Valiant Hearts: The Great War
|Valiant Hearts: The Great War|
|Writer(s)||Matt Entin & Ed Kuehnel
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a puzzle adventure video game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft. The game is inspired by letters written during World War I and has four characters on the battlefield who help a young German soldier find his love in this story about survival, sacrifice and friendship.
Valiant Hearts is a puzzle-based game which takes place across the course of World War I, the Great War, putting players in the role of four characters; the Frenchman Emile, his German son-in-law Karl, American soldier Freddie, and Belgian nurse Anna.
The game comprises four chapters split into several sections, with each section requiring the player to clear an objective in order to progress through the story, most of which generally involve solving puzzles by obtaining certain items needed for the situation. Other sections include wartime segments requiring the player to survive heavy gunfire, stealth sections where the player must avoid being detected by enemies, and rhythmic car chase sections set to classic songs. Each character is able to interact with objects, perform a melee attack to knock out guards or smash through debris, and aim and throw projectile objects such as bricks or grenades. There are also some traits unique to each character. Emile has a shovel which lets him dig through soft ground, Freddie carries shears which can be used to cut through barbed wire, and Anna is able to treat patients for injuries, which requires the player to press buttons with precise timing.
Additionally, players can issue various commands to a dog named Walt, who is able to squeeze into small areas, hold onto and fetch certain items, activate switches, and move around without being suspected by the enemy. The game features optional collectible items hidden in each segment, facts about the real-life war that are unlocked as the game progresses, and a hint system the player can use if they are stuck on a section for a certain amount of time.
The story begins in the year 1914. Archduke Franz Ferdinand has been assassinated which causes the Austro-Hungarian Empire to declare war on Serbia. Through established alliances Russia declares war on Austro-Hungary causing Germany to declare war on Russia in response. Anticipating war, France begins to deport all German citizens. Karl, one of the many Germans deported, is forcibly separated from his wife Marie and their son Victor. Karl is then drafted into the German army. Likewise, Marie's father and Karl's father-in-law Emile is drafted into the French army.
After completing his training, Emile is thrown into combat during the Battle of the Frontiers, where his unit is wiped out and he is wounded, captured, and forced to cook for the Germans. His captor is the infamous Baron Von Dorf, an obvious parody of August von Mackensen, who uses many advanced weapons such as chlorine gas and zeppelins to defeat his foes. In a twist of fate, Karl is serving under Von Dorf as one of his soldiers and he recognizes Emile. However, the Allies attack Von Dorf's camp and Karl is forced to flee with Von Dorf. After being rescued from the rubble by Walt, a Doberman Pinscher dog from the German army, Emile escapes in the confusion and meets Freddie, an American who volunteered to join the French army after his wife was killed in a German bombing raid led by Von Dorf.
They meet Anna, a Belgian veterinary student who doubles as a battlefield nurse. Anna is tracking Von Dorf since he has kidnapped her father and is forcing him to develop advanced war machines. The three unlikely friends chase Von Dorf's zeppelin from Ypres to Reims. When it crashes, Von Dorf escapes with Anna's father in a biplane. Karl survives the crash and is captured as a prisoner of war. Anna accompanies Karl to the prison in order to make sure he recovers from his wounds.
Emile and Freddie continue their pursuit to get revenge on Von Dorf and rescue Anna's father. They assault Fort Douaumont at Verdun where Von Dorf is hiding and capture his newest war machine, a large armoured tank. Although they rescue Anna's father, Von Dorf escapes again. While Emile is separated, Freddie continues his pursuit and finally corners Von Dorf during the Battle of the Somme, defeating him in a fist fight atop his ruined tank. Despite his desire for revenge, Freddie realizes that he will not gain anything from killing Von Dorf and spares his life. For his repeated failures, Von Dorf is demoted and sent away from the front lines, a fate worse than death for the status-obsessed Von Dorf.
Meanwhile, in a French prisoner of war camp, Karl learns that his son is ill. Determined to reunite with his family, Karl escapes the camp, but is believed by Emile to have been killed when trying to escape. Emile never learns that Karl is alive. Karl encounters Anna, who helps drive him back to his farm at occupied Saint-Mihiel, but they are both captured by the Germans. Karl escapes when the Allies stage another assault and reaches his farm. Unfortunately, he discovers his farm has been shelled with chlorine gas. He saves Marie's life by giving her his gas mask, but he succumbs to the gas himself. Anna then arrives and saves Karl's life. When he recovers, Karl is finally reunited with his wife and son after three years of war and exile.
Back on the frontlines, Emile is forced into the bloody and suicidal Nivelle Offensive. As his commanding officer constantly forces his troops into the line of fire to their deaths, Emile finally reaches his breaking point and strikes the officer with his shovel, inadvertently killing him. Emile is court martialed and sentenced to death by firing squad. In his final letter to Marie, Emile expresses his hatred for war, his grief at Karl's apparent death, and hopes that she and her family can find happiness. Emile is executed, and some time later, Karl and his family (with the newly adopted Walt in tow) visit Emile's grave to mourn. The story ends in the year 1917, when the United States officially enters the war and sends its army to Europe, to fight on The Western Front.
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Valiant Hearts: The Great War received positive reviews. Aggregating review websites GameRankings and Metacritic gave the PlayStation 4 version 81.41% based on 29 reviews and 77/100 based on 48 reviews, the Xbox One version 80.15% based on 13 reviews and 81/100 based on 15 reviews, the Microsoft Windows version 79.17% based on 18 reviews and 79/100 based on 26 reviews and the PlayStation 3 version 76.67% based on 3 reviews and 77/100 based on 4 reviews.
The game was awarded the Best Narrative and the Games for Change awards in 2014's The Game Awards and the Best Animated Video Game award in 42nd Annie Awards. At the 2014 National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers (NAVGTR) awards the game was nominated for the Original Dramatic Score (New IP), Game (Original Role Playing), Costume Design, Art Direction (Period Influence) and Animation, Artistic categories.
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