Should a game be based upon extraordinary and terrible historical events? Does a piece of entertainment have the right to take its cues from incidents that claimed lives?
My Grandparents held the belief that games based on World War One and Two were inappropriate. I always argued in favour of education. When playing these historical games, players are engaged and learning about battles, equipment and tactics. When the experience is finished, they can seek out further information.
In 2002, my Grandad’s opinion was polarised by Medal of Honour: Allied Assault. Had he seen Valiant Hearts, a game based on real individuals' stories, I suspect he’d of taken a different view.
World War One letters
The stories are taken from original World War One era letters. I don't know how accurately the story follows them but I like that inspiration is derived from real peoples' lives.
Playing the game gives you snippets of information related to major battles. As of my effort today, the story is focussed on the Second Battle of Ypres (April 22 – May 15, 1915) and the first use of Chlorine gas.
One of these artefacts is the British urine soaked handkerchief. Surprisingly, they were effective at lessening the effects of the chlorine, at least until gas masks became standard issue.
The game's illustrations and interactions are as beautiful as the solemn, piano driven sound track. Each character has a unique style and is drawn perfectly.
Michael Gove has the view that World War One was a necessary and well fought war (WARNING: That's a Daily Mail link) and I think Valiant Hearts reinforces the opposite opinion.
When you see how the characters' lives are affected by the story, I'd defy anybody not to sense the futility of the great war and its questionable tactics.
Valiant Hearts is a beautiful piece of storytelling. The illustration, music and gameplay provide the player with a delightful experience.
With the right context, a game about tragic, terrifying and extraordinary circumstances can be beautiful.
Images sourced from the Valiant Hearts official website.