Some claim that Flash can do what it does better, but Ubisoft are giving their UbiArt Framework the most convincing possible praise at the moment: they’re using it to death. In Rayman Legends, Child of Light and now Valiant Hearts, they’ve made a terribly convincing case for their artist-friendly 2D development tool.
The latter is a puzzle-led adventure game from Ubisoft Montpellier – Michel Ancel’s inspired corner of the company. Set during the First World War, it’s a game about “human beings” – some of whom simply happen to be soldiers.
All of the art is scribbled in stubbily stylistic fashion by Montpellier art director Paul Tumelaire, and depicts the wartime lives of five international strangers – all connected by a nameless brown dog. He’ll help solve puzzles, apparently. We’ll play each of the five strangers in turn – though not necessarily in chronological order.
Dialogue is replaced by speech bubbles, and cutscenes by comic-book panels.
“It’s a bit like a Charlie Chaplin movie,” audio director Yoan Fanise told Polygon. “It’s a way to tell complicated stories in a simple way.”
Interestingly, Tumelaire and co. have drawn upon stereotypes to lighten the tone of their war story. The German soldier subsists on pretzels and beer. And Ubi Montpellier haven’t let themselves off the hook – the French prisoner-of-war and potato-peeler is the world’s biggest fan of baguettes and berets.
Their research has taken in plenty of first-hand accounts, however – including letters from their own great-grandparents.
“There aren’t many games that have been made about that war,” said Fanise. “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.”
Valiant Hearts will be released next year, on the 100th anniversary of the Great War’s beginning. Now the passage of time has seen to it that there are no survivors left, it seems suddenly important to remind players of what their relatives went through three generations ago. Hear hear, Ubisoft.