Track 3: Valiant Hearts

[Major Spoilers for Valiant Hearts]

Javy: This is the third episode of Game Chats! which is a WORDcast about video games where two critics talk about a single game. And today we’re going to have myself and Carli Velocci talking about Valiant Hearts: The Great War, which is a Ubisoft downloadable game. It’s made in UbiFrame. It’s very—it looks like a PBS cartoon, actually, is what I was thinking when I was playing it.

Carli: I could see that.

Javy: Okay Carli, so tell us a little bit about where you write, what you write about.

Carli: Okay, um, so I usually write for two main publications: Paste Magazine and KillScreen. I recently reviewed Valiant Hearts for Paste and that’s about it, yeah. Nothing too splashy.

Javy: Okay, cool cool. So tell us a little bit about—what did you thinking about it? Because you played it before I did and beat it a LONG time before I did.

Carli: Not too long, but I mean it was definitely one of the more interesting titles I’ve played this year. Granted, I haven’t played that many but this one definitely stood out among like a lot of different things. I mean, it definitely had some problems but overall it was definitely fun…well, I wouldn’t say fun. I guess it was fun to have a story that was that emotional and kind of more complex than you would think, just based on “oh you’re a solider and you’re running around doing random things.”

Javy: Yeah, it’s been interesting on Twitter seeing, after the game’s been released (‘cause it’s been out for a week or a week and a half or so), seeing everyone’s opinions just come down the Twitter feed. A lot of people I know just don’t like it, and I love it and…I think the thing is that I’ve been playing it in bits—like half an episode each playthrough—and not trying to beat it in one or two sittings because I think it would definitely get pretty repetitive pretty quickly. But playing it like it’s a television episode…so like a television series it allowed me to digest some of the more emotional bits instead of just cramming them altogether and feeling like the game was cramming it down my throat.

Carli: Yeah, that’s true.

Javy: Did you play it episodic or uh, did you—cause you played it for review, so did you have a deadline?

Carli: Yeah, I mean I didn’t play it all at once because…just for time’s sake, um I didn’t really play it episodic either. I guess it took me say two or three sittings to complete, so I guess I was in the middle of those two lines of the spectrum. I’m not entirely sure which one would be more preferable, but I guess doing it in spurts or episodically would be better because yeah, some of the puzzles when I was playing would get kind of frustrating and it would take me out of the game, kind of.

Javy: Some of them were so obtuse.

[Both laugh]

Javy: Especially in the third episode where Karl—I believe is his name—is in the camp, and at one point you’re in the shower room and you pick up this object…and it looks like a pair of overalls or a whip. And I couldn’t tell what it was, couldn’t tell what I had to do with it, and the hints weren’t helpful at all. The game also has a pretty nifty hint system where carrier pigeons come in like every other minute or two when the game senses you’re stuck on something. And you can option, it’s an option. You can choose to access it or you can just try and figure it out yourself, and at that point none of the hints it’s gave me helped me at all. So there are some parts that are certainly frustrating, and they feel like…like the game is trying to *prove* that it’s a game, if that makes sense, that it’s trying to prove that it’s a traditional game. Like “We’ve got a good story going on and wanna focus on that, but we promise we’re a video game! Here’s some random puzzles!”

Carli: Yeah, I think I read another review of the game, um, I think it was in The New York Times and it was basically saying the same thing, where it’s like we have all these great elements, this great story, and uh oh, we’re being made by Ubisoft and we’ve got like this audience. We need to throw in these actioney different bits, like with the German…Boss guy, like the mad scientist guy. And that was so strange to me because the entire game you have like y’know you have Karl who’s on the German side, and then you have his family who’s on the other side. It’s a very human aspect to see those two sides clash but then you have this fricking mad scientist who is going around blowing things up and cackling and—I’m pretty sure he’s got a mustache—and it’s very kind of cartoonish and very kind of…simple, I think. Very cheap. Like I felt kind of cheapened by his inclusion.

Javy: Yeah, yeah, the baron guy.

Carli: Yeah, that guy.

Javy: I read a bunch of reviews that talked about the uncomfortable, odd mixture of that cartoony simplicity that you’re talking about and the tragedy of the game. Uh, like those two things can’t coexist within the same game, because the game definitely has moments of joy and jokes that revolve around the stereotypes of various nations. Like in some of the camps you’ll see some of the troops drinking a lot, eating sausage, and it’s just very…jovial right before the shit goes down, like before stuff starts blowing up and people die. And to me, I didn’t mind it that much.

Carli: Me either.

Javy: Because y’know…I feel kind of like a hack using this defense because it’s used so often, but the uh “real life” defense, y’know, real life has tragedy and comedy—moments of outrageousness and moments of just really…sad, just awful stuff happening to people who don’t deserve it. And I think the game captures both aspects of that and that’s something that’s really hard to do, but it worked for me.

Carli: Yeah, I mean there are some kind of bumps in the road when combining those two things but I generally thought that…like the first couple of episodes I felt a little off put by the cartoonish moments, but over time as the story got darker and I guess things became more grim and just really depressing, I was more…thankful for that kind of stuff ‘cause you can’t just have something that’s a straight tragedy. You gotta have some bits of comedic interruption so that you don’t feel like you can’t even complete the game. I definitely think that the comedic tone, in some aspects, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because if you can balance the two and it does very well, I think, after like the second episode? Like the third episode might be my favorite—with Karl in the prisoner camp.

Javy: Yeah.

Carli: And he’s solving this very meticulous puzzle—which made no sense to me; I was just playing around and that’s how I eventually solved it—but he’s going around and you can see all the people kind of interacting and there are some parts that are more jovial, like you said, and some aspects that are kind of…like when he’s escaping and he’s just trying to hide in that one cabin with the woman who kind of helped him get out. And it’s kind of this really interesting…um mesh where sometimes there’s these nice comedic moments and in the background there’s a war going on and Karl wants to get back to his family and on the other side of the continent there’s these other people who thinks he’s dead, and so it just makes the thing very complicated but in a good way.

Javy: How do you feel about the episode…the game pulling…because I remember from the beginning of Act 3 is that the game pretended that Karl was dead, like the game has this habit where two or three times where YOUR CHARACTER IS DEAD! Oh no! And then it switches to someone else’s perspective. And I think once would have been enough, but the game does it two or three times.

Carli: It does.

Javy: And I was kind of disappointed that it didn’t set that expectation and then subvert it…like at the very end Emilie, one of the characters, dies and it’s a very moving moment but it doesn’t arrive out of the “oh, well they didn’t kill this character this time,” like if it had happened three-fourths of the way through the game instead of the very end where it’s expected. Like I knew that someone was going to die, and I thought it was going to be the dog.

Carli: Yeah.

Javy: Who’s the best game character this year, I think. So far.

[Carli laughs]

Javy: Do they even give us a name for him?

Carli: Y’know, I don’t think so. I just kept calling him Dog.

Javy: He actually looks like my dog, the dog my girlfriend and I just adopted, so I just kept calling him (or her!) Stella because that’s our dog’s name.

Carli: Aw. So cute.

Javy: But yeah, there are definitely some areas where it makes compromises, I think, not only in gameplay but in story as well to pad out the length of the game. But at the same time I didn’t necessarily mind it. Uh, I really didn’t want it to end, like I’ve seen some people complaining about how long it is and how it goes on. And it does go on, and there are definitely two or three places where it can end in like act III, but y’know we’re talking about a war that went on for a while, just dragged on and made everyone miserable, so I feel like it’s kind of justified.

Carli: Yeah, so I definitely agree. I loved reading those kind of anecdotes they would give you in the beginning of certain parts that were like: This is this…this is where you are, and this kind of battle happened here and this many people died and this was the kind of tone of the battle where it went on for months and months and months, and everyone got really sick and there were this many causalities. And it definitely added this very real aspect to the game…especially the parts that were more cartoonish, ‘cause you would have Emile just running around the camp but it would give you this anecdote that was “oh this is actually what’s going on around it.” And going back to what you said um it’s this idea that the war went on for so long and there’s so much to cover. And like, a lot of people don’t really cover World War I. World War II is kind of the go to “we’re gonna make a war media-thing.”

Javy: It’s the Call of Duty, Band of Brothers thing.

Carli: Yeah, exactly. No one talks about World War I. So to have all this kind of historical background is very helpful and enlightening, and kind of padding it out with all these different things allows you to experience more of those kind of facts and anecdotes and they just, yeah, they just wanted to tell a story about a war and that war happened to be long and full of things to tell.

Javy: I think that’s interesting that you brought up World War II and media in just general concern with war, and especially games. How do you think about Valiant Hearts in the context of other games about war, specifically maybe World War I and World War II. I guess World War II because, as you just said, there’s not that many World War I games except for like some obscure strategy games maybe from Paradox Interactive. What do you think of that like, in comparison to something like the original Call of Duty or Battlefield, or just run-in-gun games?

Carli: I mean, if you think about what kind of games depict a lot of time they’re shooters, and I don’t want to keep ragging on shooters in the way a lot of other people to do because there’s nothing wrong with shooters; it’s just that, y’know, they tend to be monotonous and a lot of the time they don’t really go into I guess more of a human story emotional aspect of those wars. It’s a lot of war setting, so you can kind of shoot people and maybe you get a cool locale out of it. And with Valiant Hearts, they didn’t really go that route, which is what I really appreciated about it. They wanted…they were like “we have this era of world history that no one really touches and we’re gonna try and tell as much of it as possible through the eyes of [I think like] four people.” And they definitely took on a lot, I think, because there is so much to tell, but I think it definitely paid off because it does provide a more unique perspective that a lot of games don’t talk about.

Javy: Yeah, I agree with that and still in the context of, this isn’t a World War One/Two game, but I kept thinking of Spec Ops while I was playing Valiant Hearts because both of them are trying to cover the same ground, to certain extent they’re trying to talk about the horror of war, uh, that sort of Apocalypse Now version of war, that madness, what humans do to one another when they’re commanded by other humans who are in power, but there’s something about it…I think what I like about Valiant Hearts the most…and it’s captured perfectly in the scene where Emile is in the mines and he meets the German solider only to end up later helping kill him, uh, is that the game talks about the main characters’ complicity in a war that they don’t really want to be partaking in without sticking a gun in their hands. Spec Ops tried to talk about that complicity both as the player enjoying violence as entertainment and uh the complicity of people in that violence even if they don’t necessarily want to be there, but it does that by putting a gun in the player’s hand and making them kill tons of NPCs. Here, you don’t really kill that many people in Valiant Hearts. I’d say that most of the time um you’re witnessing someone die by other circumstances, but there are parts where you’re indirectly responsible for the death of a solider or someone else, and it’s pretty awful and effective, and the one bit that we are directly responsible for is when Emile seals fate by killing the general ordering them to do that suicide rush in the last battle. It’s a horrible moment, in a good way. It affected me pretty profoundly, much more than Spec Ops trying to do the same moment at the middle of its game uh you have to shoot…uh you have a choice to shot a quote-unquote bad guy and put him out of his misery.

Carli: Yeah, it’s definitely interesting because Valiant Hearts doesn’t give you a gun. It doesn’t…like you get a certain item for each person. Like Emile has the little shovel. Uh, I forget the American guy’s name.

Javy: Uhhhh Freddie! It’s Freddie.

Carli: Yeah, Freddie. He’s got his pliers so he can cut through wires. Everyone’s got their little own thing, but none of them have items that are directly hurting someone else, which I found interesting because all the background characters had guns or some other kind of weapon, and there were times when you had to work like a turret or a canon, but most of the time you were just kind of helping other people, and kind of just trying to get from one side of the battlefield to the other. You weren’t really, y’know, tasked with killing other people, and that’s something you’d think would worth it to do in a war—I mean, granted there was stuff, like some indirect deaths. Like if there’s some German firing a machinegun, and then you throw a rock or something at the wooden plank and then those would come down and crush the guy…y’know, that’s—he’s probably dead. But that’s not the main focus of it, and so it’s interesting like that you directly kill someone is, like you said, in the final battle is this like the war coming to a head, almost. Like Emile becoming just tired and distraught because he thinks…he has no attachments to his family anymore. And at that point the war’s been going on for years, and I’m sure that was the same way for a lot of soldiers who probably thought the war was just never going to end. So it definitely gave that death more weight, as like this was a man at the end of his wits. Even the general who was ordering the mission was desperate, so there’s way more…complexity to those deaths versus y’know in another game where you’re doing in the war is like gunning down enemy soldiers and that’s about it, really.

Javy: And touching on Emile’s death, I think the saddest bit of that is that he’s actually dead long before the little execution scene…it’s just like how accepting he is of it, I guess.

Carli: Yeah.

Javy: After what he did, for the right reason…at least what I would say was for the right reasons.

Carli: I definitely think so.

Javy: The whole march, and the game does it so beautifully when the soldiers are walking him toward the shooting post and he sees Freddie…and Freddie is there for real, but y’know, like hallucinations…eh not really hallucinations (it’s kind of a weird word in that context) but images of the dog, and Karl, and his daughter, and…was it Anna?

Carli: Yes.

Javy: Anna or Anya. No, Anya is from Wolfenstein.

[Both laugh]

Carli: I think it was Anna. You were right the first time.

Javy: Yeah, but uh the game…doesn’t treat death lightly, and I have a real respect for that, for when a game does that because so many games…and again this isn’t necessarily knocking, like you said, shooters and such…it’s just rare to see a game take death as a serious thing, as something of consequence, as something that affects people on a profound level beyond moving a plot.

Carli: Right, and it’s kind of interesting because you think of how many actual soldiers died in World War I, and it was like hundreds of thousands, and there’s so much weight behind just like one death at the very end of the game. It really puts into perspective everything that happened in World War I. Well, like this one person died. Think about everybody else affected by all those other soldiers, like they’re not just statistics, they’re people.

Javy: With families too, so it wasn’t just them that was affected—it’s like Emile’s family. That’s an aspect of the game I liked very much was—

Carli: Yeah, me—

[Carli and Javy wait for the other to speak.]

Carli: Sorry, you can go first.

[Both laugh]

Javy: Oh, uh was how it handled death even if…in spite of the cartoonish moments, I never felt like the cartoonish moments tainted those deep, profound moments. Whenever death was on the screen, it was a sad affair to be taken very seriously. It wasn’t about improving your kill/death ratio or getting a sweet, grisly kill in Sniper Elite, which I’ve been playing, uh so bullet cam stuff. It’s just all about affecting the player. It’s rare to play games, especially games put out by Ubisoft or any major developer and publisher, that focuses just on that…on giving the player an almost purely emotional experience.

Carli: Yeah, which is…it’s almost sad because y’know this is a game that goes against the criticisms that are plaguing pieces right now, and it goes against a lot of them. So I wish that more people would play Valiant Hearts if only so that the people making the games would understand that this is what people want: more kind of story and emotional impact versus violence. And I mean, there is violence in Valiant Hearts, but it’s like we’ve been talking about, it’s a much different kind of violence.

Javy: Yeah.

Carli: Like, I think of the final battle where you’re running through the trenches and the bodies are piling up and you have to, at one point, hide behind a pile of bodies to evade gunfire.

Javy: Oh yeah.

Carli: And that was…I had to pause the game for a little bit because that felt really wrong to me. Like obviously it’s there for a reason and it definitely added to the game as a whole, but just like being Emile and hiding behind all of your comrades that have just fallen on the battlefield was just…like, yeah it makes perfect sense that Emile would go on and do the thing he did, especially after thinking he’s just lost his entire family.

Javy: Yeah, yeah, I…I also had to pause the game during that point ‘cause I had a little bit—I wouldn’t say I had a major problem with it or anything. It’s just I had to pause it because—“wow, really? The game wants me to hide behind that.” And this is a huge pile of bodies too

Carli: Yeah.

Javy: The game makes it look like a mountain of them. Um, and I think the reason that bit worked is because they save all the truly awful and gruesome imagery here for that last battle. You don’t really see any blood until that last battle scene, and it’s everywhere. It’s like they put everything at the end—the crescendo, just to make you feel so awful and identify with Emile and to get him and get what he’s going through.

Carli: Yea, that’s very true. Like the entire time I was always kind of…I wrote this down because I take notes when I play games, and I wrote down a couple of times how y’know there’s supposed to be hundred of thousands of soldiers yet you only saw a handful throughout a level, and especially if you’re going through enemy lines and you’d have to get by maybe a dozen German soldiers, but then at the end, you’re being pounded down by gunfire and you’re constantly joining other groups of your comrades and they keep getting gunned down and the piles keep getting larger and it’s a huge contrast from the rest of the game where…y’know there was kind of a slow build in terms of the kind of imagery and the gruesomeness and the violence of it. It did start out kind of like everything is green and there’s a small handful of soldiers you’re fighting with and the locales slowly get more desolate and the battles get more bloody and the stakes become higher and it just kind of, yeah, it just comes to a head in the final battle where you’re like “What have we done?”

Javy: It’s very much watching this pastoral green place that’s very natural turning into the wasteland. We get to see that happen on the screen uh and I think the game does a good job doing, as you say, doing a slow buildup to that, like showing you. It doesn’t try and hurry through that…you spend a lot of the first chapter in the forest or the fields, and it turns into that hellhole at the end, all those bodies everywhere. And it’s not in the desert, but it’s hard rock everywhere you look. It’s a very hellish image, that whole level. [Pause] So did you watch the credits or stay after the credits? [chuckle] “stay after the credits” like we’re talking about a movie.

[Carli laughs]

Carli: You’re gonna have to remind me. I can’t remember.

Javy: There’s actually a post-credit scene where Freddie’s on a ship, and it’s a naval battleship, and I think what they’re hinting at is that there is going to be more. I don’t know if that’s more DLC or y’ know, like a whole new fully fledged Valiant Hearts game that takes parts either—because the war didn’t end in what we saw. It technically wasn’t over.

Carli: Right.

Javy: Like I’m not sure if we’ll see more World War I or…because World War II isn’t that far off—I mean, between World War I and World War II the timespan isn’t that great—if we’ll see Freddie and a bunch of new people in World War 2. How would you feel about that? To me, this is a game I would feel odd about with a sequel. I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but I would feel very strange if I saw the trailer for the next one at like E3 or something.

Carli: It’s weird to think about because it’s kind of a standalone game where you have like…I mean, you follow a few characters but the main character is Emile and he dies at the end of the game. So it would be kind of strange to continue on, but at the same time I think if it was done like with the thought in mind in making the best game they could instead of just making a sequel…then it could be done, especially if you follow Freddie um going through either the rest of World War II or going to different places in World War Two because World War II definitely takes places in a lot of different other places, so it could be interesting to explore more areas of Europe or maybe Japan where things are going down, but yeah, I’m not entirely opposed to it but it has to be done correctly.

Javy: Yeah, it’s something that I wasn’t immediately turned off by. That’s what I’ll say, which is rare for me when I hear that like a game I like is getting sequel because sequel screw-ups are so common. And also, I’m a little nervous because even though this is a branch of Ubi that usually gets games right; this is the branch that did like Beyond Good & Evil, Rayman Origins, and the King Kong game from way back in the day. I really that King Kong game!

[Carli chuckles]

Javy: It was really good for what it was. And ZombiU, I think. They did ZombiU too.

Carli: I heard that was pretty good, but I never actually touched it.

Javy: It’s good, but I don’t know…I’ve just been so disappointed with some of Ubisoft’s stuff lately with the feature creep and the climbing of things. I was so happy we didn’t have to climb any shit in Valiant Hearts.

[Carli laughs]

Javy: I don’t know if you could actually stick that in there, but I could see some suit saying that.

Carli: I mean there were some points where I was sort of like “I have to dig again?” But it definitely wasn’t as bad as “c’mon Nathan Drake, do I really have to follow you doing this again?”

Javy: Or synchronizing at the top of some random building, but I did enjoy some of those puzzely sections even if they were all over the place, like the digging, I really enjoyed digging with Emile’s shovel—especially when it turned into this kind of maze with the artillery.

Carli: Yeah, those were hard.

Javy: They were super difficult. I thought it was creative too, just from a design standpoint, because again it’s the combination of the macabre of war with this sort of PBS cartoony extravagance, y’know, it’s a very Bugs Bunny moment for Emile to be digging all over the ground, dodging these rockets that can go off at any moment, and it works. I don’ think it should work, but it does work for me.

Carli: It definitely works because it’s another instance of I guess that danger of the war, because if you are given a shovel and then in the beginning you’re doing these kind of inane puzzles, like getting the guy’s socks washed or whatever.

[Javy groans]

Carli: But y’know then you’re digging and leading a group of people through a maze of all these missiles that are in the earth and if you touch them, they explode. And, I mean that’s kind of a problem in some areas where the mines weren’t dug up correctly. So, it just adds like another historical realism to the game even though it is kind of…like you said, a PBS cartoon.

Javy: Yeah, I actually hadn’t thought about that aspect, like the mines still being in various countries…because you don’t get news reports about that anymore. A couple of years back it’d be about every other week or so you’d see a headline about someone losing a foot to some…a mine in some foreign country that was just there, dormant for a long time. Um how do you feel about gamefying tough subjects like…’cause this is definitely…I think it’s…war is kind of a subject that the gaming community has become desensitized to, when you consider how many games—especially in the early 2000s—we put out about World War II. But what do you think about gamefying something as grim as that?

Carli: There is definitely…I don’t really see a problem with it. It’s just a matter of, yeah, there are games that treat it as…they romanticize it or they do something that kind of, like you said, desensitizes you to the idea of war, like when you’re going and gunning down all the people…it’s going to impact you in some way. And, y’know, there’s nothing wrong inherently with making a game with a very serious subject, it’s just that a lot of times more mainstream, more well-known titles have added to this discussion being like “We’re gonna go in and nuke some people, it’s gonna be awesome,” when it’s really not. A lot of people died. A lot of people have been really heavily impacted by these kinds of incidents that have been going on. And it just mostly takes something like Valiant Hearts to remind people that war is not..it’s not all fun and games, shooting someone down, cheering “yay I got ‘em,” it’s not about the highest score. It definitely can be done right.

Javy: Yeah, and I think that Valiant Hearts did it as best as it could. I even…as far as the story goes, because the characters are caricatures, but they’re caricatures I cared about at least, like that I came to….because I don’t think a character has to necessarily be superbly written for you to care about them ,y’know, ‘cause I cared about what Emile was going through, what Karl was going through, what Anna was going through with her father…because these are all sorts of stories that are connected to the war, like these are stories that happened in some fashion. Obviously, the details have been changed and the cartoony element wasn’t there, but these are things people have gone through before: being disconnected from their families, thinking that their family member who was a soldier died when in actuality they didn’t, so on and so forth. And I think as a game that’s trying to tackle those themes, and considering where we are with games development-wise and especially considering that it’s an AAA game, it does a really good job…one of my favorite bits is how it takes shots at people in power, like generals and such. Because you’ll always see generals, people sending Emile and his comrades to die, uh they’re like drinking and being buffoons—just generally being assholes in front of their soldiers and then sending their soldiers to die. And I felt like it was cool to actually have a game that actually cared about the sort of story to incorporate that into it. Because most of the time when there are superiors in games, they’re just giving you orders and you’ll following them. And it might be tough, like this is the tough choice that’s going to get you killed but it is the Right Choice with a capital R Choice according to the game’s narrative.

Carli: Yeah, which is why it’s interesting that at the very end he kills the general, so it’s kind of like an ultimate backlash against that kind of…I guess, the need to be in power, against war as a whole kind of thing—where it’s tearing apart of families, it’s killing innocent, it’s tearing apart the countryside. It’s so much more than “we’re gonna go in, and we’re gonna kill all the Germans” or whatever. Germans are people too! Granted, that’s why I didn’t really like the Baron character because it took the realism out of it. Same with the driving sequences—they were very peculiar to me.

Javy: Aww, you didn’t like them? [chuckles]

Carli: I liked them, but afterwards I was just like “what was that?” I think I enjoyed them only because of the music.

Javy: Yeah.

Carli: And the kind of choreography.

Javy: Yeah, it was a rhythm game. That’s what it felt like I was playing, like Guitar Hero or something.

Carli: Yeah.

Javy: And you had to do it to the music, and I enjoyed ‘em all excpt for the last one, where it’s actually a boss fight with that huge tank. I didn’t really like Anna’s later sequences, or the tougher versions of her sequences later on where she has to rescue Karl, because…it might be because I’m not good with those games. I’ve been playing another one called Entwined with the uh sticks….it’s like a doublestick…er, twin sticks version of Guitar Hero, and I just hate that.

Carli: Ugh.

Javy: But Anna’s sequence, I died…well, not me, poor Karl died about seven times at the end before I got it right.

Carli: Yeah, those were really intense sequences, especially since they subtly got harder as you went along. Like in the beginning it was just hitting the down key or whatever, but then you have to hit these two keys, and then do this, and this, and then Karl’s gonna die if you mess up. And I was panicking…like “oh no, I’m gonna mess up. I’m gonna die. I’m gonna kill Karl.”

Javy: Aw. Yeah, and it’s unfortunate because I think that comes into the game/story struggle we’ve been talking about. Because if that happens, if Karl dies two or three times—maybe not the first time—the impact of his death or impending death isn’t nearly as profound. It just becomes a trial & error thing. You stop worrying about whether or not Karl will live or die because he’s lived and died in these moments seven times already. I think there’s a trouble with that.

Carli: There definitely it is. It’s why I wasn’t too fond of when it broke away from the puzzle aspects…like there were times when I was doing a puzzle or whatever, and it would just throw this new thing at me and I would have no idea how to do that, and yeah, it’d be trial & error. And there were some sequences, like I think it was with Freddie and the flaming um like contraption that you had to move around.

Javy: Oh yeah.

Carli: Those were definitely all kind of trial and error, and I think I did those things four or five times before I got them. There were definitely points when the puzzles didn’t have nearly as much impact as they should have because they were trying to go for “we’ve got to actually make a game! We’ve got to do this!” It definitely felt like a project where there were two different sides that were kind of going at it.

Javy: And it really….even though that insecurity shows through, because that’s what I call it: game insecurity. And it might not be like the development team felt like, but what it feels like to me in-game: “We have to demonstrate that we’re a game.” And I think it’s kind of a miracle that the game works as well as it does and it’s still just as profound impacting even though it has those moments with those puzzles, those frustrating, aggravating fire puzzles.

Carli: There are definitely some aggravating aspects, but I’ve played puzzle games…they’re definitely not my favorite genre because it definitely takes a while to get into one kind of puzzles it’s going for, so you’re always going to mess up a lot at the beginning. I think it works because those kinds of I guess more troublesome sequences aren’t really common. Like, there’s a lot of really great sequences that surround those ones where you’re like “Ugh, this doesn’t make any sense to me. What am I doing? This is ridiculous.” But then they’re padded out by great sequences with the dog or when the dog saves you, or like you save soldier and it feels really good. So, I think over the time we just forget about those kinds of weird anomaly sequences.

Javy: Yeah, because the game does have more good puzzles than it does boring or frustrating ones. And even the worst ones, besides the frustrating ones, there’s really like four or five of those and they’re basically fetch quests, like the moment you enter the room you know what you have to do. You just have to go find the right object or the right basket to stick the dog in and um if you haven’t played the game that sounds really unfortunate, sounds really gruesome, but I promise we’re not doing anything horrible to the dog.

[Carli chuckles]

Carli: The dog is doing it on its own.

Javy: Yeah, the dog is fine.

[Javy chuckles]

Carli: Thank god.

Javy: Oh yeah, I would have been super upset…sorry Emile. Okay, on that note, we’re about out of time. Carli, do you wanna say anything else about uh Valiant Hearts?

Carli: Um I’ll guess say that it’s not a perfect game, it’s not gonna make everyone happy, but I definitely think it’s worth looking into just for how unique it is and how emotional it is, and generally just what it’s going to make you feel.

Javy: All right, Carli. Where can readers find you on Twitter?

Carli: They can find me at @revierypone.

Javy: All right, well thank you very much for joining us!

Carli: Thank you for having me!

Javy: Bye readers!

Carli: Bye!

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