Valiant Hearts – PC Game Review
Passed Inspection: Superb blend of action, strategy, adventure, and education. Play as five of the most endearing video game characters ever, including a Doberman Pinscher.
Failed Basic: The only “failure” I can think of with this game is if you don’t play it.
Wargames, and games dealing with war, have almost solely focused on victory and defeat. Combat results between forces is mostly influenced by a number or set of numbers, which a player must work diligently to gain and hold the correct combination of in order to have the advantage. While this is a tried and true concept, it yet misses perhaps the greatest factor involved in human warfare: the valiant heart.
With Valiant Hearts: The Great War, Ubisoft has both beautifully and respectfully told a gripping, heartfelt tale set in the horror that was World War I. And to their credit, they thankfully didn’t seem to pull any punches with either component. Valiant Hearts does much of what wargames up to this point have done, by giving players a nemesis to fight against, and various combat and battlefield situations to overcome. Where Valiant Hearts sets itself apart is by giving players characters with emotions, personalities, and names, with which to play through those combat and battlefield situations.
The valiant hearts in this game are Emile, Freddie, Karl, Anna, and the character who gets my vote in the Best Dog in a Video Game category, Walt, the Doberman Pinscher medic. From 1914 to 1918, you’ll guide these characters through The Great War, using their unique skills to negotiate a host of puzzles and combat actions. Emile makes use of a large cooking spoon to dig with, or to bash German soldiers on the head with. Freddie uses his wirecutters to cut through barriers, and he also drives a mean tank. Karl has stealth on his side, and acquires a handy gas mask later in the game. Anna makes good use of her medical and driving skills through much of the game. And tying them all together is Walt, the pet companion who teams up with these characters to retrieve, place, and manipulate important items as needed.
At its core, adventure, exploration, and problem-solving is the crux of Valiant Hearts. While those may be found in many other war, combat, and strategy games, VH adds in gorgeous artwork and a wonderful soundtrack. The UbiArt Framework engine is a masterwork piece of videogaming, used previously in Child of Light and Rayman Legends (neither of which I’ve played), and one that I hope sees many more uses. The 2D scenes it presents are fantastically detailed, showing foreground and background action going on at the same time. This really helped pull me into the game, and I would often delay actually playing the game to run a character back and forth through scenes just to admire all the details.
And all the while, an expertly-orchestrated soundtrack plays throughout the game, with each piece perfectly fitting the scene in which it plays. When’s the last time you played a chapter in a video game that had you dancing in your seat? My friends, Chapter 2: Broken Earth, the Taxi Cancan episode in Valiant Hearts is a brilliant mix of action, scenery, and music that is simply not to be missed.
Valiant Hearts also does a great job at factually telling the story of WWI, through an in-game database of Historical Facts that are presented with each chapter and episode. Finding hidden and secret Collectibles, such as equipment, letters, and various trinkets, also unlock facts about the war. Each character has his or her own diary as well, which gets entries as you progress through the game.
If you’re interested in World War I military history,or want to gain a better understanding of the scope of Valiant Hearts, click over to the 14-18 Mission Centenaire and Apocalypse World War I websites, both of which Ubisoft partnered with to help with Valiant Hearts.
I think I proposed reviewing Valiant Hearts to my Armchair General editor three times before he gave me a green light. It’s not the typical or standard wargame we review here, but I felt it still held everything that we wargamers play the genre for. I watched the game progress from its announcement, through its production, and after its release. All through that time, with each look at it, I had the sense that it was going to be something special. I’m very happy to report to you that Valiant Hearts: The Great War has lived up to my expectations, and then some. Speaking as both a veteran of wargames and a veteran of war, there has not been a video game of war that has engaged me as physically and emotionally as Valiant Hearts. Thank you, Ubisoft, thank you.
Armchair General Rating: 99%
About the Author
Jim dropped a quarter into his first video game (Pong) back in 1977, and has been avidly gaming ever since. He joined Armchair General as its first official game reviewer just before the website went live in 2003, and remains a regular contributor of war, combat, and strategy articles. Jim often streams his gaming on TwitchTV, on his own channel (http://www.twitch.tv/gamer_jim), for Armchair General magazine (http://www.twitch.tv/armchairgeneralmagazine), and on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/jimhmoreno).