I’m not a particularly keen, or good, gamer. My PC games are mostly limited to a few Call of Duty titles (for the interactive, cinematic experience), a few variations of the Chinese game mahjong, chess, the magnificent Dear Esther (which has unfairly been described as ‘a walking simulator’), and quite a few LEGO games.
A couple of weeks ago I downloaded Valiant Hearts via Steam; it was on special offer. I finished it last week—it was brilliant!
Valiant Hearts is set during world war one, which ties it in nicely with the centenary of its outbreak.
It follows the journeys of four ordinary people’s experiences of war.
Emile is a French farmer who becomes a prisoner of war, and later escapes.
Karl is Emile’s (I guess) son-in-law. He’s a German, living in France, who gets recalled back to fight for Germany.
Freddie is an American soldier who is fighting to avenge the death of his wife in a German bombing attack.
Anna is a Belgian nurse who attends to wounded soldiers (both German and allied forces) on the battlefield.
Besides the playable characters there is also a dog, Walt, who can be used to solve puzzles. You can also stroke him, and tickle his tummy, which is a really sweet addition.
I found the game entirely gripping. From the artwork, to the music and sound effects, to the puzzles, to the characters, to the historical detail. While the characters and story line is fictional, it is based on historical fact which makes it all the more moving.
I love that one of the main characters (Anna) is a woman, and a strong woman at that. She is brave and compassionate.
I had read quite a few reviews before I played the game where people confessed that they cried at the end of the game. As the final level was loading I considered this. I had been moved by the stories, I had identified with the characters, but I didn’t feel this was enough to make me cry.
I was wrong. As the final level progressed, I cried.
If you’re looking for a great adventure-style, puzzle game, then I can thoroughly recommend Valiant Hearts. It gets a 10/10 from me.
Last night I stumbled across a new computer game, Dear Esther, released only last week (14 February) on Steam for GBP £6.99, that has me captivated all day. I can’t stop thinking about its haunting beauty, its simplicity.
“A deserted island…a lost man…memories of a fatal crash…a book written by a dying explorer.” Two years in the making, the highly anticipated Indie remake of the cult mod Dear Esther arrives on PC. Dear Esther immerses you in a stunningly realised world, a remote and desolate island somewhere in the outer Hebrides.
I’m not a prolific computer games’ player. I have a handful of titles: LEGO Star Wars 1 and 2, Star Wars Battlefront 1 and 2, Battlefield 2, Bad Company 2and some of the later Call of Duty games: Modern Warfare, MW2 and Black Ops.
The more hostile titles I like for the cinematic experience—it’s like seeing a film but you get to control the main characters. I never play them online, I don’t like the idea of trying to ‘kill’ the characters of other humans. I prefer to challenge the computer instead. It’s a fine line, I know, but its a line I chose to draw and stand by.
Dear Esther has none of that. The main character—the only character—in the game walks everywhere. No running, jumping or climbing trees. No weapons. No picking up items. Just looking. And yet it’s the most beautiful, most cinematic, most immersive game I’ve ever seen.
The game began as a mod for Half Life 2 but was picked up in 2009 “by a professional game artist, Robert Briscoe, for a complete overhaul of the visuals and level design, in the hopes that it would be able to overcome it’s early shortcomings as a mod and be able to fulfil its true potential.”
In my opinion it has more than achieved its vision. Not only is the artwork breath-taking, the music (by Jessica Curry) is gorgeous, and the in-game narration (by Nigel Carrington) is sublime.
Which is where some of the controversy lies. Many are claiming that Dear Esther isn’t a computer game, that it is rather an interactive story or simply art. Whatever it is I think it’s beautiful and mournful and intriguing. I can’t wait to start playing it for myself.