‘Hearts’ a great war story

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First Posted: 7/16/2014

There are many games out there that are about war, but one war that hasn’t been portrayed much in games – or pop culture in general – is World War I. “Valiant Hearts: The Great War” is a story of love, loss and sacrifice told in the horrifying trenches of WWI through the eyes of four soldiers and a dog. “Valiant Hearts” is not your typical war game; most are gun blasting, action-packed blockbusters where one guy takes on legions of bad guys, but “Valiant Hearts” is more about telling a touching and poignant story about the realities of war.

“Valiant Hearts: The Great War” is built on the UbiArt engine, the same used to create the gorgeous “Rayman Legends.” The game looks beautiful, even though the subject matter is grim. The art style is amazing to look at and the sound and voice work are very impressive. The gameplay is not what you expect either; it is 2D and it is more about navigating the environment, avoiding detection, and solving puzzles.

There are also some interesting segments where you have to drive a car, which is more like quicktime events where you have to swerve to avoid things that get in your way. None of the puzzles are particularly difficult and they usually revolve around going places, picking up items and using them at the right time. The controls and gameplay are functional, but they are just there to help tell a wonderful story. A lot of the puzzles revolve around using the dog to get around obstacles and get out-of-reach items.

“Valiant Hearts” is not an action game, but more like a history lesson. It includes several of the real major battles of WWI, and if you pause the game you can dig into menus that have documents that detail an incredible amount of historical data. If you are a history buff then you have to check out this game.

You get to learn about technology of the era and even read and act out real letters from soldiers depicting actual events. Most of the story is told with speech bubbles, so I hope you don’t mind reading. There is some narration that does help to tell the story but it isn’t used as often as it should be; I think some of the moments in the game would be more impactful if there was more voice acting.

Even though this game is pretty short – about five hours – it is beautifully told and has an extreme wealth of historical information. It isn’t the most cheerful game, but it is an accurate portrayal of what life was like on the front lines and in the trenches. There isn’t a ton of replay value, but it is worth the download just for the experience and the history lesson.

Overall I loved “Valiant Hearts: The Great War,” a refreshing take on a war story told in a time period you never get to hear about. It looks and sounds incredible and is easy to pick up and play. “Valiant Hearts” is one of the best games to come out this year. If you want a bombastic, action packed war game this is not for you, but if you want to hear a touching tale and learn something about history this is definitely worth a look.

– Robbie Vanderveken is the digital operations specialist at The Times Leader. Email him at rvanderveken@timesleader.com.