Valiant Hearts: The Great War
JOHN GILLOOLY discovers what happens when a Frenchman, a German and an American walk onto a battlefield.
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?