Valiant Hearts: The Great War

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Valiant Hearts: The Great War Game Poster Image
An educational, emotional exploration of World War I.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about the First World War and its legacy in this emotional and engaging puzzle game. A mixture of text and authentic pictures from the era provides details about the causes and statistics of the war, documenting the misfortunes of not just soldiers but also cities and civilians caught up in the fray. The game also touches on the major political, social, and technological outcomes of the war (it spawned the safety razor!), as well as more personal details, such as the art that trench soldiers made out of the remains of exploded ordnance. Contextual puzzles, meanwhile, force players to think logically, putting various objects to practical use to overcome environmental obstacles. Valiant Hearts: The Great War will leave players with a better understanding of World War I and its lasting impact on our world.

Positive Messages

The game aims to educate players on the Great War and make them sympathize with the people who lived through it by providing accounts of famous battles. It shows the impact the war had on civilians and families and explains the conflict's lasting legacies, both good (it helped lead women toward the right to vote) and bad (millions of families were shattered, and historic cities were laid to ruin).

Positive Role Models & Representations

The lead characters demonstrate courage, sacrifice, loyalty, ingenuity, and determination. They rarely engage in direct combat with the enemy. Rather, their objectives are primarily to survive and help civilians and their fellow soldiers.

Ease of Play

Action is composed mostly of puzzles that require players to locate and use various objects within the environment. It's pretty straightforward, and checkpoints are generous. Plus, most puzzles come with one or more hints that become available after a minute or so. 

Violence

Player characters don't engage in much combat themselves, but they're forced to toss the occasional grenade over enemy embankments and fire cannons at distant targets. In one scene, the player's character gets into a nonlethal fistfight with a German baron, and in another he uses a shovel to strike and kill an officer, sending his friends to their deaths on the front line. The dead and dying are everywhere. Bodies litter the battlefields, sometimes stained red with blood. Flies buzz around them. Soldiers and civilians choke on chlorine gas. Screaming is heard throughout the front lines. As a nurse, players work to heal badly injured fighters and even saw off a limb damaged beyond repair (though the act is hidden from view). Save for a few photos from the era, everything in the game is rendered in nonrealistic comic book-style drawings, but the emotional impact is still quite strong.   

Sex

One of the notes that players pick up contains a quote from a handbook issued to soldiers that describes women as a temptation that needs to be avoided.

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Soldiers are seen drinking wine and ale. Blocks of text discuss soldiers' alcohol and tobacco consumption, provide statistics on daily rations, and recount tales of how fighters would work to keep their tobacco dry in harsh conditions. One character smokes a pipe. Nurses can be seen administering drugs, including pain suppressants in syringes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a game about the First World War. It tells a fictional story about a small group of Allies working together to help one another survive, but it's filled with accurate historical facts and details about the conflict, including vivid accounts of major battles, stories about the suffering of civilians, and descriptions of dozens of authentic and interesting war artifacts. The characters don't often engage in direct combat, preferring instead to spend their time solving contextual puzzles within the environment. But parents should know that players will see fields of dead and bloodied soldiers, hear the screams and moans of wounded combatants, and spend a good deal of time tending to people who've suffered grave injuries. It's all in direct service of the moving narrative and to help players appreciate the scale and horror of the conflict, but it's extremely emotionally affecting.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJEDI micah October 20, 2014

Entertaining, Educational, and Emotional!!!

Absolutely a fantastic game! It's a great way to learn more about World War l and to test your puzzle skills! It is also very touching as the story of the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byAblation October 26, 2014

Wow!

Great game teaches you a lot about the world war! It is very depressing though, as you see the suffering and pain of others, and the world. It teaches you that... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old April 24, 2016

What's it about?

Set during the First World War, VALIANT HEARTS: THE GREAT WAR tells the fictional tale of a group of Allied friends trying to survive on the front line. Player-controlled combat plays a relatively minor role in the form of occasional grenade tosses and ladle conks on German helmets. The focus instead is placed on contextual puzzles found within the game's side-scrolling world. Playing as a Belgian nurse tending to wounded soldiers, players must find sources of water and create a makeshift crutch to help patients. As a French conscript, players interact with valves and levers to move objects, rescue trapped civilians, and find ways to trade for goods in the trenches. Whenever a dog is present, players can use him to scoot through narrow openings to retrieve important objects necessary to progress, such as broken switch handles and sticks of dynamite. Through it all, players will read emotionally stirring historical accounts, diary entries, and item descriptions that provide true-to-life facts and insights about a war that claimed more than 11 million lives.

Is it any good?

Valiant Hearts: The Great War is that rare game that educates as it entertains. Stuffed between its enjoyable (and not overly challenging) contextual puzzles is a mix of interesting details about the war. Some of these come in the form of important dates and cold hard facts, such as casualty statistics. Other informational tidbits are more emotional, including letters to and from the front lines and details regarding the first soldiers ever to suffer gas attacks. More, still, explain how the war revolutionized the world, from the invention of safety razors to the promotion of women's rights.

Even if players elect to skip over these details (which is entirely possible), they'll undoubtedly be moved -- perhaps to tears -- by the story of a group of friends who risk their lives to help not only one another but also the civilians they encounter, including wounded men on the battlefield, women trapped in destroyed houses, and children crying in city streets clouded by plumes of green gas. It may be emotionally draining, but the characters and their story through this warfare is great enough to keep players going. If nothing else, they'll come away not only with an inkling of the horrors of the Great War but also the courage of those who lived and died in it. And if a game can do that, it has to be doing something right.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact of violence in a game like Valiant Hearts. Can violence serve a purpose in games? Can it be edifying rather than simply gratuitous and for the sake of entertainment? 

  • World War I is sometimes overshadowed by World War II, but it resulted in some 11 million deaths and remains one of the darkest chapters of human history. Do you know whether anyone in your family participated? Does your family have any artifacts from the Great War? What have you learned from them?

Game details

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