UbiArt engine was brimming with potential, and Valiant Hearts was the second game after Child of Light to use this game engine effectively. It was then mainly neglected to Rayman series and quietly put away once the focus shifted from it. Even after all these years, Valiant Hearts still looks great which is all thanks to the amazing art style and animated look of the UbiArt engine.
Valiant Hearts is a reasonably short game. It features four episodes divided into tiny segments of gameplay, some of which will last just a few minutes at most. It tells a grand tale set during the world war 1 and the story continues to intertwine between several different characters. You can get more of the story beats through the cutscenes and piece together the rest through the in-game lore which also offers a comprehensive historical breakdown of the world war 1.
In terms of the gameplay, it is purely a side-scrolling adventure game which relies on a mix of old-school adventure with a bit of quick-time event action. The level design focuses on exploring them, finding items to progress or puzzles to figure out. Each character goes with their own unique abilities that you can use during special occasions. The puzzles are simple to understand but they seem more as a hurdle in a game whose strongest point is its story and presentation.
I found the game emotional on several occasions which shows how effective it is at evoking such reaction from the player. Even though most of the game features an animated look, the storytelling is pretty good and the way the character switching happens is perfect for the game. The ability to go back and replay any of the chapters in the story help to add some replay value to this otherwise brief campaign. You can do this to get all the collectibles in every chapter, and some are hidden pretty well.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is remarkably effective at handling its multiple characters. The story focuses on the struggles of a family whose members are in two opposing nations in the war: Germany and France. The key character here is Karl who gets summoned for war and then forced to enlist in the German army. After his wife learns of this news, she feels devastated but has no choice and keeps waiting for his return. Meanwhile, Emile, who is the father-in-law, also decides to enlist in the French army and sets out on a quest to find Karl. During his journey, he makes an unlikely foreign friend from America, Freddie. However, he gets attacked during a battle along with his whole unit and then captured by the German army. The story goes through multiple different twists to end up with a conclusion which feels satisfying but also packs an emotionally powerful punch.
The issue with Valiant Hearts is mostly in the shallow approach to gameplay. It is not just effective at conveying the story because of the limited interaction and linear exploration. Puzzles are the only complex things that you will encounter in the game, but the design for most works in a way that asks for you to waste time. The puzzles are not just satisfying or clever. They also act as a stop-gap for a story and can generally hurt the flow of the game as a result.
For the Nintendo Switch version, Ubisoft has incorporated a minor touchscreen functionality into the game. Now, it is nothing groundbreaking, but it helps if you are playing the game in the portable mode. Most games don’t really bother with such type of support, so it is nice to have here. The game also looks good and plays perfectly fine in the portable mode, and in fact, this is the mode which I will recommend for first timers since the game is suitable for playing it in short intervals.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: 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.
Final Score - 7.5/107.5/10
Valiant Hearts: The Great War presents us the grim side of World War 1 which is now thankfully a thing of the past. It looks pleasant and this Nintendo Switch port seems to have fared better than Child of Light despite running on the same game engine, so if you are seeking a brief interactive story, this gets a solid recommendation.