Valiant Hearts is a 2D puzzle and story-oriented adventure game available on PC, PS4, XBOX, iOS and Android. It is available through Steam and is developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft.
5/5 across the board. Seriously.
- Difficulty: Medium
- Gameplay Score: 5/5
- Graphics Score: 5/5
- Music: 5/5
I have great respect for games that can not only entertain but also provide knowledge and most importantly, create an emotional connection. What started out as a puzzle game has, in the course of the game play, moved me to tears and angered me in exasperation at the state of our world. What’s more? There’s a dog in the game that you grow to love.
Valiant Hearts is a puzzle game. You move along the 2D platform going in and out of areas, picking up items, interacting with objects to achieve certain objectives. Solving the puzzles will progress to the next stage of the story. The STORY, Senpai, is the core of the game. It is heart wrenching and cruel because it actually took place 100 years ago: The Great War – World War 1.
Story (No Spoilers):
The characters in the game and their stories fictionally portrays the enduring horror and the very real sacrifices that were made that allowed the world as we know it today to exist. Ubisoft’s portrayal of the war did not take sides but rather illustrated the challenges and suffering that allied and axis soldiers and the common people had to endure. In school we learned about the high politics, consequences and strategies of WW1. Ironically in this game, we learn about the difficult choices that the soldiers and common people, like us, would have faced.
We meet Emile and his family, daughter Marie and son-in-law Karl, a German citizen living in France. When Franz Ferdinand got himself shot, igniting WW1, France deported all German citizens including Karl who was then drafted into the German army working under the Baron Van Dorf. Emile is subsequently drafted into the French army and when his unit was wiped out, he was forced to work as a cook for the German army under Baron Van Dorf.
Freddie, an American citizen volunteers for the French army after his wife was killed by a German bombing commanded by Baron Van Dorf.
Finally, we meet Anna, a Belgian nurse who’s father was kidnapped by the German army for his knowledge in advanced weaponry and is placed under the custody of you-guessed-it Baron Van Dorf.
Linked by their common enemy, these characters eventually run into each other. The player switches between the different characters and play out each of their stories and respective puzzles. It’s amazing.
Arrow keys to move around. Space to interact with objects and “D” to hit stuff. There was an option to change the key binds and I changed it to WASD and “F” to hit because it was easier for me.
I have to admit that while the controls are simple, the way the game utilizes them are highly sophisticated. You may need to press multiple buttons at once or play this Audition like game while healing people where you have to press the correct arrow key that is prompted.
Pressing TAB will pull up the fact screen. The fact screen explains the real life events that happened in the same stage that you are currently playing in. For instance, at one point we had to use tanks to push through a wall. Press TAB and a screen explains how and where tanks were used during the Great War.
The puzzles are elegantly done. Each puzzle flows fluidly into the next and often the difficulty is not in figuring out how to do it but rather doing it right. Some of the puzzles include finding handles to pull a lever, finding wheels to turn a cog, throwing grenades at the appropriate platform, using binoculars to find the right coordinates to bomb.
At one point I had to control a character and move across a field hiding in a flock of sheep to avoid being detected by patrol. In another instance, Anna was driving and we were being chased by a giant tank hell-bent on squashing us into planks of wood. That stage took me a couple of tries…
Other puzzles are familiar to things we’ve seen before: Connect the pipes so that the water flows. Easy.
There are also a couple of boss fights where you have to aim and throw a grenade at the engine to bring down a zeppelin. What’s fascinating is that the developers managed to make these boss fights flow and connect directly into real life events AND when you click TAB a fact screen comes up with REAL pictures of the wreckage. As you compare the animated scenes in front of you with the pictures taken 100 years ago that echos the same horror, the mind-blown is real.
Wreckage of a zeppelin and its corresponding fact sheet.
In addition to the fact screen, throughout the game there will be collectible items lying on the ground. Each item has a history and pressing TAB will open up the item description and how it was used during the war. This is one of my favourite aspects of the game.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I love Valiant Hearts. Educational, fantastic puzzles and an awesome story line coupled with relevant music. At one point bombs were being shot at me in the same beat as the music. My heart was racing.
I really enjoyed the fact screens and finding the different collectible items that gave a further depth to the story. The puzzles were fun and they were diverse enough to keep me from being bored. If I was a teacher, I would make my students play this game instead of doing the lesson on WW1. High politics is great and all, but understanding the reality of the situation for the common people honors their memory and commands respect for their sacrifices. It also encourages us to not make the same stupid mistakes again.
The game also paid homage to the Battle of Vimy Ridge and as the only Canadian on theSebie Team, I really felt proud of my country for their efforts in the war. You have to understand, this isn’t something Canadians say very often. Good job Ubisoft.