With Twin Mirror last year, the French DONTNOD Entertainment showed their desire to publish games themselves. Thus, they have partnered with PortaPlay, a Danish studio to which we already owe the Broken Lines game in 2020. The result is Gerda: A Flame in Winter, which will be released on September 1 on Nintendo Switch and PC.
Images and copy of the game courtesy of DONTNOD / PortaPlay
World War II was the birthplace of many video games, especially action games where the goal is often to punch holes in the skin of mischievous Nazis. However, this is not the approach that PortaPlay has taken, since in its narrative game, the story takes place in Denmark, in the small town of Tinglev in February 1945. The context is set, with the occupation of the German army and the conditions in which the inhabitants live.
Gerda : A Flame in Winter se veut résolument très narratif et même s’il prend parfois des aspects de jeux d’aventure, avec le déplacement d’un personnage et des points d’intérêt à inspecter, il ne vaut mieux pas être réfractaire à the reading. There is a lot of dialogue with other characters, as well as entries in the diary of Gerda, the young nurse that we were able to embody for a few hours, time to glimpse the beginnings of the game. to read each event, whether it’s about the characters, our encounters, or even what happens during the months of war.
We quickly discover the half-Danish and half-German origins of the young woman, as well as her father, who seems to be more on the side of the Germans, hoping to recover the lands lost during the successive wars. A beautiful climate of uncertainty in which she lives with her husband. In this way we learn to know the few characters who live under the occupation, through the dialogues and descriptions that can be found in the newspaper. The story, therefore, is structured with a good number of texts and notes written by Gerda, which provides an additional and entertaining view of the story.
It is quite difficult to judge the narrative quality of Gerda: A Flame in Winter, since we only had access to the first two hours of the game, but in any case, this is enough to know that the panel of characters to be discovered is attractive. and quickly makes us aware of the problems that surround them. Little by little everything goes well and the trigger, with the arrest of her husband by the Gestapo, allows us to glimpse everything that the adventure can offer us.
This is a little less the case with the perspective of the influence of our choices and actions. The game focuses on the dialogues and the choices that one operates there, selecting, for example, Gerda’s responses. According to the people in front of us, this can elicit three character traits: compassion, insight, and intelligence. These points can be consumed later, to gain access to more different options, which in theory influences the course of the story.
Unfortunately, even after several playthroughs, the different options don’t seem to have much of an impact on the main story. At best, it raises or lowers a character’s or faction’s confidence, which will change a few lines of dialogue or a situation, but during the two-hour demo, this didn’t change our most progress. This will have to be judged in the final version of the game, although it should be noted that certain limited resources and items to collect, such as rations or medicine, can change the course of a conversation or an event.
Therefore, we can shape some parts of our story in some way, whether or not we cultivate our relationships with the characters. Become a Danish resistance fighter or bow your head to the occupation? In any case, they are possibilities that the game suggests, but the repercussions are not very significant at the moment. Especially since a great deal of luck determines the outcome of dialogues, with certain choices determined by a roll of the dice that can succeed or fail.
A slightly distorted and more than frustrating system, especially since it is often about interesting responses or actions, with consequences that we would like to explore. This leaves too much room for chance, for a game that wants to highlight player involvement.
From a visual point of view it is quite successful. There are imperfections, especially in the animations that still lack naturalness, but the coldness of the colors used integrate well with the words and the context in which we try to immerse ourselves. The music discreetly accompanies us as we traverse the snowy and somewhat dark landscapes, with an artistic direction that is sometimes reminiscent of an old painting.
So we’re leaving the Gerda: A Flame in Winter demo with a mixed opinion, even if we have to remain conciliatory and tell ourselves that it’s hard to judge the whole with just the first two hours. PortaPlay has something to tell us and while the form isn’t entirely convincing, the background is still more than interesting and it’s still a game to watch.
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