Warsaw, oppressive dive in Warsaw uprising

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TEST – Warsaw is available on Steam for € 19.99.

In 2016, Darkest Dungeons opened the doors of an oppressive world, where crusaders, lepers and bandits on the brink of madness faced monstrous horrors populating the depths of decadent victorian dungeons. Three years later, the Pixelated Milk poles seized the mechanics of this game to portray in Warsaw the horrors of the Warsaw uprising, which killed nearly 200,000 people in 1944.

The dungeons have disappeared, but the monsters are still there; handlers, SS officers, schocktruppen armed with flamethrowers and Werhmacht sluts, sent to repress with blood the heroic uprising of the martyrs of the Polish resistance. At the head of the fans, the player is responsible for maintaining the momentum of the forces trying to free the city from the Nazi yoke, symbolized by a "momentum" score that decreases as the Germans win. If this counter drops to zero, the insurrection is overwritten and the game is over.

Battle of the End of the World

It is primarily this strategic aspect that the player must face. Each of the six quarters of the city provides the Polish resistance with ammunition and medicines that allow the troops to hold. The neighborhoods also produce momentum that allows the fight to continue. But here, every day, several neighborhoods are attacked by Nazi troops, and the player must choose where he intervenes while the situation, elsewhere, inexorably deteriorates. The fire is everywhere, and the player has only one bucket.

In this battle of the end of the world, everything is played in the headquarters of the resistance. There, it is possible to recruit soldiers, to procure weapons and ammunition and to keep an overview of the headquarters of the Polish capital. It is also where the team of one to six combatants is composed to repair telephone lines, to assassinate an officer or to attack patrols trying to quell insurrection. Gunner, fusilier, doctor or mechanic, the player to select his men and his women; each has distinct tactical capabilities – building barricades, strafing several soldiers, caring for his comrades, etc. – which will allow, at least a time, to stand up to the Reich troops in the alleys of the city, where the main part of Warsaw.

Because once the mission is chosen, we sail on sight in the Warsaw maze. The squad knows the general direction in which the objectives are, but does not know where they are. Pressed by a limited number of action points, surrounded by more numerous enemies, better armed and on the lookout, we quickly understand that each crossroads is a deadly danger. And if one is tempted in the early days to assist the many civilians trying to survive in this hell, one quickly realizes that these benevolent acts – helping to hold a barricade, boosting the spirits of the inhabitants – does not guarantee any direct benefit , while every detour is a waste of valuable resources.

Evocative strength

It is during the clashes that the influence of Darkest Dungeons is most heavily felt. Turn-based attacks, the importance of positioning, actions that apply bonuses or cascading penalties … The terrain is familiar, so much so that the adaptation can almost seem lazy. Especially since the fighting of Warsawenriched by a system of cutlery behind which the fighters hide to reduce the damage, can sometimes drag on. At the risk of deflating the intensity of the exploration of the city, even causing some boredom.

This is ultimately what catches: to rely too much on the mechanics of the game he inspired, Warsaw lack of freshness and persists in a gameplay that sometimes serves his ambition. Even the artistic direction, besides very successful, is strongly marked by this cartoon aesthetic which dramatized so well the atmosphere of Darkest Dungeons. But in a game that tries to restore the urgency and despair of the Poles' fight during the Second World War, was this choice the best?

The immense merit of Warsaw, finally, is in the choice of his subject. That video games can take a look at the story is not new. Ubisoft has explored innumerable historical periods through its Assassin's Creed, and world wars are just as much the playground of Battlefield that the object of less warlike experiences as Unknown soldiers. Still, in the midst of incessant reproductions of the D-Day or the Western Front, playing a title designed by Poles on their own history gives Warsaw an evocative force that will never have a Call of Duty. You get to know the neighborhoods of Warsaw, names that were thought to be unpronounceable and quickly become familiar. Our soldiers are not Johns or Bill, but Pavel and Kristof. The approach of the conflict, seen not as a symmetrical confrontation of two formidable armed forces – the Axis against the Allies – but as the desperate resistance of the hard-pressed inhabitants to a relentless enemy, completes placing Warsaw on the shelf games that promise to finish a day. Despite his faults.

Gregory Orain

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