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Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Switch)

Posted by GG Goblin On November - 26 - 2018

A poignant and educational puzzle adventure in the First World War.

It makes sense that Ubisoft would bring the 2014 puzzle adventure Valiant Hearts: The Great War to Switch, not only because every game released in the last ten years seems to be making an appearance on Nintendo’s newest console, but also because this year marks 100 years since the end of the First World War. While most games set in this conflict would focus on the more glamorised side of war, Valiant Hearts would rather show how regular people would have been affected, and it goes to great lengths to try and teach the player about the conflict along the way, which is alright by me.

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Valiant Hearts is a side-scrolling puzzle adventure set during the First World War, in which players will take on the roles of a number of different, fairly regular characters. Players will swap between these characters from level to level, furthering their story and seeing how the conflict affected them. The stories that each character has to tell are one of the highlights of the game. These are regular people that have very real worries while being caught up in a situation that they just don’t want to be in. It can be quite gritty in places, and often emotional, which is all the more impressive as the character communicate through grunts, gestures and emotes. Diary entries tend to be used to communicate the more difficult things, but the characters express what they are going through very well.

While some may run and hide at the thought of a game being educational, Valiant Hearts manages to carry it off in a very amenable way. The game has an almost documentary feel about it. Each level is accompanied by various explanations to put the level in context, from the major events in the war to the small changes that nonetheless impacted so many lives. It has been 100 years now and first-hand memories are all but gone, so teaching about this terrible conflict and keeping the memories alive will come down to games such as this, and Valiant Hearts really does a good job. The thing is though, Valiant Hearts communicates all of this information in a way that doesn’t feel forced or dull, but rather becomes one of the highlights of the game.

But it is a game, and the gameplay is much more something that players will feel comfortable with. For the most part, this involves moving through a level and solving relatively simple puzzles. These tend to be of the sort that will require the player to find an item to use to proceed, occasionally getting more complex by chaining these actions together in such a way that “A” is required, but the player will need to find “B” in order to get “A”, and “C” will be needed to get “B”, and so on. Sometimes the player will have to take a moment to think, but for the most part there is not too much pause in the progress, and players won’t have to search far to find what they need. These puzzles feel comfortable in the context of the game, but that is not always the case.

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To offer some variety, Valiant Hearts will occasionally mix things up with a more action-based sequence. These may involve some form of stealth, driving a car at high speed, or a more aggressive reaction to what is going on. Most of these sequences feel okay and give the player a break from the regular puzzle solving. However, there are some moments that really do feel out of place and threaten to break the good work being done by the game, reducing it to something far too fantastical. While these sequences can feel jarring, they don’t hang around for too long and can be quickly left behind.

Visually, Valiant Hearts is a very interesting game. There is a cartoon-style look to the game that is detailed enough to allow characters to be expressive, while also respectful enough to keep the serious subject matter from looking like a joke. The game uses muted tones to bring about this seriousness, while keeping the backdrops interesting and relevant enough to keep the player engaged. It’s a good looking game that manages to stand out and be unique.

Since the original launch of the game in 2014, Valiant Hearts has made an appearance on pretty much every platform, including mobile, so it will come as no surprise to hear that the Switch version includes touchscreen controls. These work really well, but I would imagine most players would feel much more comfortable using the controllers. Still, it is nice that they are included.

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a game that succeeds in its intentions. The gameplay may be a little slow and not especially challenging. But this kind of falls to the side as the player becomes invested in the story and the historical teachings along the way only deepen the experience. It may have been around for a while, on most other platforms, but picking up Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Switch is certainly worth considering, whether you have already played it or not.




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