We live in a world that is obsessed with violence. So much so that year in and year out the best selling games and movies are generally focused on kill counts and bloodshed. So when I say to you that I’ve been playing a war game, you likely will have a picture in your head of machine guns and blood spatter. Typically you would be right, but in the case of Valiant Hearts: The Great War, you’d be in for a big surprise. Now don’t get me wrong, there is killing, there is blood, and you shoot some big guns in the game, but the focus on the game is far from typical.
Valiant Hearts is a side scrolling puzzle game that takes place during WWI, specifically in the happenings of 1914 through 1917, where we follow the interweaving life stories of a small group of fictional characters that were inspired by the very real events that shook our world during the Great War.
Even though the characters in this game never actually existed, you will develop a very real connection with them. You will feel what they feel, share their pride in their accomplishments, and despair with them as they go through the hells of war. To add to this bonding of characters, you will be introduced to a canine medic who not only is useful for getting to hard to reach places and help solve puzzles, but also tugs at your heartstrings. In the end, this game left me with a profound sadness for the losses that so many families went through for a war that should not have happened. Such an impact is few are far between in gaming these days; I truly applaud this games ability to pack so much emotion in such a short time, all while providing entertaining (if not all that challenging) puzzles.
Valiant Hearts accomplishes the connection with you as the player through its artstyle. Although 2D with a hand drawn look, the art direction in this game is nothing short of perfection. There is something to the combination of comedy and tragedy in the artwork, with both exaggerated and silly proportions, as well as all too real facial and body expressions. The closest thing I can compare this game’s player connection to is the way Pixar can make grown men cry during all of their films. It’s that strong.
The game is broken up into four chapters, each taking about an hour and a half to get through, and each has roughly thirty collectibles to find. Although not hard to find, these collectibles are super cool in that they each have a very real story to tell. Each item you pick up has a historical image and fact to go with it, which adds to the realness of the war and how it impacted every aspect of life back in the day. I found myself wanting to go back after I had beaten the game to find the rest of these items that I had missed.
All in all, Valiant Hearts is not a challenge, but it’s a wonderfully told story that I think everyone should try. I cannot recommend it enough.