There are times in the history of every nation where people try to change the course of history. Whether it was a fascist ruler, a power-abusive dictator, or a military regime that only cares about growing its power at the expense of the people, all of them drive revolution and the rise of opposition groups. Developer Paintbucket Games' Through the Darkest of Times takes us on a journey through Germany in 1933, just as Hitler rose to power as the country's Chancellor. As you already know, the rest of what is to come under his rule is history. A very dark history.
Through the Darkest of Times puts you in a narrative-focused adventure under the German Reich rule. You instantly recognize the need to form an underground resistance group, and this is where your journey starts. The creation screen randomizes your name, age, and political direction until you settle for something you like. Once you finish customizing, you dive straight in.
Each week is a new turn, bringing with it three newspapers that highlight the latest major happenings in Germany. Surprisingly, the development team did an astounding job at tracking down historical events, including quotes from Hitler's speeches, political decisions against the Jews, and the appointment of governors and army generals. This historical accuracy goes a long way in storytelling, and I found myself relearning everything I thought I knew about this period in German history.
Your resistance group runs its operations from a dim, fluorescent-lit room. You have a map of Germany, and assorted newspapers lying around. The map layout presents you with various activities, including hiring new recruits, gathering donations, raising people's awareness to gain their support. Once you assign a member to look for someone new to join in, they come back with three portfolios for you to choose from as the leader of the group. You get to see their political background, their occupation, and various stats. The latter features strength, secrecy, and empathy among others.
You will often have to try to bring on people with new skillsets, as various tasks get easier to execute when a certain ability is high enough. Stealing intel often requires the member with the highest secrecy, while rallying new supporters for your cause usually needs empathy. This encourages you to hire people from different backgrounds to keep this level of balance among them. I found myself with a diverse group of individuals, ranging from socialist teachers to communist builders. The notion of uniting several individuals to take down Hitler despite their contradicting political directions adds value to the journey by itself, even if you are just restricted to five members.
What sets Through the Darkest of Times apart from other narrative-driven adventures is the depth it drags you in to feel the struggles of the people living at the time. Every now and then, the title puts you in morally vague situations to gauge your how much are you willing to sacrifice for the cause. Some of these situations include members asking for financial help from the resistance's cabinet, advising a recruit whether to pull his son off Hitler's youth camps, or even sacrificing one of the members when you discover their relative is working with the brown shirts. These decisions sometimes affect your progress as you have to look for new recruits and decide on what is best for the resistance.
Through the Darkest of Times' story is split across four chapters, spanning from 1933 to 1945. Every few in-game weeks, another major event from the period crops up. You get to choose whether to let your curiosity get the best of you or to lay low and walk away slowly. Throughout my session, the game rewarded me for taking risks and choosing actions that were daring at the moment, like standing up to a group of brownshirts ganging up on an old man.
These rewards often come in the form of a new connection that lets you gain intel or valuable resources. Critical information, intel, paint, among other commodities are usually needed to perform the bigger missions. The latter can range from helping captives escape concentration camps through disguising in brownshirt uniforms to blowing up transmission towers. Although these activities take time to gather their needed resources, the amount of supporters gained from them is immense and definitely worth it.
Unfortunately, there are instances where the game's flaws and development team mistakes stand out to the point you can't miss them. The simplest and most recurring examples are incorrect wording on the missions laid out on the map. Paper and paint are used to print leaflets and paint the walls with anti-Hitler slogans respectively. You can acquire them both through their respective missions. However, both of them were tagged as "Buy Paint," and to add to that, the bugged paper mission doesn't give paper or paint. This takes away from the experience tremendously as you have to invest resources and recruits to accomplish them.
If you can see through these small faults, Through the Darkest of Times presents a compelling, emotional, and historically accurate journey through Germany's darkest times. It presents itself as a window to how people struggled and sacrificed everything they have to attempt to take down Hitler's regime, and coming out empty-handed. If you can overcome the occasional glitched mission and language mistakes, you are in for an overwhelming journey.
TechRaptor reviewed Through the Darkest of Times on PC via Steam using a code provided by the publisher.
- Gripping Story
- Unique Art Style
- Historically Accurate in the Tiniest Details
- Repetitive Activities
- Wording and Spelling Mistakes