Inspired by genuine letters from the First World War, Valiant Hearts: The Great War follows the interlocking adventures of four characters swept up in the conflict. While the central story is fictional (and gratuitously over-the-top – as per comic-book tradition) the setting is painstakingly accurate.
While deliberately stylized, the animation is lively and evocative. Every corner of every level is crammed with little details that add to the atmosphere, creating a more dynamic, “lived-in” world than many more technically sophisticated games.
The mixture of puzzles and platforming with have more than enough texture and variation to hold interest. Each scene and set-piece elegantly flows into the next; it really does successfully evoke the feeling of “playing” a graphic novel.
The game truly won my heart when it introduced Walt, a faithful canine companion who accompanies each of the heroes at various points. The dog can be instructed to pick up items and press switches in hard-to-reach areas, and is central to many of the most ingenious puzzles. Best of all, you can press a button at will to pat him and call him a good dog, a shameless pander to dog-lovers (that worked completely in my case).
The only downside is that there's no save feature, which will frustrate many modern gamers. The game saves your progress automatically at certain points, but these are often too widely spaced, and will force you to replay some sections several times. This is infrequent enough to be just the right side of irritating, but could still have been avoided.
It's also a short game, taking in the vicinity of 8-10 hours to finish, but this is not necessarily a drawback, since it leaves you wanting more. In any case, the open-ended conclusion suggests Ubisoft may have further, downloadable episodes planned; I certainly hope so.
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