Valiant Hearts: The Great War (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Athanasios 20.01.2019

Review for Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Nintendo Switch

World War II has been used frequently as a backdrop for many a videogame (and movie, comic, and novel), but the same can't be said about the first one. Moreover, war as whole, has mostly provided an excuse for some action-packed fun, without much care for the actual pain and suffering of the conflict. Released in 2014 for various platforms (here's a look on the PS3 version), Valiant Hearts: The Great War, which was developed by Ubisoft's less "glamorous" subsidiary, Ubisoft Montpellier, sees to do exactly that, by following a handful of characters, as they try to survive the 'Great War,' while showing that there was nothing 'Great' about it in the first place. Boasting marvellous audio-visuals, and storytelling served next to a little bit of puzzle-solving, is there a reason not to try this out now that it has been ported on the Switch?

Being a game about WWI, death is the protagonist in here. From the soldiers and innocent bystanders, to the actual fields and cities that you will get to trudge through, the Reaper’s bony hands have touched pretty much everything. Not much blood will be shed due to your actions, however. Usually, the worst that you could do in Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a nice strong hit on the back of an enemy’s head with a ladle to drop him unconscious. This isn’t Wolfenstein. It’s a tale of a few people with interlaced plot threads, whose life has been torn apart by everything that’s happening around them, but not because of them.

Now, rather than a series of long, boring dialogue sequences, immersion-breaking cut-scenes, and walls of text, this follows the much better route of show-not-tell. Sadly, not much will be actually shown. From trying to save civilians trapped in bombarded buildings, or hiding from enemy patrols, to taking part in a battle (by mostly running towards the enemy, that is), this can be quite the engrossing experience, but, from a narrative standpoint, not much is happening, and, because of that, it’s hard to get attached to the protagonist quartet, or quintet, or sextet if counting a canine wonder that is literally the best character in here.

Screenshot for Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Nintendo Switch

It's also hard to get invested, because, apart from a scene or two within each level, this is mostly about puzzle-solving. Yes, fiddling with these has always been a major part of adventure games, but when it comes to titles that are a lot more plot-heavy than usual, puzzles kind of ruin the pacing, and feel more like cheap ways to extend the duration of a storyline. It's also hard to get invested due to how unbelievably easy these are, ending up feeling more like chores, rather than obstacles that require some effort. A nice comparison would be a room with a locked door, with the key being on the top shelve of a bookcase, and a ladder in plain sight nearby.

Sure, the casual-friendly nature of the puzzle-solving makes this a nice, calming past-time - however, maybe this shouldn't be a calming past-time; it should be a nerve breaking odyssey, with puzzles making you want to solve them. There definitely are some tense moments every now and then (saving the aforementioned dog, for instance), but more often than not, taking your time to save, let's say, a lady behind a locked door, can take an eternity for you to do so, although her cries of anguish tell you otherwise. The same happens with the few "action" scenes: you didn't manage to avoid the falling, explosive shell? Doesn't matter, as you'll respawn a few meters back.

Screenshot for Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Nintendo Switch

Those action scenes, or, more specifically, a certain one that has the team trying to avoid all kinds of obstacles, and while driving at full speed, brings forth another issue this has: tonality. Despite the criticism so far, Valiant Hearts can certainly be an emotive experience… and then it sort of "loses" its way, as if it doesn't know what it wants to be. This car chase, for example, should make you sense the danger - instead, because of the over-the-top action, and the way everything "dances" rhythmically to an orchestral piece that would be more fitting to a comedic skit, this ends up feeling like a part of a different game altogether.

The same goes for the big bad of this adventure; one completely out of place in a title that's mostly grounded in realism. This German general, is not just cartoony, like the rest of the cast, but almost Looney Tunes cartoony. Oh, don't worry! Despite all these, things never reach the cringe levels of Wolfenstein: The New Colossus. This is mostly a decently told story, with just a few blemishes. It's just that this shouldn't be just decent - it should be awesome. On the other hand, what is definitely awesome, is the audio-visual quality, and especially how everything looks, courtesy of the highly versatile, UbiArt Framework engine.

Screenshot for Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Nintendo Switch

Lovers of 2D art are in for a treat, as this is, without any doubt, the highlight of Valiant Hearts. Everything simply looks wonderful, due to a high level of detail, excellent use of colour to convey the vibe of each scene, whether it's moonlit city, or noxious gas-filled battlefield, and, finally, because of how the background/foreground is made of multiple layers, creating a great sense of depth. Generally, what this lacks in storytelling it makes for with its strong atmosphere, something aided by the collectable items, as well as the existence of a historical appendix, with both offering a bit of interesting info about some less known aspects of WWI.

In conclusion: this will surely provide a fun ride for those who'll get to experience it, but it will be one that generally leans more towards the 'nice' side of the scale, rather than the 'great' one. In regards to the Switch port, however, this is one more title that has found its perfect home, - so, if you are looking for the best system to play it, this is the one! Apart from the exclusive(?) interactive comic, and "prequel" story of the dog, as well as an artwork gallery, this comes with full touch controls, and thus, makes it possible to get a taste the Great War's horrors at the comfort of your car's backseat, your sofa, bed, or loo.

Screenshot for Valiant Hearts: The Great War on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Good

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is an extremely linear, extremely easy, and extremely… okay adventure game that deals with the real, non-romanticised side of the first World War. Sadly while a product that's deeply engrossing, technically flawless, and simply beautiful to look at, its core, the story and characters, doesn't manage to ever become the riveting war drama that it is supposed to.

Developer

Ubisoft Montpellier

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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