Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a 2-dimensional puzzle adventure game based on World War I (1914-1918). The storyline was inspired by a series of events during the Great War. The game starts off with a brief historical overview of what triggered the combat; the assassination of Archduke of the Austrian-Hungarian empire, Franz Ferdinand, on June 28, 1914. During the warfare, the central powers (Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria, Germany, Ottoman Empire) fought against the allied powers (Russia, Great-Britain, Japan, and Romania) for nationalism, imperialism, and power. German citizens living in France were asked to leave the country as France prepared for war by readying troops and gathering supplies for war.
Valiant Hearts is known to be a very sensitive game that causes players to sympathize for the protagonists of the story as their loss, heartbreak, and hardships through survival are displayed. As the game continues, the player is shown historical facts of World War I. Although reading the facts is optional, the facts made it helpful to understand the storyline and purpose of each location. The characters in Valiant Hearts are fictional but were inspired by real people in the Great War. In reality, they were not really soldiers; they were civilians who were pushed into the war. The protagonists express their burden and struggles through their story. For instance Karl, one of the protagonists of the game, is forced to leave his wife and their newborn son to join the war. Shortly after Karl leaves his farm, the war is desperate for more soldiers and calls upon Karl’s father-in-law Emile. The characters are sent to a training camp, Saint Mihiel barracks, then to the 71st German division in Crusnes, France. Instead of the use of weapons and violence, the players are given puzzles to solve as to advance during the war. The purpose of the game is to give players experience through the characters rather than focusing too much on challenging the participant. Simple tasks are given such as costume changes, tool gathering, heal the wounded, decision-making, and many other assignments.
Despite the scenes of death, Valiant Hearts did a phenomenal job in their artwork. The animation of each character reveals much detail about them. The primary artist had a comic book style theme he wanted to push forward in the game that incorporated emotion. The game developers and artists wanted players who know very little about the war, like myself, to have a sense of heartache and misery it caused. Throughout the game, the versatile artwork showed the changes in setting that corresponded to the character’s emotions. For instance, before forced into the war, there is a bright setting where Karl is happily working on his farm as his wife is watching over their child. Once Karl is in the war and the story unravels, many dark colors of black, brown, gray, and purple are used. Darkness, trenches, and a full moon shown in the scenes presented the horrors at the time. The choice of music for the game was an emotive piano score.
Overall, Valiant Hearts: The Great War did a magnificent job in incorporating elements from the first war and usage of selective authenticity. This made the historical narrative unique in comparison to other historical games because it was based on true events. The true events is what made it much more interesting by witnessing how the people during that period of time were affected. The lives of the characters were torn part that caused them to become more drawn together and the citizens became more united by helping each other gain hope with retaining humanity after the war. What also made this game more unique was that the developers resonated with the characters from the game because the majority of them had family members involved in the first war. The narrative also exposed both sides of the war, one side of the war harming and affecting civilians and the other reacting to it and becoming deeply traumatized. The structure of the game was created to be easy to follow and not necessarily for the player beat the game. The 2-dimensional adventure puzzle game was purposely created to make choices and experiences; as Sid Meier stated, “A game is a series of interesting choices.”