It is rare that a video game also serves as a historical teaching tool, rarer still will folks be keen on accepting it. Games often gain an insular reputation as being entertainment devoid of real-world politics and historical accuracy. This is a misguided sentiment, especially considering how many games use politics and historical references to inform their themes.
As a trained historian, games with revereance for the past are just as important as mindless time-wasters. That's why it's always a treat when a game like Attentat 1942 is released. Developed and published by two colleges, Attentat focuses heavily on the 1942 Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, which was thrown into upheaval after the assassination of Nazi leader Reinhard Heydrich. Much like 1979 Revolution: Black Friday, this is a game about a historical moment, and it captures that moment with honesty and clarity that players will appreciate.
The primary objective of Attentat is to discover why the German Gestapo arrested your grandfather and if he was involved in the assassination of Heydrich. The game features fictional characters, but every detail derives from real-life sources, including historical research, personal testimonies and even archival footage. It seamlessly blends realism into historical fiction, taking almost no liberties with the source material to tell its narrative.
The amount of research is impressive, but not unexpected. After all, the developers are from both Charles University in Prague and the Czech Academy of Sciences. What makes it stand out is how captivating the narrative really is. That historical accuracy has given Attentat worldwide attention. The game won numerous awards when it first released in 2017 and even recently received a full German release. Notably, it's the first official game depicting Nazi imagery to see release in the country.
Attentat's plot is one giant puzzle, slowly unlocking as players interview survivors, uncover clues and go through mini-games. The mini-games are often small point-and-click segments where players must interact with objects on the screen. Some are relatively simple; such as hiding leaflets or destroying contraband items from the Gestapo. Others require thinking, such as code breaking or, in one memorable scene, rebuffing a German businessman’s advances using poetry.
The above may seem silly, but Attentat does an excellent job in showcasing how difficult life was for the occupied Czechs. Some characters need to compromise their morals, carefully choosing their words so they don’t attract Nazi attention. Others find themselves in difficult situations, forced to make decisions based on survival instincts. Attentat does not sugar coat the historical narrative; the Nazis were an evil force, one that often made innocent folk make horrible decisions that compromised their principles over their survival.
Attentat is one of those rare education-first games that also succeeding at engaging its players. It mostly plays out like an old school, full motion video project, but has enough of a mystery to keep the player captivated. Most of your information comes in the form of interviews with survivors. On occasion, you get flashbacks told in a distinct comic-book style that sets the mood of the characters.
Other portions have you investigating your grandparent's heirlooms or deciphering notebooks. All of this adds to Attentat's impressive encyclopedia of historical information. Those interested in the history behind Attentat will find the richest details here, written clearly like a codex entry in an RPG, that provides extra information for players to digest.
If there is one flaw to Attentat, it is how you can't really lose. The penalties for failing the mini-games don’t impede much of the overall plot, just costing players some gold coins. The coins are basically a points system, but they have no real bearing outside of presenting an overall score. For the most part, Attentat is more concerned with investigating and uncovering the truth than winning at a mini-game.
From an educational standpoint, Attentat 1942 is an excellent way to showcase a harrowing moment in time. It captures a solid blend of gameplay, proving once again that tangential learning through video games is an invaluable tool to inform audiences. It's an important game because of how vividly it showcases historical events. It's technically impressive thanks to its blend of clean FMVs and historical footage. Clearly, Attentat is worth playing, even if it's out of the norm for most players.
TechRaptor covered Attentat 1942 on PC via Steam with a code provided by the developer.