Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review

Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review

Photo contributed by Ubisoft

By Chris Mudd, Staff Writer

A weary older man traversing the gunfire and rubble in the trenches of World War I is not the usual protagonist of a popular video game.

“Valiant Hearts: The Great War” tells the story of Emile, a father who has been drafted to fight in the French Army after the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He is an out of shape, yet burly, countryman, making his way through military training deep into the war.

Ubisoft presents the tale in a way that plays out very much like a pop-up book.

The side scrolling action adventure genre is usually not one associated with having particularly strong story elements, but “Valiant Hearts” is an absolute powerhouse of an emotional story.

While the graphics may seem outdated by modern standards, the cartoonish elements of the character and environmental design bring added depth to the world. And while most of the dialogue is played out in non-distinct French murmuring, the occasional voiceover work is astounding and emotional.

The gameplay itself is simple, yet elegant in its design and execution. The limited perspective would usually instill a feeling of running your character through a predetermined narrow path, almost a hallway. Yet, that feeling is exactly what the story wants you to feel. Constrained and trapped, Emile is forced to wage a war he doesn’t wish to continue fighting.

His viewpoint is established through the combat he endures, as well as witnessing firsthand the corruption of his superiors. We also get perspective of a small handful of supplemental characters, but it all boils down to Emile’s journey.

This game  left a sizeable imprint on my summer. I went weeks thinking about not only the ending of the game, but also the implications of what the game managed to say through its narrative.

The gaming industry has made leaps and bounds in storytelling over the last generation of consoles, and “Valiant Hearts” is a beautiful chapter in that evolution that is well worth the time investment.