Valiant Hearts

“War…war never changes”.

5 different characters. 5 different stories. One destiny.

Released on June 2014 and available for PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, iOS and Android, Valiant Hearts puts the player in the middle of a battlefield during World War I.

Ubisoft Montpellier make use and abuse of the “UbiArt Framework”, an in-house engine that powered Rayman Origins, Rayman Legends and Child of Light to bring us one of the most surprising and shocking games of last year.

Valiant Hearts – The Great War.

  1. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand assassination and Germany’s war declaration on Russia marks the World War I beginning.

In this tragic context, we are going to witness the lives and fates of five characters, all of them dragged into the war horrors from separate ways, but with the same desire of survival and freedom.

Emile, an old farmer summoned by the French army. Karl, Emile’s son-in-law, drafted into the German army. Freddie, an american who volunteered to join the French army after his wife was killed by a German bombing raid. Anna, a Belgian battlefield nurse, whose father have been kidnapped and forced to develop war machines for Germany, and Walt, a dog recruited by the German army but willing to help anybody in need.

All of them are in a time and place where they don’t want to be, and only their survival instincts and teamwork will free them from the war nightmare.

GAMEPLAY.

This is basically a puzzle-adventure game. Divided into four chapters, we are going to visit several famous locations and take part in important battles through the course of the war.

In every scenario, we will have to complete different challenges in a limited space before getting access to the following section of the stage. Each one of these puzzles can be resolved in a variety of ways, for example, some of them require the use of a “trading system”(Give an item to a NPC to get a different ítem, which we will have to deliver to another NPC, and so), the pulling/pushing of levers or the button pressing at the right time. There will be, also, several moments when our driving and stealth skills will be tested, which add variety and increase the player’s entertainment.

Besides the witty puzzles, the game is complemented with a bunch of historical material. Photos, letters, testimonies, souvenirs, memoirs, all of them veridical and used as inspiration for the game’s plot. All this footage was provided by APOCALYPSE: World War I (a National Geographic Channel Tv Series) and Mission du Centenaire 14 18 (a french governmental organization)

And there is more. For the “hunters” delight, I will say there is a hundred hidden treasures, and once we find them, each one of them will give us further data about the famous War.

GRAPHICS.

The UbiArt Framework engine allows the developers to create characters and scenarios with an espectacular comicbook-style design. Everything in Valiant Hearts looks like it was hand-drawn, as we have seen in the marvelous Child of Light.

Nonetheless, the action runs smoothly, the camera zooms in and out and there are not detectable slowdowns.

In certain gameplay passages, we will be able to see what’s happenning in another place with another characters. This events will be shown in frames, which will suddenly appear in the screen corners. This not only help us to resolve the puzzles, but also reinforces the comic style of the game.

The first minutes could give us the wrong impression. The program seems to be kinda “cute”. But the reality is that all the rawness and devastation domain every place.

Dead soldiers and civilians, destroyed cities, sadness and grief will be our only company along the way. And we’ll really fell it. Excellent work.

MUSIC AND AUDIO.

No need to say that Ubisoft have done an almost flawless job as regards Valiant Hearts soundtrack. The game has been beautified with a magnificient tracklist, including masterly pieces like Hungarian Dance N°5, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and French Can Can, originally composed by Jacques Offenbach.

As we play, we will be constantly accompanied by a voice-over narration performed by Dave Pettitt. He will be in charge of referring the game’s story and historical facts.

The main characters and NPCs barely talk during the gameplay. All they do is mumbling and grumbling, saying a few words in their respective languages from time to time, except during the cutscenes, when they think or read a letter. At that moment, all the characters voices magically become english. However, these details don’t bother me at all, so I consider Ubisoft did a great job also in this area.

CONCLUSION

Valiant Hearts puts the horrors of war, the hope of peace and freedom, life and death, love and hate, all together in the same game. Shocking, raw, emotional, but at the same time so real, so tangible.

A great game, with a story that will make us enjoy and suffer, an amusing puzzle system and memorable characters. I loved it.

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Pablo saved the princess before learning all the colors, he has been blasting nazis in Wolfenstein before he was able to read and write and while other kids were drawing pictures of their family members he was designing levels for Contra and Super Mario Bros 3.
Now he’s living the dream, studying videogame design and programming and writing about his passion here. Don’t mention console exclusives in his presence, he’s allergic to that bullshit.

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