Most of us are familiar with the history surrounding the Second World War. International powers striving to fight nazism through struggle and unlikely allyship, and civilians being thrust into a conflict they had extremely limited power to influence.
Gerda: A Flame in Winter zooms in further, taking a look at the small Danish town of Tinglev. It's contested territory, having been under the control of Prussia from the 1860s until 1920, when a vote moved the border 50km to the south. During the Second World War, the German army invaded and occupied this land.
You play as Gerda, a nurse dealing with living in an occupied territory during this conflict. Based on the experiences of the game director's grandmother, who was part of a resistance group in the area, the player is put in control of making the incredibly tough decisions that must be made in times of war.
You Aren't a Soldier
I played the first couple of hours of Gerda: A Flame in Winter, and it intrigued me massively and piqued my curiosity to learn more about Gerda's experiences and actions. She's half Danish and half German, finding herself in the middle of the conflict. Despite being a valued member of the local community, her heritage draws scepticism and mistrust from Danes and Germans alike. Every conversation is a minefield which can lose or gain trust with both local people of both Danish and German descent, as well as the occupiers and resistance fighters.
In a lot of narrative RPG-type games, there's a clear right and wrong decision to make a lot of the time. You'd think, especially in a game like Gerda, that decisions would be much more black-and-white. After all, there's a clear enemy to fight against. However, given the jeopardy Gerda and her loved ones are in, as well as the threat posed by the Nazi occupiers of Tinglev, you have to play your cards right in order to keep everyone as safe as possible. You may have to placate the head of the local Gestapo to avoid the situation worsening, or make a choice to help two people both in extreme need. Do you help the helpless one, or the one who may be able to give you something in return?
"We made Gerda with awareness that in war, truthfully, no one comes out with their hands clean," says the dev team in a letter sent along with the preview. "We believe that allowing players to explore violent conflicts from the perspectives of normal civilians, experiencing some of these dilemmas, might foster a better understanding of different perspectives, and maybe make the world just a little bit more compassionate."
So far, the game does a great job of forcing you to take different decisions than you think you would. The decisions you're forced to make are intentionally illustrative of a conflict in which there truly is no correct answer. Or maybe there are correct answers, but it all depends on your own moral compass and how willing you are to have it challenged.
I look forward to experiencing the rest of Gerda: A Flame in Winter. Its willingness to explore such a well-known conflict from a massively underrepresented perspective is something I haven't experienced in games a great deal, and I'm hugely intrigued to accompany Gerda on her journey onward.