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Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Media set in World War I has seen a revival in recent years coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the conflict. Peter Jackson’s documentary They Shall Not Grow Old released last year and Sam Mendes’ 1917 looks to be an Oscar contender this year.

However, the same cannot be said for video games. Outside of Battlefield 1, only one game took on the conflict: Valiant Hearts: The Great War. A 2D puzzle-platformer about a Franco-German family torn apart by deportations and forced to fight on opposite sides of the war, the game pulls no punches with the subject matter.

It also treats that subject matter with respect. Players can find various collectibles throughout the game that unlock factoids about World War I. Sometimes they are as simple as a pen or as sobering as a death count.

Valiant Hearts takes a different approach to the “World War I greatest hits package.” Players visit Verdun, Ypres, and the Somme, but instead of grand historical tragedy the story is intensely personal. It develops in prison camps and the trenches, in bombed out cities and idyllic farms ravaged by the horrors of war.

The gameplay changes across the course of the game; one chapter requires players to save civilians using QTEs as a doctor; another sees players scour the trenches for bombs and assault Fort Douaumont. There are also several sequences that require players to drive a taxi.

The game’s ending states its thesis: “war makes men mad.” Despite the cutesy art style, Valiant Hearts is not a game for the faint of heart. The game will stick with you long after the credits roll.