Of all the games from Ubisoft’s E3 conference, I was most impressed with Valiant Hearts: The Great War. While the game is part of Ubisoft’s UbiArt Framework engine, which shares its graphical style with Child of Light and Rayman: Origins, I respected this side-scrolling puzzle adventure game most for telling a story set in World War I. It’s about time we see a war game that’s not set in the modern day or World War II.
Valiant Hearts:The Great War focuses on the perspectives of four characters. Each character participates in the Great War, although they each have their own motivations for surviving. Unfortunately, the demo wasn’t long enough for me to get to know each character; however, I was introduced to two: Karl and Freddie.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War introduces some of the core mechanics of the game along with Karl. He is a prisoner of war who is forced to feed his enemies. Karl has to drag freakishly large containers of water, which players perform by holding a face button and dragging the analog sticks in the appropriate direction. This is applied to levers and other push-able objects. In the demo, Valiant Hearts: taught me these mechanics by rolling (pushing) the container under conduits for the water and then pulling levers to release it into the container.
When battle erupts, Ubisoft introduces us to our canine companion. Both Karl and the dog are trapped in the rubble. Karl needs the dog to move away from the rubble, so he can bash it down with his tool of choice: the ladle. To do this, players hold the left bumper, which pauses the game, and then they press a face button in order to tell the dog to sit. In some situations, Karl is unable to reach certain areas; however, he can command the dog, which is lower to the ground, to crawl under and obstacle and fetch an item.
Even in the midst of this chaos, I could see the haunting beauty of Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Karl speaks only French, and Ubisoft provides zero translations. However, I can still understand what’s going based on each character’s tone of voice and animated expressions. I could see the agony in a wounded enemy’s face, and I could see a fellow prisoner of war’s sadness as he clearly longed for his wife and child. Each of the scenes looks as if they were a moving, colorful painting; however, it’s the haunting music and devastating atmosphere of war helped me to sympathize with these characters.
The demo then introduced me to Freddie, who is a decorated soldier in the French army. Freddie and his comrades storm a bridge, for which he needs wire cutters and instinct to reach it. This time, the enemies fire tons of ammunition towards Freddie, so he’ll need to fight back. While the mechanics are the mostly same, Freddie is able to do some cool stuff. Like Karl, he is able to throw things; however, Freddie has access to bombs, which he can use to clear obstacles and blow up enemy soldiers. He’ll even need to throw bricks to distract soldiers in order to sneak past them. Finally, Freddie was able to pick up dynamite, and then attach it to the device needed to destroy the bridge. This leaves me hopeful that Valiant Hearts: The Great War will offer a variety of gameplay options.
What I took away from Valiant Hearts: The Great War was how each character adapts to the mechanics. Each character has a specific goal in mind, be it to escape with his canine friend, or continue his path to become a war hero. Either way, the mechanics remained largely the same while telling the rarely explored story of World War I. Let’s just hope this variety continues with the other characters.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War hits store shelves this June on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.