Our Weekly Spotlight program continues this week, as we bring you our fifth installment of the best Xbox games under $15. The streak continues, and Ubisoft pulls off the three-peat with its third straight game on the list. Following up on Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: India and Child of Light, this week we bring you Valiant Hearts: The Great War – $14.99
Valiant Hearts first released in 2014 and it won multiple awards. It’s perhaps one of the most, if not the most human game I’ve ever played. It’s also one of five games I would give a perfect score to. No game is perfect, but what Valiant Hearts does, it does perfectly. It is one of those games that everyone needs to play regardless of what genres you prefer to play, and that is definitely the mark of a perfect score.
In Valiant Hearts, we play as four separate characters. Emile is an older man and father who is accompanied by his dog. Karl is Emile’s son-in-law and German citizen living in France. He is forced to leave France and join the German Army. Freddie is an American who enlists with the French Army. Anna is a Belgian nurse. It is a side-scrolling game that will force players to solve puzzles in order to proceed. They are not overtly difficult, and manage to be just hard enough to avoid frustration.
Valiant Hearts is also an incredibly emotional game. In fact, the ending is so emotional that a Youtube mashup video (spoilers) exists of popular streamers crying during their reactions to the game’s finale. Ubisoft took a different approach to war with Valiant Hearts. War is an inevitable necessary evil this world. Whether you are for war or a total pacifist, war is going to happen. In Valiant Hearts, we are shown how this impacts everyday citizens. Although the characters we play are enlisted in the Army, they are not soldiers – at least not at their core. They are simply ordinary civilians that have been swept up into a situation completely out of their control. They do not want to fight, and we can feel the emotions they are going through while we play. World War I is the killing machine in Valiant Hearts. The characters we play merely serve as a host to show that humanity can sometimes be found in even the most evil of circumstances.
The puzzles we will solve will help rescue people in destroyed buildings, repair a vehicle and even give first aid to a wounded soldier – among others. Anna is a nurse that helps everyone that needs it regardless of what side of the war they are on. Remember, she is a nurse and a life is a life. They all need help. Freddie joins the war to avenge the death of the woman he loved, and it shows that everyone has different motivations to serve their country.
The art style uses a 2D side-scroller with 3D background. It is similar to Child of Light in that it uses soft, mellow tones and watercolor type design. Just as Child of Light, Valiant Hearts has one of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve ever heard. There are still days where I will put the main theme on in order to relax. In fact, if I’m being completely honest, I’m listening to it as I write this article. You can listen to it directly above. Dialogue in Valiant Hearts is so simple, yet so elegant. There is no in-depth script. Instead, the game opts for sounds such as grunts and sighs in order to portray what the characters are going through. Even when characters are having a “discussion”, you can’t understand the words majority of the time. Instead, Valiant Hearts uses inflection along with higher and lower tones of voice to convey their message. This makes us focus on the situation at hand without being distracted by anything else. It adds to the emotional level of the game, and it’s truly incredible how sounds such as “Ughhhh”, “Aghhhh!” and “Huh?” can tell a story as well as a well versed poem.
The final scene in Valiant Hearts is several of the most emotional video game minutes you will ever experience. I think it was intentional that Ubisoft saved the most verbal part of the game for the finale, as it brings all sorts of emotions rushing to you at once. As I said earlier, Valiant Hearts is a game that everyone needs to play regardless of their favorite genre. It tells such a compelling story and forces you to realize everything involved in a given situation. No matter how evil something may be, there is sometimes something good contained within it.
Valiant Hearts is available now on the Xbox store for $14.99.