First-person shooter games like Call of Duty show the atrocities of WWII but it’s from the perspective of a soldier, an armed individual who can fight and can turn the war around. But that doesn’t really show what it was like for an unarmed German citizen, powerless and only fighting to survive.
Through The Darkest of Times is a game that’ll show you Nazi Germany through the eyes of its average citizens wanting to fight back against the Nazis while also trying to survive. It’s a strategy game full of balancing acts between fighting back, doing good, helping others, and trying to protect your own life and friends.
Yes, it’s of those games that’ll probably keep you awake at night thinking about what you would do if you really were in that position. That’s what makes it addicting, engaging, and worthy of being played. But let’s dive in for a deeper look at this hidden gem of a game.
Starting a Resistance
Once you get in the game, you’ll be prompted to create your character. To do that, you click a dice to randomly generate a character with its name, age, political ideology, and occupation. Since the characters are generated randomly, you have to generate characters repeatedly to hopefully get the character with the occupation and political ideology you want to play. Those details will matter throughout the game, but more on that later.
After choosing a good character, you can proceed to customize your character’s looks to get the look you want.
In my case, I played as Erwin Schmidt, a bank manager whose politics are defined as national conservative. Physically, I kind of made him look like a much older version of me since he has white hair and stubble.
Diversity Can Get You Through the Darkest of Times
After the first few minutes of playing the game, you’ll immediately discover that there are more attributes to the characters in the game aside from their names, occupation, and political leaning.
Each character will also have attributes like secrecy, empathy, propaganda, strength, literacy, and more. You’ll be able to level up these attributes as you play the game.
Characters also have unique attributes like calm and unemotional, which can be helpful, especially when dealing with a high-stakes mission like stealing Nazi uniforms. There are also traits like fearful, emotional, and unstable which would be less helpful in those situations.
Unfortunately, you can’t really pick out all your character’s attributes. The good news is: you will be building a team so your character isn’t the only one you can play with. This whole game is more like a strategy game where you manage and plan your team’s missions throughout Berlin. Once you recruit your resistance members, you should always try to diversify skills and attributes as much as possible. You can only get five members, though, so pick carefully.
I recommend that your resistance group include Catholics, communists or anarchists, conservatives, and Jews. There aren’t many of the latter, though. I was never able to recruit one while I was playing the game. You should also include a mix of everyday workers and intellectuals in your group.
If your team is as diverse as possible, you will be able to reach more people. After all, your goal is to get as many supporters as possible, and that can’t be done if your entire group shares a single political ideology. I mean, imagine sending a communist to ask for the support of a business person.
Now that we discussed everything about building your character and your resistance group, how does the game actually work?
Through the Darkest of Times is sort of a hybrid between a strategy game and a visual novel. You play the game by planning your resistance team’s missions. This can include recruitment, gaining support, collecting donations, buying resources, and some other “normal” tasks.
Then there are the bigger missions where you have to bring more than one member to pull it off. This can include stealing Nazi uniforms, painting slogans, and spreading leaflets to gain more support and morale. There are even a few missions where you have to free prisoners from a concentration camp.
But the challenge in doing all these missions is that you have to manage your team’s money, paint, paper, intel, and other resources while also deciding things like who gets to bring a bicycle on their missions to enable a quicker way to escape. You also have to consider each character’s heat level since missions will likely fail if you deploy someone with a high heat level.
Almost every mission will require money, but some larger tasks will also require you to access bombs, Nazi uniforms, or sensitive intel. That’s one of the bad aspects of this game: the items needed for a high-level mission are hard to get.
You typically won’t even be able to get it until near the end of a chapter, which means you might not even have the opportunity to execute these missions. Imagine doing three missions before even getting a Nazi Uniform, only to discover that you actually need three Nazi uniforms to do a high-level mission. It can be absurd at some moments.
And don’t forget that you only have 20 turns per chapter! You’ll most likely use half of those missions gaining support and money so you can start executing some mid to high-level missions.
All in all, I think the gameplay of Through the Darkest of Times is a bit lacking, considering that the game just doesn’t give you many opportunities to even attempt all the missions. But I still got so addicted to this game anyway.
Even with that frustration, you really won’t get bored because:
The Game Is an Engaging Tragic Lesson in History
Even if you complete all the high-level missions in a specific chapter or play every bit of the game perfectly, you still won’t be able to stop Hitler or end WWII. Every action you make won’t change a thing. The whole game is just a balancing act of keeping your team and yourself safe while also doing everything you can to disrupt, sabotage, and spread messages against the Nazis.
So why does the game do this? First of all, that makes the game historically accurate. It’s a more historically accurate portrayal of how it might have been in Nazi Germany as a German wanting to fight back and resist being oppressed by a “man with a weird mustache.”
As an average German citizen at the time, you couldn’t just go straight up and fight the regime. As you’ll learn, even your own neighbors and children could have been part of the Nazis. You’ll also discover that it was so dangerous at the time that even getting paper and paint in the game can lead you to get arrested if you’re not careful.
That’s the whole point of the game: to portray what it can be like to be oppressed and how being human means fighting back against your oppressors, even though your actions may seem insignificant, and even if most people around you, including your loved ones, are part of the regime.
Should You Play This Game?
The game will generally give you around 7-10 hours of gameplay, and there’s so much more content in this game than we can talk about. We could talk about how the game touches on LGBTQ+ discrimination (even among the resistance group). Or how the game showed the transformation of people who went from hating to supporting Hitler. We could also talk about the many lessons that apply to our modern problems. But I’ll leave that all for you to discover for yourself!
This game costs just $15 on Steam and $8 for mobile. I lucked out and got it for $2.50 on Steam. But it’s only cheap in price. The game itself is high quality. So, if you ask me, it’s definitely worth it, even if I had paid the full $15 for it.