Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Switch) Review

Connected Hearts at War

Valiant Hearts isn’t your typical war game. It isn’t a first-person shooter where you run in guns blazing. Rather, it is a slower puzzle adventure title centering on four ordinary individuals. It shares their poignant experiences during the Great War, otherwise known as World War I.

Here’s my Video Review for your viewing pleasure!


Throughout Valiant Hearts, you switch control to each of the four protagonists and follow their lives as they intersect with one another. The first hero is Emile, an older French man who is drafted for the war. His son-in-law Karl, another protagonist, is German, and is therefore deported and drafted into the opposing German army. The narrative doesn’t take sides nor shies away from showing the personal tragedies of war: the pain of leaving loved ones and the tension of facing family on the battlefield. Emile and Karl’s stories are strong on their own, but two additional characters deliver emotional weight: Freddie, the American with a vendetta, and Anna, the Belgian nurse with a hidden agenda. As I became invested into everyone’s tragic stories, I grew to love them all. This isn’t simply a tale of good and evil, but one of inner conflict, struggles, and true heroism.

ValiantHearts_Switch_Review1.jpg.jpg
CHARGE!

Despite its serious premise, the cartoonish visuals suggest the opposite. Ubisoft’s UbiArt framework, previously used in Rayman Legends and Child of Light, works wonders to present high-quality fluid animation. Everyone is drawn in a comic style and moves with exaggerated mannerisms. For a game set in World War I, there is surprisingly very little blood or gore. Nor is there proper voice acting aside from the narrator and Emile. Instead, everyone speaks in Banjo-Kazooie-like grunts. It’s a humorous style that lightens the dreary tone. Although it prevents the game from fully achieving realism, it doesn’t detract from the tear-jerking moments. In fact, the juxtaposed style and story made the characters more endearing, which caused heavier heartbreak any time they were in grave peril. An abundance of silence and melancholic piano and violin tunes serve as constant reminders of the true stakes of the Great War.

ValiantHearts_Switch_Review2.jpg.jpg
Every area is a series of self-contained puzzles.

You play as the four protagonists to solve puzzles and complete action segments. The game plays similarly to a point-and-click adventure combined with a puzzle platformer, since you can manually move. Most sections are self-contained areas in which you must get through a situation by performing a variety of tasks. For instance, perhaps you need to create distractions to get past guards, search for civilians to help you move a statue, or sneak around an army base using disguises. Alongside these environmental riddles, you’ll often come across more cerebral puzzles like cracking codes or activating mechanisms.

Unlike other games in the genre that feature esoteric objectives, the environmental riddles are usually clear. Despite a lack of dialogue, NPCs state their needs through pictures. The challenge typically isn’t figuring out what to do, but how to achieve it. There is occasionally some adventure game logic that may be baffling to newcomers to the genre, but the game offers incremental and optional picture hints at timed intervals to guide you in the right direction.

ValiantHearts_Switch_Review4.jpg.jpg
Something about this contraption seems dangerous, doggo.

Each character has an exclusive move, such as Emile’s ability to shovel dirt and Anna’s nursing proficiencies, which interestingly enough, play out as rhythm minigames. Usually, the game decides which of the four you play as at any given time, but the strongest puzzles utilize multiple characters at once, where you engage in faux co-op missions to get them to the goal. An additional fifth character, the adorable dog Walt, is the impetus for most of these multi-character riddles. It was always a pleasure to see this versatile and faithful companion, who plays a part in everyone’s story thread. The four protagonists otherwise control similarly and are tasked with the same actions, like finding levers and cutting wires. I appreciated the immersive replication of pulling a lever back or rotating a wheel switch with the analog stick or the Nintendo Switch’s touch screen. However, some actions aren’t as intuitive in either control scheme, particularly throwing items to precise degrees.

Although the puzzle difficulty increases over time, they start to repeat themselves, and you find yourself in the final chapter still pulling levers or performing longer fetch quests. The latter, by the way, gets frustrating as there is no inventory management. You can only hold one item at a time and must recall where you drop items.

ValiantHearts_Switch_Review3.jpg
Best to time the healing rhythm to “Stayin’ Alive.”

Valiant Hearts prevents itself from growing stale by interweaving action between puzzles. Some cleverly apply the traditional adventure gameplay into stealth segments or full-scale bosses while other fun sections empower you with a tank or cannon. The weaker portions involve dodging a barrage of incoming missiles and gunfire, which isn’t easy due to the characters’ slower movements. Particularly annoying are the car chases, in which your car is constantly driving towards the screen, and you must react to approaching threats. Nevertheless, the constant gameplay shifts keep things fresh, and any losses merely return you to a nearby checkpoint.

The campaign is about eight to ten hours, which is fair given the lower price. It doesn’t lend itself to repeated playthroughs, but you can go back to any chapter to look for hidden artifacts that provide historical facts about World War I. The game is rich with supplemental background related to actual events the characters face. It’s a fantastic way to add an educational touch to a game that is so rooted in world history.

ValiantHearts_Switch_Review5.jpg.jpg
The best part of the car chases is that they’re timed to classical music!

Conclusion

Valiant Hearts defies the traditional war game, featuring comical, fluidly animated visuals that tell a somber story about people caught up in World War I. The interactive puzzles, alongside engaging action segments, are effectively interspersed in an experience that is hard to put down. While this slower-paced war title may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s worth a playthrough for history buffs, puzzle platformer fans, or anyone who wants a beautiful adventure game with a lot of heart.

Score: 8/10

Note: A review copy was used for this article. This review was posted on DarkStation.

What do you think of Valiant Hearts: The Great War? What are your favorite historical games? How about your favorite puzzle adventures? Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments section below! Thank you so much for reading and watching!

13 thoughts on “Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Switch) Review

  1. Great review for a game about the Great War! Valiant Hearts looks like an interesting mix of a period piece and puzzle game. You wouldn’t think that combining cartoonish visuals with the somber tone of war would work, but it does. The game and style remind me of The Lion’s Song, which I also only know about because of your review. I really liked the music in the video. The game music does a lot to highlight the emotional beats. I don’t know as much as about WWI as I do about WWII (I used to watch a lot of war movies), but I like that this game makes an effort to provide a history lesson, not just a diversion. Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your wonderful words of support and encouragement! It truly means a lot to me! 😀 The setting of Valiant Hearts definitely reminds me of The Lion’s Song, though this plays out more like a puzzle platformer point-and-click style adventure whereas The Lion’s Song was more of a visual novel. They’re both great looks into the same time period from different perspectives, and they both have excellent music and art. I’m especially impressed with Ubisoft’s UbiArt framework in Valiant Hearts. It may not be realistic or look like your typical wargame, but it was very endearing. Also, I learned a lot of real world history through the collectible items and facts in the game as well, which I appreciated. I think since you like war movies, you might be interested in the tone and World War I setting of Valiant Hearts: The Great War. Thanks again! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ohhh that finale was definitely emotional. It was a big whirlwind of feelings for me that tugged at my heart strings in multiple directions. It’s awesome that you learned a lot about WWI from Valiant Hearts! I appreciated all the little facts and how they related to each chapter.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree! Valiant Hearts is such an emotional game that pulled on my heartstrings. As for other historical games, what immediately comes to mind is The Lion’s Song, which is more of a visual novel adventure that also takes place during World War I, but follows four creators (artists, mathematicians, etc.) trying to improve themselves and deal with both their inner conflicts and the bigger social issues in the world. I also reviewed The Lion’s Song for Switch if you’re interested!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review, and just in time for Veterans’ Day. I like the juxtaposition of lighter visuals with tough subject matter. I could see that backfiring in some cases, but here they seem to pull it off! The inclusion of World War I factoids is nice bit of edutainment too. I will never get tired of that word!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your support friend! Valiant Hearts’ Switch release did time up well with Veterans’ Day. Fun fact: it also came out right at the centennial anniversary of the end of World War I. How fitting! I really like the artstyle, especially as a fan of the two modern Rayman games. The game still manages to establish its somber tone through the music and story. Plus, reading about and learning the tragedies of WWI brings a solemnity to everything. I could see Valiant Hearts being one of those edutainment games, like those old Bible games or the ones that warn you about the danger of drugs. Edutainment!

      Like

  3. I definitely want to play this! Especially for the story and learning of things, haha. A lot of games glamorize war… it’s nice to see one that seems to show the sad reality of it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that a lot of games glamorize war. What I love so much about Valiant Hearts is that it doesn’t just portray the harsh truths of what it was like for soldiers and nurses, but it encourages players to learn about World War I history. The story is light, but impactful, and I hope you enjoy it and learning the WWI facts if you pick Valiant Hearts up!

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s