Through the Darkest of Times (PC) Review

By Eric Ace 10.04.2020 1

Review for Through the Darkest of Times on PC

World War 2 presents an interesting subject for video games. On one hand a game could be utterly un-political such as any Axis and Allies titles in which you merely pick a side, try to win the game from a tactical point of view, and call it a day. However, these ignore many varied politics that formed both the prequel to the war and led to the results that obviously occurred. Given the general tenseness surrounding the past, far too often games default to 'Evil Nazis' as the faceless, self-justified bad guys one can mow down in the thousands, which curiously begs the question about humanitarianism in this act. Through the Darkest of Times crosses that line so bad and leaves next to nothing behind in nuance or deep thought.

The premise of Through the Darkest of Times is interesting, in that it is set pre-WW2 in the heart of Germany, where Adolf Hitler is rising to power and has the player acting as a sort of resistance leader. By organizing characters, managing resources, and conducting simple missions, the resistance attempts to rally more and more people to its cause to ultimately turn around the fate of the German people. All the while, avoiding getting caught by the police, getting beat up, or killed.

The problems at hand, however, are legion. Stated as simply as possible, this is not fun. Furthermore, the heavy, heavy political slant to the narrative goes far beyond any historical accuracy, and bleeds very strongly over into "real life," with very odd criticisms of modern day politics that come off as lecturing. This revolves around selecting characters to go do simple missions like get more money, stir up sentiment, or buy things. The GUI and menus here are pretty subpar, with the key icons hardly bigger than the mouse cursor, yet large areas of the screen remain unutilized.

Screenshot for Through the Darkest of Times on PC

On a technical standpoint, the graphics are okay at best with some of the backgrounds, but many of the characters look like stepped-down versions of the Nintendo Wii's Mii characters. About the only thing kind of cool was the newspaper updates with presumably accurate headlines, but given the forced narrative elsewhere, it only serves to illustrate a bad dichotomy. Nuance is a word this game does not understand. For being a game about staying in the shadows, the political message of it is entirely ham-fisted. The main character sees it as their personal duty from day one to stop the National Socialists and Adolf Hitler from gaining any more power. The way the narrative is presented though, is that the group is self-righteously correct on all things, and anyone who resists them is ignorant, hate-filled, or evil.

It leads to very strange encounters such as talking with neighbours or friends who generally support the election/appointment of Hitler - which this game seems to largely ignore the fact his party was in fact elected into power by the most popular margin. They generally hope for the best for the country, while the player's avatar rants and raves at its "friends" in strange moralizing passages with constant proclamations of "Don't you understand!?"

Screenshot for Through the Darkest of Times on PC

This went perhaps for the lowest fruit, and forgot it still had to try. It is easy to make a 'Evil Nazi' title, after all, Wolfenstein has been doing it for a while. However, for a game that its main thing was a claim of a good narrative, there is little depth to other sides, and the side presented is so self-righteous that this rapidly becomes uninteresting to continue. The regular folks that are interacted with are portrayed as very ignorant, with a very heavy undercurrent of "if they could just see how smart my side is this never would have happened" type narration.

Another odd political aspect to this are the thinly veiled references to modern American politics and Donald Trump specifically. The allusions are hardly subtle, with various mentions of defying the will of the people, using ignorance as a political weapon, and of encouraging hate in the populace to rise to power. These, mixed with the narrative in general results in an endless admonishment of the player. The ever-present question is loosely: how could those ignorant people all around the character let Trump… err, Hitler, get elected? It is now up to them to single-handedly bring their justice to the world.

Screenshot for Through the Darkest of Times on PC

Again, ultimately the developer took the easy way out. It would have been far more interesting to have some nuance to the characters beliefs (if not on your side, at least perhaps the ignorant civilians) so that the player would think something along the lines of "yeah, I could see why they would think or do that." Instead, far too many interactions are various "don't you see?!" type self-evident virtues which ultimately led to a very strong lack of sympathizing with the main character, as it felt like they would drive away all their friends in real life if they acted this way. For being a resistance member, they are not too smart about being subtle in their speech, or how ironically incendiary their own rhetoric is.

For a game that ultimately is supposed to be about not letting hate win, the amount of hate dripping from each line is clearly visible. The writers have a very clear, seething anger that feels like it is more directed at modern politics, and used the historical backdrop as a way to tell their frustrations. Regrettably, it makes their arguments much weaker as the historical comparisons are reaching at best, and it cheapens both what happened historically and in current times. In the end, it is a paper-thin game tacked onto a political diatribe that most gamers simply don't want to hear and be lectured about.

Screenshot for Through the Darkest of Times on PC

Cubed3 Rating

3/10
Rated 3 out of 10

Bad

There is little to recommend about this game. The gameplay is not engaging, with mindless clicking in boring gameplay loops, and the story feels like an endless scolding for something no one alive today even did, accompanied by an undercurrent of shame for supposed parallels to modern politics. Some interesting art is overshadowed by how outright simple and stupid most of the characters look. The not-so-hidden political agenda and modern criticisms to the game are so ham-fisted, it is very tough to recommend this unless one is in the mood for a moralizing diatribe.

Developer

Paintbucket Games

Publisher

HandyGames

Genre

Strategy

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  3/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date None   North America release date None   Japan release date None   Australian release date None   

Comments

MarxWasRight (guest) 22.04.2020#1

lmao its embarrassing how mad this dude is that this game isn't nice enough to the Nazis. Easily the worst written review of this game online.

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