Year Made: 2014
Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Content Areas: English, Social Studies
Suggested Age Level: Middle School, High School
Play Length: 6-7 hours
Number of Players: Single Player
Difficulty Rating: Medium
Warnings: Violence (it is a game about war)
One century ago saw the beginning of some of humanity’s darkest moments as World War I waged across Europe. In the Great War, nations fought like never before and weapons advanced to such an extreme with zeppelins, tanks, and chlorine gas. Soldiers and civilians alike had their world torn to pieces and struggled to recover in the aftermath. As we gain more distance from the war that was supposed to end all wars, it becomes increasingly important to remember the sacrifices made on both sides. Ubisoft’s Valiant Hearts: The Great War aims to do exactly that. In this puzzle and adventure game, players follow four characters: Emile the French farmer turned soldier, his German son-in-law Karl forced to fight for the Germans, Anna the nurse who is searching for her missing father, and Freddie the American fighter seeking justice for past wrongs. Drawn like a graphic novel, Valiant Hearts pulls players into one of the bloodiest conflicts in human history through the eyes of the triumphs and losses of four individuals.
The puzzles and levels themselves are so creative and informative that students not only practice problem-solving but also include collectibles and fact pages that teach players about World War I. For example, after a fun and quick taxi race from Paris, players learn that in 1914, taxis were pulled from Paris to transport troops to the Battle of Marne and that this became a symbol that the French people rallied behind. The game is also available on a variety of platforms, so even in a Bring Your Own Device classroom, all students should be able to play and enjoy the game. Frequent saves also make it easy to start and stop at different points in class.
While Valiant Hearts: The Great War has few flaws, it does have a rather notable one. During one of the car chases, a number of people have reported running into bugs that don’t let them complete the chase. Thankfully, one Steam user (LuckyStrike) posted a save file that picks up right after the chase, so if players experience the bugs, they can still continue on and play the game. These bugs are also easily fixed by adjusting the resolution of the graphics in the options menu or in using other platforms such as Android and iOS.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is one of those games that makes me wish I was a social studies teacher, so I could use it every year. It is an excellent game for a European or modern world history teacher to use in teaching about World War I as it not only gives the facts, but it transforms those facts into living stories to remember and learn from. English teachers could also use the game as its own informative text in a unit about war or paired with a text such as All Quiet on the Western Front. Students could create journals from the point of view of a soldier or continue the characters’ stories as the United States joins the war. They could share their favorite facts on Facebook or Twitter and start a discussion about these events. The ending alone could inspire so many discussions, debates, and projects for students to expand their learning. I cannot sing this game’s praises enough for its possibilities in the classroom, and it is exactly this kind of game that makes me bounce off the walls with what games in education can do.
Valiant Hearts: The Great War is an incredible tool for discussing war and its effects on the world at large and the individuals that see it. The attention to detail in accuracy, the compelling stories of four individuals affected by the Great War, and the union between a medium and its intended message are all done so beautifully that this is a game that will not be ignored or silenced. As Valiant Hearts reminds us all about the men, women, and children engrossed in conflict like World War I, “Even though their bodies have long since returned to dust, their sacrifice still lives on. We must strive to cherish their memory and never forget.” Valiant Hearts provides an experience that will ensure that you and your students never forget not only the soldiers and civilians of World War I, but also how human we all are, regardless of who appears to be a foe.
Educational Rating: 8/8
(Classroom Tech Friendly, Motivation, Concrete Learning, Additional Skills, Feedback, Difficulty, Accessibility, Extension)
Overall Rating: 6/8
(Immersion, Environment, Storyline, Replayability, Entertainment, Gameplay, Originality, User Control)
(It is also available in the Play Store and Apps Store)