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July 2019

Through the Darkest of Times

Platform(s): PC
Genre: Strategy
Publisher: HandyGames
Developer: Paintbucket Games
Release Date: 2019

About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.


PC Preview - 'Through the Darkest of Times'

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on July 2, 2019 @ 2:00 a.m. PDT

Through the Darkest of Times is a strategy game that lets you play a resistance group in Third Reich Berlin.

Out of all the things I expected to see at E3 2019, nothing on the list was anything like Through the Darkest of Times. The game is set in 1933 Berlin just as Chancellor Adolf Hitler began his rise to power. You play as a group of Germans who are concerned about the direction that their country is going. They are resolved to resist in any way they can and push back for what is right.

The game is historically accurate and takes place across four chapters from 1933 to 1945. The game is played week by week, although there are some occasions where larger blocks of time are handled or simply skipped. Each week, your task is to build up your fledgling resistance group, starting with your own character and later with up to five in your group, and your goal is to survive to the end of 1945. Completing the game unlocks an alternate history mode where you can change the course of events, but in the original campaign, you can only aim to survive through the war.

The game is narrative-driven with a strong focus on its story. Each week, your group performs an action: painting graffiti, buying said paint, distributing leaflets, etc. Every action has a cost, and every action is a chance that your group can be discovered. Occasional events, such as watching a group of German soldiers pushing a Jew to the ground and berating him, offer a chance for numerous potential choices. If you get involved and do what's right, you may also risk being uncovered. Do nothing, and your group may lose morale in what they are fighting for.

You can choose who to send on missions, which can be driven based on their stats. Each character has three stats: empathy, propaganda and secrecy. As they perform missions, they gain experience and level up, which lets you put one more point in one of their stats. However, missions are also risky, and anyone sent on a mission can potentially be found out and arrested — or worse.

The game is depressing but not unintentionally so. The color scheme is shades of black, white and red. Group members may ask you to leave the group as they have a pregnant wife, and it is up to you how to handle their request. You will be interrogated, and each time after the first interrogation, there is a chance you will be sent to a concentration camp. People will disappear, morale will fluctuate, and some of the toughest choices will have to be made.

In a geopolitical climate where some developers are purposefully taking as close to an apolitical stance as possible, Through the Darkest of Times is decidedly political. It is being made by a small group of German developers who are concerned with the worldwide rise of right-wing politics. They wanted to do something about it, and as game developers, they are doing that in the way they know best. The game comes out in early 2020 and hopes to restore some of the lessons that were previously learned and have been lost along the way.

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