the right sequence, so be a little patient, and you should get it. The gameplay and story does a great job catering to both casual and hardcore gamers. It makes it accessible to play for the casual gamers, but makes it just hard enough not to alienate the hardcore gamers.
Graphics and Sound:
Valiant Hearts makes use of the UbiArt Framework game engine. The same engine that is used in the Rayman games. It is a bright cartoony style engine, but what the developers did was make it bright and happy, and as the game went on, the game got darker. This game can run on most machines, and for mine it ran smoothly. I never ran into any hiccups, or screen tearing at all. The game engine handles explosions, and multiple enemies on screen as well. The only complaint I would have about the engine is that it does feel like the levels are small, but they are packed with detail. The sound makes it feel like you're in a war, when the game presents a battle. The background noise of machine guns firing off rounds, to the shells from artillery hitting the ground. It makes you feel like being in a battlefield.
One Last Thing:
If you buy this game on steam, you will still have to use Uplay. There is simply no way to get around it. That is frustrating, but unfortunately in the age of developer digital distribution every developer has their own program. This makes it tedious just to start the game. It would be better if it just used one of these digital distribution sites. I recommend just buying it on Uplay.
Is It Worth It?
Yes, the game is worth the price. It has five acts that take about 15 to 20 hours to complete. The cost of the game is 15 dollars; which is a great value. It has great characters, and a wonderful story that does not sugarcoat what toll war has on people, or their families. It is a great buy for the low cost. If you have not bought the game, you should right now. There is not mutiplayer, but it is still a great game.