Designer/Developer: Ubisoft Montpellier
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Microsoft Windows, Xbox 360, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Release Date: June 24, 2014
Game Location: Variable
Valiant Hearts is a side scrolling puzzle adventure that tells the story of the soldiers during The Great War (aka WWI). The player takes the role of four characters throughout the game: Emile, Karl, Freddie, and Belgian nurse Anna. Emile is the main character in the story and he joins the military to find his son-in-law Karl. An unfortunate circumstance of the story is that Emile is a Frenchman and his son-in-law Karl is German. The German army conscripts Karl into service and forces him to fight against the people he has lived with for many years. During Emile’s journey he meets an American soldier named Freddie. The soon discover that they are both seeking the same people. Eventually Anna, a Belgian nurse becomes a playable character and as a group Emile, Anna, and Freddie attempt to find Karl while defeating Germans and saving each other. The gameplay is quite robust for a side scrolling puzzle adventure game. Throughout the game the player is tasked with solving puzzles that require reflex, timing, pattern memory, and reasoning. The player almost always unarmed, receiving the required equipment when and only when they need it to advance the game. A dog is also provided to the player to aid them in retrieving items required for advancing the game.
As players proceed through the game they encounter items that reveal facts about The Great War. The facts often reveal the horrendous conditions that soldiers had to face while fighting in the trenches. While following the story of the characters players are placed into high-profile situations and events that occurred during the war like the battle at the Marne, the battle of the Somme, and the Nivelle Offensive. The game progresses through a myriad of backdrops and scenarios ranging from dank and
bleak destroyed cities to bright and colorful county sides. The image above shows an example of an information snippet provided to the player during gameplay. Below is the scene of a zeppelin crash were the player controls Anna who is hot on the trail of Karl and has tracked him to this crash site.
- To discover all of the objects the player should always progress left in each area first. By doing so they will typically discover one or two items that they may have missed if they had progressed to the right as is the natural tendency of the typical player.
- The game does a good job of showing the player the attack pattern of the enemies they encounter. In order to progress steadily the player should take a moment when encountering a new situation to study the pattern of the enemy.
- Because the character is only able to utilize one item at a time it is often in the player’s best interest to pick up whatever item they come across as it is more often than not the item they will need to solve the next puzzle.
- When the player is assisted by a dog they can give an item to the dog and leave it in his care for the duration of a level. That way they can call the dog at any time and swap items.
- When going for 100% completion of the game the player need not worry about getting every item in every level on their first play though. The game will allow the player to replay any level or mission again after they have played through the game.
- During the driving scenes in the game the bombs typically land on the quarter notes of the song being played. The machinegun fire often comes during times in the song that use 1/16th notes.
I found this game to be compelling in both story and gameplay. Aesthetically the game is amazing. I spent a good 20 minutes when I first started playing the game trying to determine what type of design they used to create the scrolling backdrops. At first I thought that they were using flat 2D backdrops and a parallax algorithm to move the background appropriately but then I saw the side of a building coming into and going out of view. That led me to wonder if they were using 3D assets in the background and 2D assets in the foreground. After a bit more studying I determined that they were utilizing a combination of 3D and 2D assets in both the fore and background. That is not to say that they were though. If the game was utilizing dynamic 2D lighting techniques it could very well be completely 2D. But I will stick with my combination theory.
While I am hard pressed to find games just like Valiant Hearts a few do come to mind.
Never Alone (Kisima Innitchuna)
Dust: An Elysian Tale
This game is almost too good for me to get any ideas from it. If I were to make a side scrolling adventure game I would want it to have a compelling story, an amazing soundtrack, and relatable characters. If I had to choose something I would say that this game gives me the idea of making more games about events that people are likely undereducated in. I think as a platform, Valiant Hearts is right on the money with a game that can be just as fun as it is educational. If educational game designers took a page out of Valiant Hearts playbook I believe they could successfully transition from mostly boring games with good ideas to good games with good ideas and a good method to convey educational lessons to people of all ages.