Valiant Hearts: The Great War

JOHN GILLOOLY dis­cov­ers what hap­pens when a French­man, a Ger­man and an Amer­i­can walk onto a bat­tle­field.

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VVALIANT HEARTS: THE GREAT WAR PLAT­FORM: 360, XBone, PS3, PS4, PC CAT­E­GORY: Puzzle/Ad­ven­ture DE­VEL­OPER: Ubisoft Mont­pel­lier PUB­LISHER: Ubisoft DUE: June 25

aliant Hearts: the Great War is an unapolo­get­i­cally French af­fair. Made in Ubisoft’s Mont­pel­lier Stu­dio, us­ing the UbiArt en­gine that has al­ready wowed us in Ray­man Leg­ends and Child of Light, it looks to be an­other shin­ing ex­am­ple of Ubisoft’s new strat­egy of smaller ti­tles in­ter­spersed with mas­sive AAA mur­der sim­u­la­tors. The game is a plat­form puz­zler fo­cus­ing on the jour­ney of three friends through the bat­tle­fields of World War I. It is a highly stylised af­fair, with hand drawn en­vi­ron­ments and char­ac­ters com­bine with no di­a­log to make for an al­most dream­like jour­ney through the hor­ri­fy­ing pin­na­cle of land based war­fare. It is a set­ting sel­dom used in games, de­spite the al­most re­lent­less fix­a­tion on World War II over the years, and is told from a per­spec­tive that is both ed­u­ca­tional and en­ter­tain­ing.

DOG DAYS >> In a world where his­tory is told by the vic­tors, the story of a French­man and his dog, a Ger­man farm­hand friend who was repa­tri­ated when the war be­gan, and an Amer­i­can sol­dier feels unique, and is clearly a labour of love for the team be­hind it.

Our hands on time with the game cov­ered the start­ing hour and a half, as well as a later se­quence that showed off some dif­fer­ent game­play. While in­her­ently sim­ple to grasp, the use of iconog­ra­phy in lieu of text in a lot of the game took a lit­tle get­ting used too. Em­bar­rass­ingly, the only puzzle that com­pletely stumped us was the first one, purely be­cause we hadn’t quite worked out the ex­tent of en­vi­ron­men­tal in­ter­ac­tions, and stub­bornly stood throw­ing a bot­tle at a bell for five min­utes be­fore ask­ing for help.

Af­ter that it was plain sail­ing, the game­play in­tu­itive and al­most leisurely at times (though tim­ing was still im­por­tant). Valiant Hearts ap­pears to man­age that all too rare achieve­ment of let­ting the story and set­ting take the lead, and while the puz­zles started to tickle the grey mat­ter (rather than test our com­pre­hen­sion) dur­ing the play ses­sion, it wasn’t clear just how fiendish they would get fur­ther down the track, or in­deed how var­ied the game would get. In the sec­ond seg­ment we played, there was a slightly an­noy­ing se­quence in­volv­ing driv­ing a bunch of soldiers to the front. This was a rel­a­tively sim­ple dodg­ing game, played us­ing vis­ual cues while driv­ing to­wards the screen, mak­ing for short re­ac­tion times but an odd sen­sa­tion of move­ment.. It seemed a slightly in­con­gru­ous jump from the rest of what we played, but apart from that brief blip on the en­joy­a­bil­ity radar, our time spent with the game had us ea­ger to delve deeper.

FRAN­COPHILIA >> Whilst it didn’t grab hold in the same way that Child of Light did, the story and pre­sen­ta­tion was su­perb, and once we be­came used to it’s deep French­ness, we found our­selves han­ker­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence more.

Valiant Hearts tells a story sel­dom heard about a War oft ig­nored by the games in­dus­try. It is the kind of game that could only come from an out­fit like Ubisoft Mon­te­pel­lier, and looks to be both an en­joy­able and ed­u­ca­tional ex­pe­ri­ence of his­tory on the cusp of fad­ing from mem­ory. Ul­ti­mately it will be the length of the tale, and va­ri­ety of puz­zles that will make or break it, but from our slice of game­play it looks to be a com­pellingly dif­fer­ent game from a big stu­dio.

A Let­ter bomb... ged­dit?

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