Ubisoft Montpellier's Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a 2D puzzle adventure game that set during World War I, but it's not a war game, according to audio director Yoan Fanise. "It's a game about war," he told Polygon. "About humans during war."
The game uses a comic book art style, all hand-drawn by art director Paul Tumelaire, to tell the story of five characters of different nationalities during WWI who are all somehow connected. There's the French prisoner of war who peels potatoes in a German camp. There's the American volunteer. There's the Belgian nurse. There's the English pilot. And there's the German soldier, who is in love with the Frenchman's daughter.
All the characters in the game play up their stereotypes to lend a light-heartedness to the heavy subject of war. The Germans love their pretzels and beers. The French are frequently seen with baguettes and berets. Then there's the yet-to-be-named dog — completely innocent, always cheerful, with bright eyes and a warm heart — who affects every character in the game.
Speaking to Polygon, Fanise said that each character will encounter the dog at different points during their adventure, and the dog will help them solve puzzles.
Valiant Hearts has a comic book aesthetic, where speech is delivered through speech bubbles and cutscenes are delivered through panels that appear on parts the screen, so as not to pull players out of what they're doing.
"It's a bit like a Charlie Chaplin movie," Fanise said. "It's a way to tell complicated stories in a simple way."
Players will jump back and forth between the different characters, and they'll also jump backward and forward in time to different parts of the war.
Fanise told Polygon that WWI was a big source of inspiration, and the studio used many first-hand sources in its research. Fanise's own grandmother gave him all the letters his great-grandfather wrote while he was enlisted in the army during WWI, and his great-grandfather's dog tag also makes an appearance in the game.
Valiant Hearts is due to be released in 2014, on the centennial of WWI. Fanise said he wants the game to remind players of the war.
"There aren't many games that have been made about that war," he said. "We wanted to do something that makes sense, that has something to say, that isn't just entertainment. We want players to feel the whole range of emotions that you feel in your life, from real sadness to really joyful moments."