I’d known about Valiant Hearts for a while but didn’t realise it came out back in 2014, I only caught up with it this year when it was heavily discounted in the sales. It’s a remarkable game, simplistic in it’s gameplay but full of depth when it comes to the portrayal of war. Perhaps it’s surprising that something that looks the way this does should feel so authentic but it captured something that so few other things have managed. There are several moments in the game when bombs are being dropped or your characters are under heavy fire and it isn’t clear what you should do; do you just run for it, hold back, step out of the way. It was these moments that really made me feel the hopelessness of war, it’s usually a terrible game mechanic to make progress through trial and error but here it just added poignancy.
The whole game is beautifully designed and looks fantastic. Rather than strive for photorealistic graphics I never understood why developers didn’t aim for interactive cartoons like this. The digging animation is the only weak part but I assume that was made intentionally shonky by design. If there are other problems then my hopelessness with names meant I struggled to completely follow the story (even though I played through it over a short period), it’s a shame because this could have been avoided if the diaries had pictures of the characters or there was some other place to see their names. The historical facts are an interesting addition but the use of actual photos doesn’t sit well with the rest of the stylised world but does add some authenticity to what you are seeing.
A beautiful, moving and educational experience that would also be suitable for people who don’t normally play games.