A Stroke of Fate


Genre:   Adventure

Developer:   SPLine

Publisher:   Akella

Released:  October 2011

System Requirements:

    • OS: Windows XP/Vista/7
    • Processor: Pentium IV / Athlon 2 GHz
    • Memory: 1024 MB RAM
    • Hard Disk Space: 1.5 GB
    • Video Card: 256 MB 3D video card (Geforce 4 / Radeon 9500, resolution 1280x1024 or higher)
    • DirectX®: 9.0



by flotsam


As we all know, the July 20, 1944 “Valkyrie” plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler did not succeed. But what if it could? Standartenführer 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 screen loads.

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 run!

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.

What the??

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 of action.

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 Steam.

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