In 2014, Ubisoft released Valiant Hearts: The Great War, a game that stood out by virtue of it being a smaller, more intimate tale amidst its many more action-oriented brethren. Instead of explosive set pieces and main characters that doubled as killing machines, the game focuses on the people who find themselves forever marked by war. Nine years later, Valiant Hearts: Coming Home continues the tale on mobile devices exclusively through Netflix, and it picks up right where the previous story left off. While a lack of challenging gameplay and a short lifespan could sink other games, brevity is used to its advantage to ensure the story hits just as hard as its predecessor..
Coming Home begins in 1917, just as American troops are entering the war for the first time. Familiar faces Freddie and Anna return, along with three new main characters: James, Freddie’s younger brother; George, a fighter pilot; and Ernst, a German sailor who, through no fault of his own, finds himself an unwitting participant in the war effort.
The story is told across 19 scenes split into three chapters, which translates into about 2.5 hours of gameplay. On paper it sounds very short, but the story is efficiently told. None of the beats feel like they drag on; from the opening scene Coming Home does a remarkable job of being clear-cut with its narrative–even those designed to make the player feel uncomfortable. For example, the very first scene shows James’s enlistment experience, which has him forced into racially segregated lines with one line receiving weapons and the other, James’s line, being given brooms for custodial work. In another scene, the medic Ana frantically runs around a hospital healing wounded, putting the player in control as she removes shrapnel from limbs and administers bandages.
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