Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Historical and Poignant Gaming

Valiant Hearts: The Great War_20140625183117
If you’ve got a valiant heart, then perhaps it’s time to play this.

Valiant Hearts isn’t a traditional video game. The player is prompted to do certain tasks, but it’s essentially an interactive story and, shock, an educational experience! Ubisoft Montpellier is behind this charismatic, and unusually sensitive, video game about war. Let’s be clear – most war games (such as the notorious cash cow Call of Duty) are gratuitously violent and have given the video games industry a bad name. For shame!

Valiant Hearts was released in June 2014 to coincide with the 100th anniversary since the commencement of the Great War (known by most of us as World War I), which came into existence like a malodorous ball of madness. As the game highlights, many men (700,000 in France alone, to be precise) willingly signed up to go into battle, eager to show off their patriotism. Indeed, Ubisoft Montpellier developed the game based on letters sent during the war, and the narrative focuses on several characters and the respective fates they meet.

Valiant Hearts: The Great War

In what can be considered the video game equivalent of All Quiet on the Western Front and Storm of Steel, the talented folk at Ubisoft Montpellier have done the impossible – they’ve made an honourable and excellent video game about war. Story and gameplay prompts merge together in a streamlined way to immerse you into the experience, and the script is melancholic but, at times, highly amusing. Gallows humour, eh?

Valiant Hearts has been created quite superbly, with the developer’s distinctive artistic theme, as witnessed in other Ubisoft titles such as CHILD of LIGHT, evident once more for what is a history lesson about the Great War. The historical aspect isn’t forced upon players (it can be accessed easily from the start menu when prompted), who can journey into the game as the voiceover provides details of how the conflict began, and who went to battle.

The player is largely prompted to follow simple actions in order to progress the story, and this is where the real beauty of Valiant Hearts comes out. You learn of the fates of individuals and, with the subtle but beautiful – largely piano led – soundtrack playing, get a reminder of the stark realities of war. We commend Ubisoft for their efforts as, truly, it was badly bloody needed in a games industry which far too often relies on brutal violence to earn its money.

All Obnoxious on the Western Front

The video game industry still has an image problem and it’s often far too easy to see why. Titles like the unbelievably idiotic Call of Duty remain constant bestsellers and are largely targeted at unbelievably petulant and obnoxious teenagers. Worse still, many games trivialise war, which has led to sweeping criticisms from the media, and other cultural arenas, that the games industry is callous, puerile, and plain stupid.

Titles like Valiant Hearts go a long way to redress the issue, and help promote the wonderfully imaginative, sensitive, and enriched worlds video games can indeed promote. It’s a wonderful little title and a game which offers humour and poignancy in equal measure, all thoroughly researched and presented from an era marked by horrible tragedy. We recommend you pick it up – you can do so on the cheap for iOS and Steam. Bask in its glory!

6 comments

  1. I own both Remarque’s book and Junger’s. Poignant indeed. And I wrote a couple of books myself on the Great War experience from the New Zealand perspective – ‘Western Front: The New Zealand Division 1916-18″: (Reed 2005) and Shattered Glory (Penguin 2010). It was an incredible period where ordinary people found thermselves having to do extraordinary things – whatever it took. I must check this game out.

    • The game is excellent – if you’ve got an iPad you can download it for that, or on your PC with Steam. As for your books, I’ll check those out! I read a lot of war literature last year and I’m always eager to learn more.

        • Merci, I’ll most definitely get that. Out of print doesn’t phase me, I’ll hit eBay or Amazon’s independent stores. Cool, well if you’re on Steam then make sure you try out Half-Life 2 whilst you’re at it – particularly excellent sci-fi action there!

          • I played Half Life and Black Mesa – both really excellent. I have yet to tackle Half Life 2 (I have a friend who keeps urging me to do it), but when my sci-fi publisher commissioned an illustration of my character last year I said ‘Make him look a bit like Gordon Freeman/Elvis Costello’. I do have a few last ‘author’ copies of “Shattered Glory” myself – I bought a box when Penguin put it out of print – drop me a note via the contact link on my website http://www.matthewwright.net

            • Cool, I will do later! My day of work beckons. I like the Elvis Costello and Gordon Freeman combination. I could come up with some pretty crazy musician and video game character combos: John Lennon and Tetris, Jimi Hendrix and Mario Kart. Seriously, though, Half-Life 2 is amazing in the true sense of the word. Genuinely something else – definitely worth your time.

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