Valiant Hearts: The Great War is something special. Developed by Ubisoft Montpellier, Valiant Hearts is, at its core, a puzzle game. Now I’m not huge on puzzle games, mainly because I like to turn off my brain when I play games, but Valiant Hearts isn’t just a puzzle game. It’s an adventure, a family story, a message, and a history lesson all blended together into one endearing experience.
As the title indicates, Valiant Hearts takes place during World War I. Gameplay is split between 4 characters, but I’d like to focus on Emile, who is French, and his German son-in-law, Karl. Both of these men are forced into war after Karl gets deported from his family in France. Gameplay alternates between serving the French army, as Emile, and the German army, as Karl. It’s an interesting take on the war. The game keeps an objective tone and doesn’t favor either side. Instead, it focuses on the men themselves, and their personal lives. The game isn’t about fighting or winning, it’s about surviving to be reunited with your loved ones.
Valiant Hearts has my favorite instance of collectibles in a game to date. Each level has a set amount of hidden collectibles and it’s up to the player to dig them out, same old routine. However, the collectibles are mini-history lessons. All the items are artifacts and relics from World War I. Collecting the item will give you a brief summary on what it is, or what it was used for. For instance, I found a urine soaked handkerchief outside of an abandoned trench. I learned that soldiers used this to protect themselves from mustard gas when a gas mask wasn’t available. Some collectibles are actual real-life letters written to and from loved ones, and pictures as well. It’s all incredibly powerful and eye-opening to the hell these people went through.
The entire game has a somber, somewhat futile tone to it. War is painful for soldiers, families, civilians, anyone and everyone. Valiant Hearts does a great job of reminding the player this. It isn’t just a puzzle game, it’s a beautiful memorial to all of those affected by a terrible tragedy.