Tales of the Great War In Valiant Hearts
By Martin Toney
Valiant Hearts is our July 2014 “Not Crowdfunded, But…” title. For more Valiant Hearts content head over here.
Set against the backdrop of one of humanities bloodiest conflicts in our history, Valiant Hearts (like the Great War) begins in 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which was the catalyst that began the conflict.
Predicting the ensuing war, the French government begins to systematically deport any residents of France that are German. Thus begins the story of Karl, a deported German that was removed from his wife and child, then later drafted into the ranks of the German men at arms.
We also follow the trail of Frenchman Emile, once a humble farmer and father in law to the above mentioned Karl, Emile too is drafted into service within the French army where he crosses paths with an American volunteer soldier, Freddie.
Freddie opted into serving the French in an attempt to find the horrid Baron Von Dorf, a ruthless leader within the opposition that floods battlefields with noxious gasses and escapes in his wondrous Zeppelins. Freddie’s wife was a casualty of war from one of Baron Von Dorf’s many bombing raids.
The last character that we meet is Anna, a student from Belgium whose genius father was abducted by Baron Von Dorf and forced into developing horribly cruel weapons of war. Anna is a battlefield nurse who crosses paths with Freddie and Emile after an artillery attack on the German lines and helps nurse one of our heroes back to health.
Gird Your Heart With Happy Memories, Because Sadness Awaits. The Gameplay of Valiant Hearts.
Valiant Hearts takes a peculiar approach to its implementation of gameplay, storytelling and puzzle solving. Everything melds together into a very functional melting pot of cleverly designed ideas that make sense even without the context of gameplay. If you need to empty a machine gun nest of enemy troops, you won’t find the game finding some contrived means of distracting the enemy, you’re more likely just going to hurl a grenade in and watch the foe clear out in an attempt to save their lives.
Puzzles make sense which is a refreshing take on things. Players won’t simply be moving boxes to create an artificial ledge, oh no. Find a bridge blocked by barbed wire and barricades? Chances are you might find some demolition equipment nearby; bringing down the bridge will both clear a path for you and your forces to continue as well as hinder the enemies efforts in the war. Environmental puzzles like clearing a field of the rightly feared mustard gas will see the player disabling a large gas pumping machine, likely designed by the kidnapped genius father of Anna the nurse.
Honestly, solving puzzles hasn’t felt so necessary since opening Jabbu Jabu’s mouth to save Princess Ruto in The Legend of Zelda.
The Horrors of War. The Visuals of Valiant Hearts.
As an aspiring digital artist working in the entertainment industry, I’ve spoken with and been influenced by many artists that all bring something special to the table. Sometimes it’s the incredible classic monster portraits or comic styled images from Chris Burns (mister-bones), or the more pop culture related animations of Arin Hanson (egoraptor).
Either way, they all bring a truly unique approach to their artistic medium of choice, and that is exactly what Paul Tumelaire has done with Valiant Hearts thanks to his considerable artistic talent and the powerful UbiArt Framework.
Valiant Hearts uses a mostly bleak (but sometimes colourful) colour palette that helps convey the feel of the grim depression that grips nations that are in the throes of war. Colourful countrysides transition into bleak, smoke filled hillsides that serve as the background for hopeless charges against enemy lines. Trenches, which were already the most horrible places for soldiers during World War One, become thickly clogged runnels of flesh and lung searing mustard gas. Once scenic bridges become killing zones of enfilading fire from machine gun nests that are littered with corpses.
This helps hammer home the reality of war that renders even the most beautiful areas into nothing but a resting place for the dead.
“Thank You My Friend.” Final Thoughts on Valiant Hearts.
Valiant Hearts drew a lot of attention when it was unveiled by Ubisoft and since then the positive feedback has been piling up. The subject matter, the art-style, the character development, the story telling and the execution of those things combined all help Valiant Hearts deliver a heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable adventure puzzle platforming game.
The combination of art, story and gameplay is rarely put together this well, but as we’ve seen in the past with hugely popular games like Abe’s Oddysee, there is always room in the market for a game with a lot of art and lots of heart. A Valiant Heart that is.