Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Video games don’t explore World War I much, since trench warfare as a shooter or strategy title could only hope to match the excitement of watching paint dry if the paint also emitted clouds of rats and disease. Story-focused genres like adventures have more potential, which Valiant Hearts: The Great War hopes to tap into, with mixed success. The intent seems to have been to chronicle the suffering of the war without the experience being completely miserable for the player, but some methods of doing so are a lot more appropriate than others. Giving the protagonists an inherently lovable dog to help out with problem solving works great; making the ostensible villain a living cartoon with weaponry that’s closer to steampunk than historical fiction…not so much. It does pull itself together in time to deliver an emotional powerhouse of a finale, however.

The tonal dissonance permeates nearly every aspect of the game. The visuals provided by the UbiArt Framework are gorgeous, but the jaunty animation was more suited to Rayman Origins than to this subject matter. The scattershot gameplay struggles to justify its presence, often abandoning realism entirely, which is fine when the tasks are thematically appropriate, such as making chains of trades for mundane items or tunneling around undetonated mortal shells. Representing first aid procedures as a tuneless, arbitrary rhythm minigame, on the other hand, is both boring and incongruous. The weakest aspect is probably the audio. The voice acting is constant and strangely muted, pairing every scene with an incessant stream of gibberish. Conversely, the strongest aspect is how the events of each chapter are directly informed by their associated documentary snippets, making the gameplay subtly educational without detracting from the experience.

5.5/10
5.5/10

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