Gerda A Flame in the Winter Review

Gerda A Flame in the Winter is the latest game from Don’t Nod.

It’s the first time the company has published another studio’s game.

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Let’s take a look at Gerda A Flame in the Winter.

What is Gerda a Flame in the Winter?

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Outside of Church Screenshot
The graphical style makes the game almost feel like a painting or a hastily-recalled memory.

Gerda A Flame in the Winter is an adventure game published by Don’t Nod, their first time acting as the sole publisher for another studio. PortaPlay handled development, fresh off their last game about WW2, Broken Lines.

While the game mentioned above was a strategy title, this is much more in the vein of a story-driven narrative adventure game with tough choices but not much action in terms of gameplay.

The story follows a half-Danish, half-German woman called Gerda, living in a small town on the outskirts of Denmark with her husband, Anders. As the war’s end draws closer, the occupying Nazi forces are in turmoil, and the town’s German and Danish citizens are on edge.

Your job is to decide who your loyalties lie with and how you will choose to deal with your occupiers. Whether that means siding with the occupation for your own good or fighting to the last breath.

Gerda A Flame in the Winter – Gameplay

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Train Station Scene

As previously stated, Gerda a Flame in the Winter is an adventure game. You can interact with the environment to learn information or pick up items. YOu then use those items and information to get past obstacles and puzzles.

Most of the puzzles deal with people rather than having to find a specific stick to defeat a goat or something. You need information to get more out of people or to have a good level of trust with said group’s faction.

You can try to stay friends with four factions in the game. The Danish and German factions relate to the civilians living in the town. Since it was German territory before WW1, there were a lot of mixed feelings about the German occupation.

The other two groups are the Occupiers and the Resistance, one being the Nazi forces who control the town, the other the freedom fighters trying to stop them. Who you choose to side with will have a massive impact on the course of the story.

A Lot of Mental Energy

Another major factor are your mental energies. Each day you right in your journal and get a choice about how certain events and actions make you feel. Depending on your reaction, these choices reward you with points in Compassion, Insight, or Wit.

You can then spend these points in the main game to get past obstacles or at least to make challenges easier on yourself. You have to be careful, though, as these points are in limited supply, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spend them.

Gerda a Flame in the Winter

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Cold Scenery Loading Screen

These systems we’ve discussed tie into Gerda A Flame in the Winter’s challenge mechanics. Occasionally, to get the result you’re looking for, you’ll have to roll the dice on a conversation option.

How likely it is that you’ll succeed is tied to your relationships with the various factions and the mental energy points you have available to you. You can’t save scum to get through either since the game only auto-saves at determined moments.

This means that you’ll be faced with many different choices that will be hard to make. You can risk your chances with a challenge, but you have to weigh up the likelihood of losing and wasting some of your valuable resources.

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Has Hard Choices

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Clinic Dream Sequence

It’s in those tough narrative decisions that Gerda A Flame in the Winter shines. You’re constantly unsure of what outcome you’ll end up with, even when you go in with clear motives and intentions.

You can play on your German heritage to get you so far, but you have to decide whether it’s worth compromising your ideals. Characters in the town will react differently to you depending on how friendly you are with certain groups.

There’s a delicate balance between doing what you think is right and doing what you need to do to look after the people close to you. It’s a testament to the writing that you can get so immersed in it that you start to feel the weight behind the decisions liek it’s personally affecting you.

The Graphics of Gerda

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Wandering the Fields

Gerda A Flame in the Winter also has a pretty interesting visual style. The graphics are very muddy and vague, barely hinting at what people look like in most cases.

It sort of gives the whole thing a bit of a surreal air, whether intentional or not. It almost feels like a long-recalled memory or a dream, which is probably pretty apt. After all, the entire framing device of the story centers around a diary Gerda is writing.

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It’s also possible that this art style was chosen to give an impression of hand-drawn illustrations in the journal itself. Then again, it doesn’t matter. The graphics convey their message well enough and aren’t so flashy that they get in the way of the story.

Music & Sound in Gerda a Flame in the Winter

The soundtrack is a similar story. It does a decent job of conveying mood and tone but functions so well that you’ll probably stop noticing it. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There’s also some voice acting, but mainly in the form of Gerda’s diary entries. It’s nothing to write home about, but it can make those diary entries easier for folks who don’t like reading too much.

Gerda A Flame in the Winter – In Conclusion

Gerda a Flame in the Winter Gerda and Anders Kissing

The truth of Gerda A Flame in the Winter is that it’s a stunningly written and highly emotional story, told using the medium of adventure games, but without falling into the traps that genre has built-in.

You can play through the entire game without seeing most of the content because there are so many different places where the story can end up. You’re also probably going to end the game with a lump in your throat, even if you’ve got one of the better outcomes.

The adage holds: in war, there are no winners. While the game is not a ‘fun’ time, it is far too dire for that; it’s certainly one hell of an experience, if only for the chance to see the war from an oft-forgotten perspective.

Whether you’re a fan of WW2 media, adventure games, or just a good story well-told, this is an experience you can’t miss.

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