Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review
A comic-styled indie puzzle game, Valiant Hearts: The Great War follows four characters who find themselves caught up in the middle of the First World War. The game is inspired by real events that occurred in Europe betweeen 1914 and 1918 as well as actual letters that were sent during the war. Initially released in 2014, the Nintendo Switch port hit the shelves last November. Steel your nerves and get ready for all of the feels, as Valiant Hearts promises to be one seriously emotional experience!
As previously mentioned, Valiant Hearts: The Great War follows four playable characters and their intertwined experiences through World War I (and a dog named Walt, who you control indirectly through commands). You begin your adventure as the war breaks out, and take turns controlling each character as they cross paths with one another.
In stark contrast to most war-based games, the player characters in Valiant Hearts: The Great War do not even carry firearms. Instead, each character must use the tools around them to solve a series of puzzles in order to progress through the game. This typically involves collecting items, destroying barricades and sneaking past or disabling enemy soldiers.This gameplay, combined with the hand-drawn art style and an incredibly well-suited soundtrack, creates a truly unique look and feel for a war game.
With each level of the game comes new diary entries. These diary entries feature real photographs from World War I and provide historically accurate information regarding varies conflicts throughout the war as well as what life was like on the front. While at times it can feel as though this game is more of a history lesson than a videogame, it also brings a layer of reality to the game which greatly enriches the entire playing experience.
Most of the game play is slow and methodical, focused on the story and environment more than the complexity and skill requirement. One very different aspect would be the driving sequences in the game. During the sequences, you must dodge various hazards (which are timed to classic songs). While some may say this feels out of place in an otherwise relaxed game, I found these to be a refreshing twist that kept the gameplay from becoming too stale.
Each level is also populated with historical items to collect. These items, once collected, reveal even more of the backstory from World War I. While this is certainly a common theme within Valiant Hearts: The Great War, I rarely found myself motivated to spend the time to collect each and every item in an area before moving on. To me, there is no shortage of backstory and context for the game, with the cut scenes and diaries providing more than enough information as it is.
Overall, Valiant Hearts: The Great War offers a relaxed yet emotional journey through one of the most tumultuous times in human history. It presents the war in a way that is surprisingly unbiased and focuses on facts to educate players. The game play is very simplistic, and even a moderately competent puzzler will have little to no difficulty navigating its side-scrolling adventures. This makes the game accessible to a broader audience and allows everyone to take this emotion-fueled historical journey that will not soon be forgotten.