Through The Darkest of Times it is a dark window on a very dark page of Western history. He tells us about the events that took place after that Adolf Hitler became German Chancellor. The title was developed by Paintbucket Games and published by HandyGames, first released on PC, but now also on consoles (PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch). Does the title put us in the shoes of a soldier? Absolutely not. This is not a typical war game that shows naked violence, on the contrary, Through The Darkest of Times puts us in the shoes of an ordinary person, someone who, however, has a very strong idea: we must stop the Nazis. In a way, it could be compared to This War of Mine, as Through The Darkest of Times puts the player in the shoes of a frail citizen, rather than a shirtless Rambo and heavily armed to the teeth. Yet, this is precisely the beauty of both titles, it shows us how fragile we are and how, in the end, extreme situations often lead people to react, in some way.
Appena Through The Darkest of Times will be started, we will immediately enter the mood, as we are shown the setting of what we are going to experience. A Germany slowly becoming Nazi, a Adolf Hitler who from a simple man becomes Chancellor and then Führer. But who are we? An ordinary person. Our protagonist will be randomly generated, but we can change it as long as we don't like gender, name, surname, job and political orientation (which will affect the game). Furthermore, there is a minimum of customization. We will be able to change the color of the eyes, shape of the nose, hair, accessories and clothes. Once our digital avatar is created, our adventure like leader of the resistance will start. The story begins with Hitler becoming German Chancellor, and it will be only the first of four "chapters" they represent the various phases of Nazi Germany, until the end of the Second World War. There is no way to avoid the conflict or the rise to power of the Führer, you will be at the mercy of historical events, trying to swim against it and, above all, trying to survive.
We and our small group of mates will have to try to gain popularity behind the German police. Our game will go on week after week, so we will have to make our teammates do certain things, such as redeeming donations, talking to workers or, more simply, hiding. Yes, because sometimes it will be the only thing to do. Why? Well, based on the actions taken, our group members will come more or less noticed by the Gestapo, which means putting yourself and your entire resistance at risk. In fact, during my game, it happened that the very character I created was arrested for the simple reason to be a communist.
Obviously, each member has the own characteristics (strength, secrecy, propaganda, are just a few) and therefore we must also think about who to send to do what. Send a muscular character to talk to workers, for example, it will definitely not benefit the group. At the beginning of each week, the headlines are shown, with historically accurate news, and obviously they lower the morale of the group, if this were to reach zero, the game is over, as well as it would end if you no longer have supporters. .
However the game is not just pure strategy but also empathy: for example, it could happen that you experience scenes in which you see a old jew beaten and teased by the SA, and at that point what do you do? Is action taken? Do you remain silent? What is the best choice? And this is also what the (German) developers of Paintbucket they appeal to that sense of injustice, of impotence, which those who wanted to defeat the regime certainly perceived. How do you get rid of a totalitarian and loyal regime, and get people to open their eyes? Many of those scenes, despite a non-photorealistic graphic sector, they manage to be real punches to the stomach.
Sometimes, however, they will meet probable allies, but how can you say that you want to subvert the regime, when everyone is complicit in it? It is certainly difficult to understand who can be trusted. The drunkard who hates everyone, or an ordinary lady worried that the Reichstag is on fire? The choice is up to us and to our sense of empathy.
Cartoon but heavy-looking
The graphic style of Through The Darkest of Times is cartoon, the characters are drawn in an almost funny way, but it is the colors that make everything in line with the kind of game that wants to be the creation of Paintbucket. In fact, most of the colors are dull, gray and black are masters. The only colors that are clearly distinguishable are those of the eyes and the red of the sash of the various Nazi law enforcement agencies. A very courageous choice, this, and for a simple reason: is likely to bore. If the story fails to capture the player, seeing the same colors for hours and hours, the desire to play completely dies. This was not the case in our case. Furthermore, another defect –i - is the absence of the localization of the texts in our mother tongue.
As for the sound effects and more, the overall audio is really meager, almost empty. There isn't much music and those few tracks that are there are really nice and fuel the dark mood of Through The Darkest of Times. As for the vfx, they are simple and well made. The same concept applies to animations, which despite being applied to 2D models and cartoon drawings, are very good. The use of two dimensions is also a great excuse for let the group members look in the room, so as to make the player feel the pressure of the decisions he is making, almost as if to say "our lives are in your hands".
It is worth buying Through The Darkest of Times? If you like them strategic and World War II, buying it you will be on the safe side. The price of the title is affordable for everyone, whether you are very young or a little more adult. It is currently available at 14,99 €, for both console and PC.