Remember when travel-sized games and cards were among the only ways to kill boredom on a long flight or road trip? Thank goodness for technology.
I’m no stranger to downloading quick, mindless games on my smartphone before I take off for a particularly long journey (sans WiFi). It wasn’t until today that I came across a truly life altering game. Enter Valiant Hearts: The Great War.
Valiant Hearts is a gorgeously designed adventure video game by Ubisoft. Inspired by actual letters home by soldiers serving in World War One, VH focusses on the human cost of war. The player is introduced to four characters (and a lovable dog):
- Karl, the German exiled from France and his family
- Emile, Karl’s father in law, drafted to serve the French frontline
- Freddie, the American seeking revenge for his wife’s untimely death
- Anna, a Belgian student who doubles as a battlefield nurse
- (Walt, said lovable doberman pinscher from the German army who is always willing to help)
The story begins (dig out your history books) in the year 1914, immediately after Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. Germany has just declared war on Russia in response. Anticipating war, France begins to deport all German citizens. Karl is forcibly separated from his wife Marie and their newborn, Victor, and drafted into the German army. Likewise, Marie’s father and Karl’s father-in-law Emile is drafted into the French army.
Part puzzle game / part cinematic experience, players explore the backstories of each character in depth. It’s hard not to fall in love with each instantly. Players also find collectibles that unlock historical slides documenting the war, complete with photographs, historical documents, letters home and other artifacts that help tie the game back to its historical routes.
The soundtrack is haunting, the design is visually intoxicating! The muted war tones of the trenches and destruction contrast perfectly with the vibrant countryside and yes, blood. Seriously, this game is gorgeous.
Although the first “chapter” of the game is free, players are prompted to purchase 4 additional segments. These 4 chapters explore Freddie and Anna’s backstories, as well as the ultimate fates of Karl and Emile. Playtime from start to finish is relatively short – it will only take you about 5 hours to finish the game. Still, the experience will shake you to the core and stay with you long afterwards.
I can’t think of a better way to pass the time while traveling and yes, it did move me to tears. Unless you’re afraid to get misty eyed in the middle of your next long flight, I highly recommend checking it out!