Video games are obsessed with war: ancient, secret, modern, futuristic. But Valiant Hearts is one of only a few to watch the first World War. It is a studied performance, but one in which you rarely pull a gun. It is a puzzle adventure that is much more interested in how people are affected by these terrible events that recreate the violence. He sometimes gets too bogged down with historical anecdotes, but overall it is an elegant and heartfelt adventure with a big heart.
The most striking aspect of Valiant Hearts is the beautiful art direction. Play it really feels like watching a wonderful piece of animation, and I was surprised to see how the style is versatile. Of course, it shines in the beginning when asked to describe the tranquility of rural France, but it is equally effective in addressing much more challenging environments. The trenches and front lines of the war, in particular, look like scenes from hell, with thick smoke that hangs over and piles of bodies providing cover. Importantly, the cartoon style does not hide the horror of what is happening.
Similarly, the characters have much more depth than their flat appearance at first suggests. Located along the border of France and Germany, the story tells the interlocking stories of the five protagonists all affected by the war. You spend time with each of them, and while the story is strong enough, it is the animation that shows brilliantly as on each of them. Barrel-chested Freddie struts into battle with the conviction of a man out for revenge, while Emile was an oppressed approach betrays a weariness that can not be neglected. Although there are snatches of dialogue, a lot is also transmitted through the inarticulate sounds intelligible yet strangely made by these stocky figures.