We tried… “Gerda: A Flame in Winter”, an intimate story in Denmark during World War II

We tried… “Gerda: A Flame in Winter”, an intimate story in Denmark during World War II

On a station platform in the small town of Tinglev, Denmark, a couple embrace in the snow as an accordionist greets the last passengers of a train by singing a festive song. Gerda: a llama in winter It has barely begun, but it already gives strong reasons to believe that this moment of tenderness will not last: first through the date that appears on the screen (” December 1939 “, a few months before the Nazi troops occupied the country), then through the general art direction of the game, inspired by the paintings of the Scandinavian artist group Skagen, printed with melancholy. Last clue, this game released on 1Ahem September on Nintendo Switch and PC is the first to be published by Don’t Nod (with no development input, provided by PortaPlay), a studio that has built a solid reputation over the years with tear-jerking game narratives like Life is strange Y Tell me why.

The following records confirm this: Gerda tells the story of a young nurse of German and Danish origin, whose resistant husband has just been arrested by the Gestapo. If the first decisions she has to make turn out to be quite trivial ( “Should I add the sugar while cooking my porridge or at the end? », “Should I let my father carry my bags? »), she is quickly faced with a myriad of difficult decisions, which will push her sometimes to protect strangers in need, sometimes to focus her efforts on those she loves.

The aesthetics of the game are reminiscent of the works of the Skagen painters of the late 19th century.

Gerda’s Choice

In terms of how to play, Gerda doesn’t reinvent gunpowder: uses narrative game codes, which requires choosing dialogue options and interacting with some points of interest, with some role-playing game (RPG) elements. The game is also quick to show its limits: voice-overs are kept to a minimum, music loops sometimes come on quite abruptly, and the RPG elements lack a bit of depth.

Remains beyond its flaws and its classic mechanics Gerda shines with its historical contributions: its story is based on the life of the game’s creative director Hans Von Knut’s grandmother, who was part of the Danish resistance during World War II. In Gerda’s diary you can find, among other things, information about railway sabotage, typical Danish culinary traditions or the blackout rules imposed by the Nazis to avoid air raids.

The game is full of historical information.

And the real strength of the game lies in the narrative, the choices Gerda makes and the points of view she records in her journal, and according to which the character can choose to value her particular insight, compassion or intuition. Her decisions can thus modify her relationship with members of the resistance, the Danes, the Germans, and the Nazi occupiers, and allow her to unlock certain actions, for example, through dice rolls whose chances of outcome vary depending on the relationship of the enemy. her with different characters. . Should she, for example, sacrifice her last remaining painkillers to treat a Nazi soldier? Should we show compassion for her cousin, who is secretary to the head of the Gestapo, in the hope of getting some information to help her husband?

shades of gray

As the game progresses, Gerda quickly realizes that she cannot help everyone and is faced with increasingly drastic decisions: at certain times of the day, she must choose the places she wants to go: the black market, where could pick up contraband items. that will certainly come in handy later on; a hiding place where there is a woman and her little girl who needs medical attention; or even the factory where the resisters who have specifically asked him for help intend to infiltrate. Each choice leads to one of the game’s endings, which occurs after just under six hours, where nothing is black and white.

Gerda must constantly make decisions that will have a direct impact on the rest of the story.

We never condone or condone the actions of the Nazi regime, nor those of its collaborators, not even those of the people who took their knees in an attempt to survive. “Developer Shalev Moran confided to The Loadout site. ” But we think it’s crucial to see all these people as human, otherwise we won’t necessarily realize the harm we can cause. » Gerda offers a nuanced narrative of war and shows that choices can continue to haunt us, even after barbarism.

pixel review

We liked it:

  • The options offered by the game, which never seem too obvious
  • Scattered historical information in Gerda’s diary
  • The artistic direction, in perfect harmony with the narrative of the game

We liked less:

  • The too refined coating of the title.
  • Mechanics a bit repetitive
  • RPG elements, a bit too shallow

It’s more for you if:

  • You like short and intimate narrative games
  • You want to know more about Denmark during the Occupation period without having to consult Wikipedia

Not for you if:

  • You want to prolong the summer with sun and a tale of light
  • You don’t like the formula Don’t Nod

pixel note:

Three of the five Carnelian dilemmas

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