Written by Maurice Verschuur
February 17, 2020 – History is written by the victors, is a well known saying. And the true and horrifying stories of World War 2 are mostly written from the perspective of the Allies. Through the Darkest of Times paints a picture of live in Berlin by following a fictional German resistance group operating before and during the war. Big political events follow the actual historical time-line and influence your options and what happens to your group. From the moment Hitler takes power in 1933 to Germany’s surrender in 1945. It’s your task to lead your resistance group and plan attacks against the regime, gather support and make sure the Gestapo doesn’t catch you. This is challenging on it’s own, but the game really excels in telling the stories of the horrific and brutal terror all non-Aryan endured in Third Reich Berlin.
Who are you?
You start out by creating your character. I am always someone who tries to make a character that looks a little bit like me. You also get to select your skills by rolling a dice until you get the ones you are comfortable with. I settled to be a Christian Liberal and my job was a tax collector. But you can also choose to be a monarchist, communist, store clerk, unemployed and many more. Your background and job, and those of your group members which you need to recruit, will have a positive or negative effect on the different actions you perform as a resistance group.
As the leader of your group, planning is everything. From your hideout you decide which actions to execute and which one of your group members will perform them. Will you gather support with the workers union, collect money for your cause, keeping it simple by handing out leaflets with the truth about the Nazi’s or steal explosives and attack important military buildings? Many of these actions need preparation. And in a time and city where the SS is in control and people are living in fear, the smallest task, like buying paper for leaflets, can bring huge risks.
First encounter with fascisme in public
The cut-scene shows me i’m cycling true the street when i see an old man being harassed by a group of men. As i get closer i can see the men are wearing brown shirts with a swastika armband. The brown shirts throw the old man on the street while yelling ”Dirty Jew!”. Do i intervene with the risk of being assaulted myself? Or do i turn around and move along?
Although planning and performing actions from your hideout against the Nazi’s is a big part of the game, eventually it can become a little repetitive. But scenes like the one above is when the game really got my attention. They tell stories what it’s like living in Berlin before the war, when fascism was rising up, and during the war. They force you to make morale decisions which can have effect on the morale of your group.
Chills true my spine
The war is in full swing and the Nazi’s are spinning up their effort to exterminate everyone who’s is not an Aryan. From Jews, to Romani and the disabled.
In this scene Jews are gathered by the SS in a Synagogue. They will be put on trains to their ‘new homes’, because their aren’t allowed to live in Berlin anymore. I see the Gutmann-family who are living in the same apartment building as me. Ihave encountered them in a few more scenes before so i already got to know them in game. Read the screenshot below and you will probably understand this scene gave me the chills.
Schools and museums are often struggling with the question how they can keep the youth interested in history. I’m definitely not an expert, but i can imagine games like Through the Darkest of Times being a part of the answer. While you make strategic moves in an interactive way, which can keep teens interested, the game tells the terror Nazi’s caused and follows the historical time-line.