I initially questioned whether Valiant Hearts’ 2D art style would take away from how meaningful the story would be, but the game’s incredible narration, voices, and well-developed characters quickly proved otherwise.
The game leads with the four main characters, Emile, Luck Freddy, Karl, and Ana, and their seamlessly connected adventures as Valiant Hearts takes you through incredible stories based on the letters of actual soldiers from World War I.
The game combines an adventure game feel to the puzzle game base, by allowing players to explore each level freely and rewards your exploration with collectible curiosities like letters, coins, and a vast variety of other items from the World War I setting.
These letters, and reminders of the past, allow players’ immersion to flourish even further. Combining these reminders with the updating characters’ diaries and the narration and explanation of the events to take place by lead voice-over Dave Pettit creates an emotionally perfect collection of stories.
While the way the game presents its stories is one thing to marvel at, the gameplay is enjoyable as well with puzzles that actually require you to stop and take a moment to think. Solving the puzzles typically require you to go through a maze of lever pulling and wheel turning to find a key, open path, or other object with the help of a canine companion.
Each character is given a specialization of a specific ability to keep the game from ever feeling too repetitive.
Emile is given the ability to shovel small tunnels to reach otherwise inaccessible areas, and Lucky Freddy is given pliers to cut his way through barbed wire blockades. These two traits highlight the beginning of the game as players use the two interchangeably.
Capable of changing outfits and using disguises, Karl’s specialization sometimes feels lacking at times with it being taken advantage of less frequently then the other characters.
Ana takes on the role of a medic and is required to heal and revive the wounded through a small mini-game of button timing and arrangements. It is certainly the most unique ability of the characters, and while it is certainly a good change of pace, it can sometimes feel too simple.
While the game does give you tips to help you progress, it keeps their availability on timers to encourage players to not just breeze through the game without solving anything themselves.
It seemed odd to combine an intense story with the unintimidating art-style of the characters, but the uplifting moments of the game that counter the disheartening setting, and the thoughtful gameplay help Valiant Hearts find a perfect place in World War I.