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Video Game / Valiant Hearts

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Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a side-scrolling 2D adventure/puzzle game developed by Ubisoft Montpellier and published by Ubisoft, set during the Great War; otherwise known as World War I. The story tells the tale of a number of people who are involved in the war, and their points of view: A drafted German soldier, his French father-in-law, a Belgian nurse, a rescue dog, an American soldier, and more. Valiant Hearts tells of the impact of the war, and how it tore apart lives, and formed blood brothers on the smoke-filled battlefields of Western Europe. It also makes the point that the moral dimensions of the Great War's Western Front, at least from the views of the common soldiers, were ones of degree.

Released on several platforms a few days before the WWI centennial (June 27th, 2014), with an iOS version following a few months later. Of note is the fact that this is another game that uses the Ubiart engine, such as some previous Ubisoft games, Rayman Origins and Child of Light.


On November 7, 2014, Valiant Hearts: The Dogs of War, a prequel interactive comic book was released as an update to the IOS version of the game, detailing Walt's backstory.

Tropes used in Valiant Hearts: The Great War:

  • Action Girl: While she rarely if ever actually fights anybody, Anna is a nurse who isn't afraid of driving taxis through war zones in order to care for the wounded.
  • Airborne Aircraft Carrier: A Zeppelin in the game is depicted as having this. This is Truth in Television, although perhaps a little too early in the war.
  • Almighty Janitor: Emile and Freddy make several huge contributions to the war effort. Though they are awarded medals, in the end they're still just a fry cook/miner and your average demo expert.
  • Ambidextrous Sprite: Zig-zagged; Most of the characters are roughly symmetrical with the item they're carrying always showing for accessibility. At the same time Karl averts the trope with the things on his belt and Anna plays it straight with her satchel always facing the player.
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  • All There in the Manual: The official website gives several snippets of information about the characters that we never learn from the game. For example, Freddie is a Louisiana Creole, and his wife was the daughter of a white magnate; Emile comes from a family of miners and probably worked as one early in his life, which explains his ability at digging; Emile's wife Paulien died giving birth to twins, of which only Marie survived.
  • America Saves the Day: America doesn't show up until the later stages of the war, so very downplayed. More or less played straight with Freddie, who is a major badass.
  • Anachronism Stew: For some reason, the Germans keep their pickelhauben long after they should have switched to Stahlhelms even though the French eventually abandon their bright dress uniforms for more practical grey-blue uniforms and the Adrian helmet, most likely because the creators didn't want to create confusion by having them change appearance halfway through the game.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: You switch around playable characters all the time, bouncing from Anna to Karl to Emile to Freddie and back again at random.
  • Armchair Military: Averted, which is surprising given just how popular and pervasive the portrayal of 'Working-Class Lions led by Upper-Class Donkeys' became in the mid-late 1950s and arguably remains to this day. note  All the generals shown are Frontline Generals. That being said, they're still heartless General Rippers who barely care for their men at all.
  • Artistic License – History: Despite being fairly historically accurate, there's more than a few licenses taken that are beyond simple Rule of Cool, such as tanks appearing before their historical debut (and shooting down airplanes to boot). For instance, what appears to be a translation error in the in-game narration and material states casualties as deaths; i.e. 600,000 dead at Verdun, as opposed to 600,000 dead, wounded, and captured, the actual historical number. Oddly, this makes the already infamously bloody World War I seem even more gruesome than it actually was.note 
    • In the levels taking place during the long Battle of Verdun, the Facts screen tells of an accident in the armory of a fortress occupied by the Germans, which caused the deaths of hundreds of soldiers. In the game proper, however, it's Von Dorf who causes the detonation, just to cover his escape.
    • One important aspect of WWI's trench warfare that the game didn't really touch on was the ever-terrifying presence of snipers. It could be that getting randomly killed at any point in a level would have been too frustrating to players. In reality, the snipers tend to pick off important people (like officers), not random grunts. Killing commanding officers makes the other team less effective at fighting.
  • Benched Hero: Emile spends the opening segments of the game barely surviving being the Flag Carrier, and is then placed as a cook for the rest of the game.
  • Big Bad: Baron Von Dorf, in a sense. He's the commander of Karl's regiment, and is noted for being a ruthless Combat Pragmatist unafraid of using toxic gas. Of course, this was before the concept of gas being against the rules of war was invented, and so he may just be a technophile using the most advanced weapons of his day to win the day for Germany as quick as possible, protecting his own troops (or just his own life) in the process.
    • Less forgivable, though, is he being as close to Armchair Military as possible and still be on the battlefield. This, sadly, was not uncommon during the Great War.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Anna manages to survive, and saves Karl. He goes back to life with his family, and lives a happy life. Unfortunately, Emile is executed for "murdering" his commanding officer, when in reality he killed him to prevent more people dying due to his insanity. Not to mention that the War's aftermath would set the stage for the sequel.
  • Black Bead Eyes: On the 3 occasions eyes are seen clearly: Freddie in a flashback to his wedding day, where his wife got killed in a German bombing raid; Victor (Karl's son), and Freddie's younger brother. Civilian children have regular, big round eyes. Open eyes seem to symbolize innocence in the game.
  • Bottomless Magazines: During some levels, you have to avoid the fire of German machine guns by running when they pause firing, certainly due to overheating or need to swap ammunition belts. In some other situations, however, you have to contend with machine guns that never stop firing. In the German-occupied fortress there's also a soldier with a flamethrower and a seemingly limitless supply of fuel for it.
    • Whenever you control a tank or artillery piece, there is no limit to how many shells you can fire.
  • Cattle Drive: Human version in the opening segments of the game, as Emile leads his comrades into battle. Everyone except Emile dies.
  • Canine Companion: Walt, the lovable and smart Doberman Pinscher.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Entirely averted, not just by Emile himself; the French forces are depicted as more than capable of fighting the Germans - though often to the point of either Suicidal Overconfidence or Shell Shock.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Anna's father is seen nervously standing among Baron von Dorf's retinue as when Emile is forced to become a cook for the Germans in Act 1, Chapter 2.
  • Collateral Angst: Freddie's fiancée, Catrin, is killed at the beginning of the war and vengeance for her death is his main motivation.
  • Cool Airship: Von Dorf's Zeppelin. It is bristling with guns and even has an envelope-mounted airplane catapult.
  • Covers Always Lie: On the title screen, Emile is wearing the bluish-grey French uniform from the later half of WWI. He only ever wears the blue and red French uniform from when the war was starting out near the start of the game, and even after he rejoins the military he wears a plain white wifebeater.
  • Corpse Land: In one of the last levels of the game, Emile is forced to take cover with and climb over the massed corpses of his comrades, under a dark sky lit up only by German machine gun fire.
  • Dangerous Deserter: Averted. When Emile is first arrested for desertion, he is pardoned because of bravery in a previous battle and returned to the front easily. When Karl deserts during the middle of a battle to rescue his wife and son from chlorine gas attacks, he faces NO repercussions of any kind (legal or otherwise). Justified in both cases in that The Great War had such high casualties that neither side could afford to be choosy.
  • Demoted to Extra: In early promotional materials, the British pilot George was billed to be one of the playable main characters. However, in the game itself, he only shows up as an NPC for a single mission as an aerial spotter.
  • Dirty Coward: The French Officer in the last mission. He ruthlessly orders his men into machine-gun fire, while himself remaining in the rear and therefore safe from any and all harm. He is the only officer other than Baron von Dolf to do this; every other officer shown lead the charge and faced the same dangers as the men under their command. This makes it a Karmic Death when Emile finally brains the jerk with a shovel.
  • Dog Stereotype: Subverted; for a doberman Walt is very amiable even toward strangers.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: After escaping the POW camp and saving a little girl from wolves, Karl first swaps his uniform for a civilian set of clothes. After running into Anna and Walt on the way to Emile's farm, Karl steals a police uniform and after that a French Army enlisted man's uniform. Karl's list of stolen clothes is topped with a French Army officer's uniform, acquired by having Walt spill wine on the guy and then waiting for him to change outfits. Karl and Anna nearly get away unnoticed. The French officer, realizing that his clothes have been stolen, spots them from a balcony and gives chase in a huge armored car (wearing nothing more than his undershirt and underpants).
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: The officer in charge of Emile's regiment seems like this at first, continually yelling at you to go through the sequence of getting kitted out, though he does give you praise when you do each section of training correctly.
  • Eagle Squadron: Freddie is this, an American (albeit one who appears to have been living in France at the time anyway) who joins up with the Allied Forces. The historical information included in the game notes other examples of this.
  • Eyes Out of Sight: Save for the children and Freddie's younger brother, all of the character's eyeballs are obscured by either hair, headgear, or just represented by a line.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Emile.
    • During the scene just before Emile kills his officer, the officer orders the men to keep charging into machine gun fire, one man, seeing this, seems to dejectedly walk into the open, knowing he'll be killed.
  • The Faceless: George, and all the other shown pilots, have their entire faces obscured by their coats, caps and goggles.
  • Faking The Death: Karl fakes his death by swapping his dog tag with that of a dead man.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The arrival of the American forces at the very end signifies the beginning of the end for the Great War.
  • French Jerk: In spades!
    • The French Government kicks off the war by banishing ALL German immigrants from the land, resulting in poor Karl being separated from his wife and child.
    • When we meet Freddie he is being bullied by French Soldiers.
    • All the French Officers are Blood Knights to a man, and the last one encountered is a Dirty Coward to boot.
    • When Karl is taken prisoner, the French soldiers threaten to bayonet Anna, even though she's clearly unarmed and not dangerous to them.
    • When a woman's daughter is missing, three French Police Officers are present. None of them seem to have looked for the girl, because she was trapped in a tree by wolves literally a short walk away. Thank goodness Karl came along, or else she not have survived.
  • Friend to All Children: Karl and Anna both qualify for this. The former at one point saves a little girl from wolves despite being so weak from malnutrition that he can hardly help himself. The latter rushes into a burning, chlorine-gas filled room to save another little girl trapped inside.
  • Gray-and-Gray Morality: Goes out of its way to show that WWI was decidedly *not* a showdown between good and evil.
  • Gratuitous German: Subverted, in that all German characters are voiced by Germans, and that most of what Karl and Von Dorf say is actual German; however, not only is most of it so sparse and often so misplaced that it almost doesn't count, but also are the German NPC's limited to uttering German-sounding vowels and imaginary words. "Blunderklump" indeed.
  • Heroic BSoD: Happens to Emile near the end, when he believes that Karl was killed in his escape attempt. In actuality Karl faked his death to escape, but Emile doesn't know this, and goes to his grave thinking his son-in-law is dead.
  • Heroic Dog: Walt, of course, most notably when he runs through miles of war-torn France to get nurse Anna to come save Karl, who has been exposed to poison gas.
  • Hero of Another Story: The game goes out of its way to portray the often overlooked colonial forces that were sent into the war, such as Indians, Gurkhas, and Canadians fighting for the British Empire and Algerians and the French Foreign Legion fighting for France.
  • Hidden Eyes: Everyone, save for Walt, children, and Freddie's brother.
  • Improbable Weapon User: In order to maintain the Two-Fisted Tales/Franco-Belgian comic aesthetic and anti-violence message of the game, none of the player-characters wield guns or other obviously lethal weapons as standard. While briefly using a rifle-with-bayonet as a melee weapon early on (and he never actually fires the rifle), Emile spends most the game using first a ladle and later a shovel as a weapon. Anna uses a staff, while Freddie and Karl both favour Good Old Fisticuffs.
    • Oddly, every so often the player is required to use an (enormous) artillery piece, usually as counter-battery (i.e. blowing up the other side's artillery). While no one is shown being killed, artillery pieces require human operators to fire, normally standing nearby. That and stacked artillery shells take poorly to explosions.
  • Improvised Weapon: Varies in form and importance, but one in particular that sticks out is Emile's use of a serving ladle. Even the most battle-hardened soldiers get knocked silly when Emile attacks them from behind.
  • Iwo Jima Pose: The raising of the Canadian Flag at Vimy Ridge is done in a similar style as the raising of the American Flag at Iwo Jima.
  • Jumped at the Call: Freddie and Anna. Truth in Television in that a lot of Americans did enlist in the French Foreign Legion, and civilians played a large role as medics for the wounded. On the other hand...
  • Kidnapped by the Call: Emile and Karl just want to live peacefully with their family, but both are drafted to fight by their respective nations (Karl, being a German native, gets kicked out of France). This represents a marked difference with how war media usually portrays the protagonists as eager volunteers, instead showing that often most soldiers were fighting just because they were made to.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: Justified Trope; no one seems to notice or care that Anna, fixes, but ultimately steals a French taxi, because the government had requisitioned all Paris taxis to help convey the troops to the front in a big hurry. She hadn't been following proper procedure, but nobody seemed to: the extreme urgency due to the closeness of the Germans made such a thing redundant.
  • Large Ham: Baron Von Dorf.
  • Leitmotif: Baron von Dorf's is the 2nd Movement of Gustav Mahler's 5th Symphony.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Karl and Anna both care about each other a lot and have been through the horrors of war together. There is no hint of romance between those two, and Karl is Happily Married to Emile's daughter Marie.
  • Medical Game: It has minigames about treating people but isn't the main focus. While you play as the Belgian nurse Anna, your main objective for the most part is to treat as many wounded soldiers as possible - and believe it or not, when we say as many wounded soldiers, the term is neutral as you get to heal both French and German soldiers - while the Great War happens.
  • Mildly Military: Emile, a French soldier, gets away with being out of uniform and not carrying a rifle rather a lot (France was actually running short on rifles during the war, and ripping uniforms off dead bodies would be a cultural taboo). Ditto Freddie, an American enlisted in the French army who frequently leads infantry charges or infiltrates behind enemy lines bare-chested and armed with nothing but his fists and any explosives he can get his hands on in the field.
  • Mood Whiplash: Driving away from Paris to the Cancan... only to stop at a blasted landscape littered with corpses, and the screams of the wounded and dying.
    • There are many, especially due to the innocent artstyle. But special mention has to go to Emile's first battle; one moment, they're gloriously charging at German positions on a nice, sunny day, with sparse artillery coming in; the next, Emile's officer gets ripped to shreds by a shell, rain and dark clouds appear instantaneously, machine guns begin to rattle, dismembered and bloodied corpses start paving the way, and the charge is forced uphill as the artillery grows more intense and becomes harder to avoid.
  • Multinational Team: You play a Frenchman, an American, a German, and a Belgian throughout the course of the game. The game also takes time to highlight that the war was fought by other lesser known forces, like the Canadians and Indians who were at the time part of the British Empire.
  • Mickey Mousing: The Driving sections have the obstacles appear and move in sync up with the music playing, though unlike the usual trope that would take this spot, the player doesn't actually contribute to the music, and is simply dodging said obstacle without having to follow the beat most of the time.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Many of the trailers, especially in their closures, may make you think that all the playable characters are going to be dead by the end of the game, and that they'll be all together at some point, while in truth only Emile dies at the end, and the only moment they all meet each other is probably offscreen, before the injured Karl is sent to the POW camp. Also, even the release trailers have illustrations or situations that are not seen in the game proper: an example is Walt seen running along with a flag-bearing Emile, while in truth Emile first meets the dog only after his brief stint in that role.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: Freddie does one to Von Dorf and only spares him because he feels like it'd make him no better than Von Dorf himself.
  • Only One Name: We only learn the last name of one playable character - Emile Chaillon. In Valiant Hearts: Dogs of War, we learn the name of the medic who was Walt's original handler, Dr. Hans Weiss.
  • Open Heart Dentistry: Anna is trained as a veterinarian, but she only operates on humans over the course of the game.
  • Politically Correct History: Save for a brief moment at the beginning, Freddie gets surprisingly little discrimination for his black skin in the game itself, though it's mentioned in his background that he and Catrin fled to France in the first place to escape a Maligned Mixed Marriage in the US.
  • Ragin' Cajun: Louisianan Freddie fits all the criteria, from launching a single-handed Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the German Army when his fiancée was killed by one of their officers to giving the main antagonist a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown on top of a ruined tank.
  • Red Shirt Army: Don't get attached to any friendly soldier whose name you don't know. He'll likely die within minutes.
  • Sequel Hook: The Stinger about America joining the war as the war rages on and continues to swallow up uncounted lives. Also, Von Dorf remains alive and free, albeit in a behind-the-lines job that he hates.
  • Setting as a Character: Unusually for the trope, not a place, but an event. War is portrayed here as a machine with an insatiable appetite, almost seeming like an Eldritch Abomination that destroys all.
  • Shot at Dawn: Emile is executed by firing squad for killing his commanding officer
  • Shout-Out: The title of the game appears to have been taken from the poem/hymn "O Valiant Hearts", about the fallen in WWI.
    • Potentially coincidental: The first-aid dog's name is Walt. Walt Disney was a Red Cross ambulance driver in France immediately following the war.
  • Sleeves Are for Wimps: Emile and Freddie fight WWI through tragedy and exposed biceps.
  • Sound-Only Death: Emile.
  • Speaking Simlish: Subverted. Despite many of the character lines being illustrated by pictograms and the lack of subtitles except for the narration, they do talk in their respective languages, though they're somewhat soft spoken so it's hard to hear.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: If this E3 trailer is anything to consider, the dog greatly wishes he could write his 5 dearest friends to wish them well, but as he is just a dog...
  • The Medic: Anna.
  • The Stinger: Mid-way through the credits, we see a quick scene of Freddie waving to American troop ships coming in as they enter the war shortly after the events of the game. It's noted that the war's appetite 'is infinite'.
  • Two-Fisted Tales: Ultimately subverts this by placing it in the real-world context of World War 1. The early game focuses on the Ragtag Bunch of Misfits tracking down a Diabolical German Baron who has kidnapped The Chick's Reluctant Mad Scientist father and used his genius to engineer devastating super-weapons in the name of German Imperialism. However, even once the apparent Big Bad is defeated, the War itself continues on and the game shifts focus to the Gray-and-Grey Morality of the situation and the extreme personal toll of the war on the protagonists.
  • Unfriendly Fire: Emile has to kill his officer to stop his stupidity.
  • The Von Trope Family: Baron Von Dorf.
  • War Is Hell: Oh boy. Any history buffs know that World War I was a terrifying war for a number of reasons, including heavy disease, awful living conditions, the every encroaching fear of getting your head blown to bits by a sniper, the loneliness, the huge advances in technology such as the machine gun and flamethrowers, and most of all, the fear of never seeing your loved ones again. Valiant portrays this trope in all its awful, sickening glory, and doesn't shirk away from the more human aspects of it either.
  • We Have Reserves: Goes out of its way to show how men were essentially put through the meat grinder on the Western Front.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: After blowing up the German tunnels (and the German soldier who saved his life in the process) in Vauquois, Emile refuses to be decorated for the heavy losses he helped inflict on the Germans and actually burns the medals he got.
  • You Have Failed Me: In the last level, the Ax-Crazy French Officer who keeps urging you and your comrades to walk into the line of fire will actually stab you to death with his sword if you try retreating.
  • Zerg Rush: Shown several times in the game, most often by the French army, with depressingly predictable results.