We are constantly being bombarded with games about war, shooting, and death, but few have ever touched upon World War I as it’s subject. Valiant Hearts: The Great War has made strides in bringing this nearly forgotten war back into the forefront of our minds and hearts. With the 100 year anniversary of the start of World War I being this year, Ubisoft Montpellier designed a game to remind us of how this war affected people from all sides, as they were sent out to fight for their countries. Teaming up with Apocalypse, World War 1, the famous documentary series which was broadcasted on National Geographic among other channels across the globe, Ubisoft have included some very surprising if not disturbing images taken during that bleak time in our history. Ubisoft have a certain flair when it comes to mixing history with video games, which we all know from their Assassin’s Creed series. They not only want to make gaming fun, but want us to have learned something after we have put down the controller. The one thing I took from Valiant Hearts: The Great War was how mechanised that war actually was, given the time period in which it took place.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a story of love, loss, hopelessness, and the sheer determination man has to survive against overwhelming odds. A story of families being torn apart, human suffering, cruelty, and innocence, as war brings all of this and more to our doors. You play five main characters during the game as their stories and lives become intertwined during the war: Emile, a simple farmer who has no choice but to fight and search for his son-in-law. Karl, who is married to Emile’s daughter, and was deported back to Germany at the start of the war and like so many ended up fighting for his motherland. Ana, a nurse who dedicates her time and life to helping wounded soldiers on the battlefield, no matter their race or country of origin. She is also searching for her father who is a scientist that was taken by Germany because of his research into weaponry. Freddie, who is American, and is seeking revenge for his wife’s death, and Walt, a red cross dog that aids everyone on their journey through the battlefields and trenches they so often find themselves in.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a mixture of action sequences and puzzles sewn together throughout the entire game. If you were hoping to be running and gunning through the mud and dirt, you may be disappointed as the closest you will get is when you take control of a tank and ensue to destroy everything in front of you. Even this attempt at violence in a game based around one of the most violent eras in our history seemed whimsical to say the least. The puzzles which are the main stay in the game, range from finding the correct piece to making something work, down to tricking a French officer into changing his uniform in order for you to steal it. Anyone that has a couple of brain cells rubbing together to keep their head warm will not find anything too taxing, that a few seconds of common sense won’t solve. While running from puzzle to puzzle you do encounter some action sequences, where you may be running to avoid bombs and gunfire or driving Ana’s taxi to the Waltz as you avoid tanks, mines and bombs, not to mention a very large tank that seemed to be chasing me for 40 miles down a pot holed ridden road. Walt the dog is at hand to aid you in your puzzle solving, and I love the way he was implemented into the game as each character made good use of him throughout the game. In fact I want a Walt, just a simple dog that follows every grunt or hand gesture I make at him.

For such a story driven game, there is in fact little or no real dialogue from the characters in the game, apart from an odd grunt at Walt or an incoherent mumble every now and again. Most of the story is told while you load up the next level with a voice over. This works surprisingly well as at no time do you lose contact with the story that is being portrayed to you, or how desperately each character is trying to live their lives. Without wanting to spoil to much for you, it all ends in a very sad, slow walk for Emile, one that I have to say I didn’t expect and one that pulled at the heart strings a little bit if I’m honest. Valiant Hearts is completely made in the UbiArt engine, the same engine that Child Of Light and Rayman were born from. This engine allows the developers to become more artistic when realising their games and Valiant Hearts is no exception. The game graphically represents a hand drawn comic book or children’s storybook, and I have to say I commend Ubisoft for giving us these games that don’t conform to the usual normal race for realism. The graphics may be hand drawn but in no way lose any of the atmosphere or setting due to this. I liked the way the game was presented, and like it probably more than if it had been done in the ‘normal’ graphical way.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is definitely different in this world of shooters and multiplayer, but sadly became boring in it’s gameplay not long into the experience. It just made me feel like I was going through the motions to get to the next part of the story, and that is what kept me going, the story. The characters are lovable and you do feel connected with them despite their lack of voice. I am truly divided about this game, I love it in it’s simple yet effective way that it tells the story of such a dark time, and yet I quickly got bored of it’s puzzles that became more of an annoyance than anything. Then I think to myself and I realise that this is a game you have to play, a game you have to experience if only for the story and the characters. You may well enjoy the gameplay more than I did.