Experience Adolf Hitler’s rise to power through the eyes of an underground German resistance group as they do everything in their power to keep him from dismantling their democracy in this narrative strategy title.
Genre: Strategy, Adventure
Developer: Paintbucket Games
Release date: 30 January, 2020
Nazi Germany has always been a fascinating topic for me and I was hooked the moment that I saw the Steam store page for Through the Darkest of Times. I was hoping for a strong story and decent enough gameplay to allow it to shine, though the mechanics ended up surprising me with their depth. There’s a strong, historical narrative but there’s also an interesting and immersive layer of strategy thrown into the mix that worked well enough to keep me interested and enjoying this title for its significant gameplay portions as well.
Face of the Resistance
Your resistance will have several active members in it, each of which will have a variety of traits and stats, as well as a political leaning and professional identity. The primary stats that all characters share are secrecy, empathy, propaganda, strength, and literacy. Each character has a proficiency in these that represents how talented they are at using it and how effectively they can carry out related missions. The variety of traits is impressive and the selection includes character-defining elements such as athlete, doubtful past, calm, and paranoid, that further distinguish one character from the next. Political identities such as catholic conservative, anarchist, and communist, and professions, like lawyer and metal worker, add further depth with bonuses and penalties to related tasks. The end product is a relatively unique set of randomly generated characters to fill your resistance with plenty of aspects that differentiate them from one another and affect their own stories and commentaries on the world and each other. I decided to go with the first character that was randomly generated for my leader, a communist lawyer, and I was particularly pleased with the passion for the development of this project when he was arrested and beaten for a week before being released without explanation after the burning of the Reichstag.
Fight the Odds
When you first begin, you’ll be able to choose whether you want to play the resistance or story mode. Resistance is an ironman experience that is meant to provide a real challenge, though it may be a tad on the easy side if you’re a strategy veteran looking to have your capabilities tested. On the other hand, the story mode allows those who want to focus on the story to do so without the interference of intense and stressful management of their squad of resisters.
Newspapers will arrive at the beginning of each week, notifying you of the events that are taking place around you at the time. The vast majority reinforce the oppressive gloom as the Nazis continue to expand their power and influence while your actions fail to effect any real change. You’ll have your little victories here and there but it often seems as if everyone around you supports the Nazi regime, turns a blind eye to its atrocities, or assumes that the worst of it all will blow over soon.
On the other hand, your resistance is attempting to undermine Hitler’s growing authority by recruiting supporters, collecting donations, and eventually, engaging in more aggressive and violent behaviour against the regime to remind it that there are still those who are watching. You’ll determine who does what, but those actions that will hit the regime the hardest are also the ones that will push your strongest supporters to their limits, costing them their freedom and their lives. Fortunately, as they engage in these activities, they’ll rise to the challenge and improve with the experiences that they gain.
Through the Darkest of Times places us near the start of Germany’s political transition from the Weimar Republic to Nazi Germany, and does so in a way that is immersive, using history itself to create a fictional story with a realistic and dark setting. It’s clear that Paintbucket Games has read a page or two on the setting as they paint an excellent picture of the era even if there may be a few slight alterations for the sake of a modern audience. The strategy portion is neither the deepest nor the most challenging that we’ve ever seen but it does its part and pairs well with the story being told. All in all, this title is a solid combination of strategy management and storytelling that’s worth giving a shot as long as you don’t mind a touch of commentary on modern politics showing itself on occasion.