we all know, the July 20, 1944 “Valkyrie” plot to assassinate Adolf
Hitler did not succeed. But what if it could?
Gerhard Mayer is determined to do what he can to bring that about – and
if he can’t, then he will try something else.
Valkyrie fails, but Mayer finds
himself at Castle Adlerhorst, a Hitler stronghold offering further
opportunities for a successful assassination. This time it’s a plane,
and if a bomb can be put on board then …
Stroke of Fate
is a game of two halves, the first with Mayer not directly involved in
the July 20 plot, but taking actions and steps contemporaneously with
that attempt while going about his SS business and trying not to arouse
suspicions. The second half sees him more directly involved with finding
an opportunity to do what others could not.
The somewhat dreaded “to be
continued” indicates there are still more halves to come.
The game offers a good blend of
historical fact and fiction, and some detailed backgrounds and settings,
in which an abundance of things can be “looked at” to add flesh to the
historical bones. Unfortunately it offers a rather lacklustre gaming
experience, not helped by some ordinary voice acting and excessive
Despite the promising plot,
Stroke of Fate fails to generate any sense of … well, anything.
Conspiracies and their associated paranoia, plus the fact that the war
is closing in, should provide fertile ground for an atmosphere of fear,
tension and furtive excitement. Instead, the game meanders along, never
raising a sweat or an increased heartbeat. And rather than being
secretive and clandestine, characters blurt out the fact they are
involved in a traitorous activity to complete strangers, who then
willingly come on board.
I was dragged off to a
concentration camp at one point, when I failed to dodge some
searchlights, and it was almost a relief – at least something had
happened, even if it was the wrong something.
There is plenty to do in the
game, the vast majority of it inventory based, and there are plenty of
conversations to be had. But it never felt like I was actually plotting
to assassinate the Führer. Which, given that
it is the point of the game, is a bit of an issue.
And you can’t even make Mayer
Out and about
He will, though, jump instantly
to an exit, which is better than shuffling all the way across the room.
And a map helps to move quickly between locations once you have visited
them the first time. Using the map will cut out some of the intermediate
screen loads, but you will still have plenty of them.
I came to hate the little desk
that sits in the middle of the black screen while a new one loads. I
appreciate these things have to happen, but there were a lot, and it
contributed to the slow pace of the game. At times I felt like all I had
done for a few minutes was load the screens so I could leave them to
load other ones. There is one building for instance where you enter
(load), cross the foyer (load), go across to the corridor (load), go up
the stairs (load), and enter the destination room (load).
Convoluted loading sequences in
games make me dread exploring areas again and backtracking to see if I
can work out why I am stuck or what to do next. While Stroke of Fate
isn’t hard, there were inevitably things I hadn’t found the first time I
visited a location, and a certain amount of looking all over was
required. Which meant I had to endure that desk again and again.
You will need to look carefully
and you will collect lots of things you won’t know you need. But like
many such games, just pick up everything you can. On one occasion I
couldn’t pick up an item on a table, even though I could interact with
it, so I dismissed it. Numerous items in the game can be examined but
not picked up, and I thought this one was no different. However the item
could be seen from a different angle in another screen, and from that
screen it was accessible. Except I didn’t try again so I missed it for a
very long time. That was the only time I encountered that particular
problem. But it may well pay to sweep all the screens for objects you
might need, whatever happened in the screen before.
Some conundrums are a bit
obscure, and picking a knife from a table stands out as being one of the
more obtuse ones – and why on earth would I look for my papers there?
Overall, though, the game isn’t too hard. There are one or two
out-and-out puzzles, and you also have to play cards and dodge
searchlights on a ledge (and dodge them going back again). It wasn’t
clear to me why I was playing cards, so without wanting to spoil things,
just keep playing until someone bets something other than money. And,
unfortunately, if you are having difficulty dodging the searchlights you
will just have to keep trying. The game will automatically return you to
the ledge if you fail (once you have been dragged off for torture and
internment) but be quick when it starts again – there might be a light
right on top of you. I thought it was nuisance value, rather than
especially difficult, but I know some gamers don’t like even that level
I mentioned the voice acting and
on the whole it goes from passable to horrible. I didn’t mind Mayer, and
it's him you hear from the most. And you get some rather well drawn
“cutscenes” throughout the game – made up of static cells – accompanied
by a voice-over from Mayer. Again, his excitement levels left a bit to
be desired, but he conveyed a kind of relentless determination.
Another aspect of the voice
acting was that, despite there being a potpourri of accents, almost none
of them were German. Every character is German, and the game takes place
entirely in Germany, and yet there were very British and very American
accents littered throughout, with virtually no attempt to sound German.
I accept that poor attempts to do accents are worse than not attempting
it at all, but a few more Germanic sounding people would have been nice.
While that all sounds rather
negative, Stroke of Fate does have its upsides. It’s a reasonable
length (I reckon it took me 12 or so hours, although the straight path
through the game will be shorter), it looks good, and the historical
events and characters woven through it add to its appeal. Sound effects
are fine, and the musical soundtrack is a little lifeless but not
annoying, and I tend to turn it right down anyway. It’s point and click
simplicity, and the interface is simple and straightforward. A journal
keeps track of key events, and can be a good source of what to do next.
Stroke of Fate
isn’t a poor game, or even an unenjoyable one, it’s just that it fails
to rise to the challenge of its premise. It could have been so much
better – here’s hoping Akella will inject a little pizzazz into the “to
be continued” bit.
I played on:
OS: Windows 7
Processor: AMD Phenom 9500 Quad Core CPU 2.2 GHz
Ram: 4.00GB DDR2 400MHz
Gx card: ATI Radeon HD 3850 512Mb
A Stroke of Fate: Operation Valkyrie
is available on
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