Game Reviews

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War

World War I gets a lot less attention than World War II in mainstream media, and when it does take centre stage the tone tends to be even more reverent.

Perhaps it's because of the apparent pointlessness and futility of the conflict, or the idea that it marked the end of a more chivalrous age. Or perhaps it's just because Hollywood and video games haven't had so much of a say in influencing our view of the conflict as they have with World War II.

Regardless, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is already treading relatively new ground in its tackling of the 1914 conflict. That it does so with such poise and style is to Ubisoft's credit.

Into the trenches

Valiant Hearts: The Great War succeeds because, while there's a strong sense of melancholy to its simple tale of friendship, revenge, and loss, it's still shot through with warmth and humour.

This simple point-and-click adventure game concerns the exploits of an ageing French farmer, an American volunteer, a German conscript, a French nurse, and a faithful dog.

All find themselves tossed around the trenches and battlefields of Europe, confounded by the sheer chaos and brutality of the conflict that surrounds them.

Historical achievement

Valiant Hearts: The Great War never loses sight of the grim historical truth at the heart of its story. It's always there in the peripheral objects you collect and the stream of contextual information that gets added to your journal as you enter a new area.

The art style is beautiful, like some long lost European comic book. Each character burbles away in a semi-coherent approximation of their own language - immediately identifiable and perfectly in keeping with the universe.

While the strokes used in the characterisations are broad, each member of the cast has enough nuance, and is offered enough chances to show their mettle, to avoid offence and allow you to genuinely empathise with their plight.

But at its heart this is a pacey action-adventure with rescue missions, stealth sections, and boss fights. And its in these traditional gamey elements that Valiant Hearts stumbles.

War games

It's a good job Valiant Hearts: The Great War's story and characters - as strange and occasionally incongruous as they are - are so strong, because as an adventure game it's only just above average.

Puzzles are of a simple switch-pulling variety, but the odd sequential snag leaves you irritated at the game's exacting logic or lack of clarity.

This isn't helped by some stodgy and occasionally over-picky touch controls that will have you missing your timing or bumbling into one of the game's insta-death situations repeatedly.

Fortunately, the checkpointing is frequent - but that in itself can be problematic for the game's sense of tension and immersion.

These aspects of the game - the GAME part of the game - are just about strong enough to keep you playing on. But it's the unique story, characters, and art style that will make you remember Valiant Hearts: The Great War in the years to come.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

A beautiful if flawed point-and-click adventure game with a look and feel all of its own
Jon Mundy
Jon Mundy
Jon is a consummate expert in adventure, action, and sports games. Which is just as well, as in real life he's timid, lazy, and unfit. It's amazing how these things even themselves out.