Review: Liva’s Story is an excellent prologue to Gerda: A Flame in Winter

Last September, Gerda: A Flame in Winter introduced us to the inhabitants of the Danish village of Tinglev at the end of the Second World War, putting us in the shoes of local nurse Gerda Larsen. Now, Gerda’s first piece of DLC, Liva’s Story, expands the narrative further, acting as a prequel to the main game. As you can read in my original review, I really enjoyed Gerda’s thrilling and emotional tale of struggle and sacrifice, looking at an area of the war which is seldom examined. The DLC absolutely continues this trend.

Set directly before the events of the main game, Liva’s Story focuses on the Danish resistance cell led by Liva, The Sparrow. Having to flee from Copenhagen after a mission goes wrong, they’re chased across Denmark into the forests, closely pursued by the Gestapo. The episode opens with the old cell leader being gunned down by a former comrade turned traitor, Todt. Liva is forced to take command and leads the surviving resistance members to Tinglev, and sets to forming a new base of operations out of a secret room at the back of the local bar.

Liva's Story- Forest

Gameplay follows the structure of the main game, while the plot and writing is just as strong as it was previously. You’re continually given a list of tough choices, some of which can influence the direction of the story. All of these can be quite emotive, making trade offs such as whether to stick to a mission, or try to rescue a local union leader from interrogation. Despite having no voice acting except for some narration from Liva at the start of chapters, character writing remains effective throughout, drawing into the small but tight-knit group.

Liva has three different methods of influencing her group, with points which can be spent in Duty, Rage and Care. Duty is appeals towards sticking to the mission and coordinating with the Freedom Council (the overarching command of the Danish resistance). Rage corresponds to righteous anger, against the Nazis, collaborators and towards liberating Denmark. Finally, Care is a reflection of Liva’s nurturing side, offering support and guidance for her comrades. When making decisions, you can then spend these points to achieve a beneficial outcome, or sometimes gamble on a dice roll. As before, your standing with each character is tracked individually, and they will react to your decisions.

The politics of the game is slightly more front-loaded than in Gerda’s Story, making it clear from the outset that Liva and her compatriots are communist partisans. Nonetheless, it always treats the subject matter with sensitivity, empathy and respect which, in these days where right-wing agitation and reaction has become increasingly loud, is most welcome. Visually the game retains its painterly but low-poly aesthetic across a range of locations, as well as its mournful piano and orchestral score. The music can be appropriately dramatic when needed, shifting to more sombre or threatening as the mood changes.

Liva's Story-Town

If you enjoyed the main game of Gerda: A Flame in Winter, or if you haven’t got around to playing it yet, the “Modstand bundle” being offered on Steam with Liva’s Story included offers an ideal way to experience two involving and emotional stories set during the closing months of the Second World War. Although the title screen says they can be played in any order, I absolutely recommend playing Gerda’s Story first, as the prequel nature of Liva’s Story can provide greater enjoyment when recognizing characters or places you’ve already seen in the main game.

Developers PortaPlay and Bird Island have absolutely succeeded in bringing this seldom examined area of history marvellously to life, and I’m eager to see what other stories and adventures they might tell next.

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