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Valiant Hearts: The Great War review: a powerful story told through the horrors of war

on 30 June 2014

War is not pretty. It’s full of death, sadness, emotion, and it corrupts the most noble and sincere of men. Valiant Hearts: The Great War depicts the horrors of war not by putting a gun in your hand but through an emotional story and an artistic style that highlights the gritty darkness that overshadowed the world between 1914-1918.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War puts players in the shoes of four brave souls and their canine companion. Although each character has their own story to tell their paths quickly intersect and unite them to a common goal; namely, to reunite a young German soldier with his wife and new born baby.

The game begins when a young man named Karl, who is working on his father-in-law’s farm in France, is soon drafted to serve in the German army and must leave his family to serve his country. Soon after, Emile, Karl's father-in-law, is signed up as well to serve in the French army. During his first battle, Emile is shot, wounded, and taken as a prisoner of war. Emile then discovers that Karl was part of the squad that Emile had engaged in. After their heartwarming reunion the French army attacks and the two become separated.

Throughout the game Emile exchanges letters between his daughter and discovers that his grandson has fallen ill and his home town had been taken over by the German army. Emile sets out to find his son-in-law and return him to his family. On his journey Emile encounters Freddie, an American soldier after the general that attacked Paris and killed his wife, and Ana, a Belgian nurse searching for her scientist father kidnapped by the same general that killed Freddie's wife.

The game’s story is presented through a narrator who details each character's’ plight throughout the game as if he was narrating a documentary on the History Channel. Of the four characters, Emile's voice is the only one that the player will hear when he reads the letters he receives and writes to his daughter. This carries great weight throughout the story as the game itself is inspired by the real letters written by soldiers during the war.

Throughout the game characters communicate through their animations and picture bubbles that appear over their head showing players what they need to do. I commend Ubisoft Montpellier for deviating from traditional character dialog and telling their story through the characters’ animations, and not once did I feel as if I never knew what any of them were trying to communicate. I would also like to point out that although characters scream and talk in the background, they do so in their native tongue and it's no more than a few words. As most of the game is presented this way I was never bothered with the narration as he only came in before the start and end of each mission.

Continued overleaf...