What I’m Playing – Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Valiant Hearts 1

A real war story

A young husband is a new dad, and he living in peace on a farm owned by his father-in-law. That imagery is instantly shattered by the arrival of German soldiers who forcefully enlist him into service. His wife screams and reaches for him as he is pulled away – the cries of his newborn son echo as he disappears from view. The father-in-law does his best to comfort his daughter and grandson, but he receives word that he has also been called to serve in the war… for the French army. His face is solemn as he contemplates the possibility of facing his son-in-law on the battlefield.

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There are dozens of in-game moments to pause and enjoy the view.

That’s just the opening few minutes of Valiant Hearts: The Great War. By the time I had control of my character on screen, I was already emotionally invested. What was going to happen to this family? Will they have to fight each other? Is there some way they can all survive this and get back to life on the farm?

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Has a giant ladle ever looked more badass???

Some of those questions are answered earlier than others, and the story is much more nuanced than a simple “will they live or die” narrative. It’s a story of survival, courage, loyalty, and sacrifice. It’s also one of the best stories I’ve experienced across any medium.

There’s a good game under here!

Valiant Hearts has one of the most moving video game stories in recent memory. It’s also a visual treat that wisely utilizes a timeless art style. So how does it play? The core mechanics of this game are good – if not great. I really like the combination of action, platforming, stealth, and adventure gameplay sprinkled throughout. It never really commits to a specific style, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s not a remarkably challenging game, but it’s not meant to be a puzzler that leaves you stumped at every turn. Because it’s so story-driven, the game needs to keep things moving.

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If those bombs didn’t have such huge shadows, we’d be screwed.

This game is available for free on PS plus for a few more days. If I haven’t convinced you yet, the temporary price tag should do the trick. Valiant Hearts is one of my favorite games of 2014.

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