Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story PC Review

A great addition to Gerda: A Flame in Winter that sees you lead the resistance against the occupation and make tough choices along the way.

By LCLupus, Posted 23 May 2023

There aren’t all that many games out there that allow you to play a more civilian role in war settings. It’s even less often that you find a game that allows you to play as a member of a resistance movement within said setting. There have been many games that have placed you within a resistance of some sort, but those resistance groups have always been, at the very least, paramilitary in nature. What about a resistance movement made up of regular non-soldiers? A game in which you play as someone trying to scrape together the means to fight against a terrible regime.

Well, in Liva’s Story, which is a DLC addition to 2022’s Gerda: A Flame in Winter, but unlike that game, you get to fill in the role of the resistance fighters that you interacted with in that base game. It would be best to first look at that base game though. Gerda: A Flame in Winter puts you in the shoes of a young married woman named Gerda, and she is a regular civilian in a town on the Danish-German border at the height of the Second World War.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

In the base game, you need to find a way to help your husband, who became embroiled in that resistance movement, by navigating a town in which tensions have risen between the German and Danish citizens as they all deal with the Nazi occupation that has gripped the town. You are just a nurse, a regular person, but you get pulled into the conflict between the people in the town, the occupation, and the resistance that is attempting to fight back.

The base game itself plays like the Liva’s Story DLC, so we’ll get to that soon, but in very basic terms, you are in a war setting, but there are no battles or grand missions. Instead, you’re an ordinary person trying to navigate a newly hostile world. Do you become more friendly with the German citizens in the town and risk angering the Danish population, do you agree to work with the occupation to help your husband, or do you side more and more with the resistance? There are various choices that you make throughout the Gerda: A Flame in Winter and these choices affect the course of the game. You sometimes have to choose between a select number of missions or actions and so the game has inherent replay value. In this regard, Liva’s Story is similar. You do get a good level of choice in the DLC, and if you enjoyed the base game, then you will definitely enjoy this one too.

For those who are not familiar with Gerda: A Flame in Winter, let’s have a proper look at Liva’s Story to see whether it’s something you would be interested in checking out. So, this DLC is a prequel to the base game, and in it, you play as The Sparrow. The Sparrow is the resistance leader from the base game, and the events of this game directly lead to the events that trigger the inciting event in Gerda’s story that leads her to become embroiled in far more than she’d ever planned.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

Unlike the base game, Liva’s Story is more focused on leadership. While the first game entailed managing how the various people in town saw you, the DLC is instead focused on how your group of resistance fighters needs to be managed and cared for. This does not mean that the DLC is in any way a management type of game. Do not expect an XCOM style of gameplay where your big resistance has to fight against the big bad guy. This is a highly personal and narrative-oriented experience.

Liva’s Story is structured the same as the base game. You play as a character who interacts with the world from an isometric perspective while exploring the environment and doing whatever narrative event needs to be done. The game will respond to your choices and there is no way to actually fail the game. When bad things happen, you need to roll with them and accept what has happened. This also comes into effect when the game throws one of its many tough decisions at you.

These decisions form an integral part of the narrative. You will have to choose which missions you will join (it’s usually a choice between two missions), and you will also often have to choose what to do with certain characters or situations. Do you kill the traitor or let him go, will that affect what happens to you later? Do you help a citizen who has been captured by the Nazis or do you do the job you’re there to do? These kinds of decisions form the basis of the narrative, and they will lead to a good level of replayability.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

These choices often operate alongside chance rolls too. Based on the items you have, the information you know, and how much your people trust you, some dialogue options can lead to certain specific outcomes, like tricking a German patrol by pretending to be drunk. These chance rolls can be failed, and if they are failed, then undesirable outcomes can occur. However, as the leader of the resistance in this area, that is your cross to bear.

These chance rolls are found in dialogue, and dialogue effectively serves as the main gameplay element in Liva’s Story. This is similar to the base game. However, in the base game, you were a citizen of the town and needed to try to stay in everyone’s good graces as much as possible. In this case, you only have a few comrades that you need to monitor and keep track of. There are only a few of these fellow resistance members, and they each have their own personalities, issues, secrets, and so on. You will learn these characters as you play and decide when they should be used in certain circumstances.

In addition to controlling them, they are also characters. You interact with them, have conversations with them, try to keep their morale up, and ultimately lead them. They need a leader, and a leader needs to make choices. For instance, while the missions often have more pressing choices to make, although there is never any need for reflexes in Liva’s Story as it is a very narrative-heavy rather than a gameplay-heavy game, the quiet moments with your fellow comrades have their own choices. These choices involve how you interact with and bond with the other resistance members.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

Liva’s Story is a game that doesn’t ever rush you, but some sections are basically “timed” in a sense. No timer forces you to move quickly, but in the quiet moments between the missions, while you’re all recuperating at your hideout, the game may throw you into a situation where it gives you five people to speak to, but you’re only allowed to speak to three of them. This forces you to choose where to put your attention as a leader, and the people who receive the most attention from you are the ones that are most likely to trust you the most. So, if you need to convince one of them to do something that they don’t want to do, it’ll be easier to do that if they trust you.

This is where we get to the new point system. In Gerda: A Flame in Winter, you needed to manage four main groups: the Danes, the Germans, the Occupation, and the Resistance. This time around, as you are not a member of the town who needs to survive in it, the new point system revolves around leadership. When you make certain leadership decisions, you can be awarded with Duty, Fury, or Care points.

Each of these points comes from a different leadership style. Do you care about and sympathize with your comrades, well then, you’ll get Care points. Do you try and rile up their anger at the Nazis? Well, that’ll get you some Fury points. Do you stick to the mission no matter what? Then you’re clearly dutiful and so you receive Duty points. These can then be used later for certain orders or decisions. For instance, if you have a high level of Duty points, you can use them to get your people to do something in the name of the mission even when there’s something more immediate that has their attention. Liva’s Story is a game that shows you the different ways in which you can be a leader, and that people sometimes need a leader to be very different things under a variety of circumstances.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

In addition to the leadership point and comrade relationship systems, you can also sometimes cause trouble for the Nazis in the town, which may help you at that moment, like causing a protest or something similar, but could also hurt you in the long term. You also sometimes find valuables that can be used in various ways, or intel that can be used to understand people or a situation and then used strategically. However, because Liva’s Story doesn’t have a fail state, you’ll never completely ruin a situation. The game has a story to tell, and it will tell that story.

That story is told around a fairly basic structure. There are missions, which often entail a choice because there will usually be two missions that require the group to split up and you can only choose to join in on one of them, and between these missions, you get more character-driven narrative content. Between the missions, you’ll be in your hideout and chatting to your comrades and talking about what’s going to happen next.

This is quite different from Gerda: A Flame in Winter because Liva’s Story is much more focused on taking an active role against the occupation. The base game did still send you on various missions, but the reason your character did those things was because her husband had been taken by the Nazis. You needed to find a way to help him. This time, you’re trying to actively beat the occupation. You’re not doing it to help anyone in particular, but rather to help everyone in the country.

Gerda: A Flame in Winter: Liva’s Story, PC, Review, Gameplay, Screenshots, Narrative, Isometric, Choices, NoobFeed

In addition to this, the main character, the Sparrow, is a great leader character. She’s tough and dependable, and it isn’t very often that you get to play a character like her. She isn’t some badass soldier, she’s a regular person who got sucked into this conflict. In some ways, there can be parallels drawn between Liva’s Story and This War of Mine, although this is only in terms of some of the themes explored. The gameplay in these two games is extremely different.

And as this is a game set in World War Two, Liva’s Story is full of facts for you. This is a staple in games focused on the Second World War. Even games like Call of Duty: WWII throws a bunch of collectibles at you that give you historical information about the war. But what sets these little historical facts aside is that it’s not about soldiers, it’s about the Danish resistance to the occupation. So, the general game, in both its collectible facts and its narrative, is about how regular people stood up against tyranny. There are no big soldiers here. There are tiny groups of people who are in way over their heads as they attempt tiny guerrilla tactics against a military that is focused elsewhere. The best you can do is disrupt a supply line or two, but that’s enough, isn’t it?

In addition to this, there are not many games out there that actually let you play as a communist character. The Sparrow, or Liva, from Liva’s Story, is a communist. This is an integral part of her character, and you can often use it in dialogue. There are very few games that will even mention the actual ideological aspects of communism, and the biggest of those was probably Disco Elysium. Most games that have communists will have them as regular enemies or something similar, but it’s refreshing to see a game that actually includes a character like this without them basically being Stalin.

As for the other aspects of Liva’s Story, such as the visuals and music, well, the visuals made use of a painted aesthetic that also appears slightly blurred. It’s a unique artistic direction that does also hide the fact that this is a lower-budget game. The animations are fine, but not particularly smooth. The animations are functional, but the art style carries it a long way. Because Liva’s Story is a beautiful game, it looks stunning but in a stylistic rather than graphically capable sense. The music is also suitably beautiful, with melancholic piano notes in the background.

And that’s it. Liva’s Story is a great addition to the narrative that started with Gerda: A Flame in Winter, and it fleshes out some of the resistance members and their fight. It would be best to play the base game first, but this is certainly a great addition. The game is also not too short at about 3-4 hours in length, but as it has some good replayability, that should be somewhat mitigated. Ultimately, Liva’s Story is a great narrative experience that is well worth the time.

Justin van Huyssteen (@LC_Lupus)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, Switch
Publisher(s): The Bird Island
Developer(s): DON’T NOD
Genres: Cinematic
Themes: Interactive Drama
Release Date: 2023-05-23

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