- Release Date (NA): August 3, 2021
- Release Date (EU): August 3, 2021
- Publisher: Charles Games
- Developer: Charles Games
- Genres: Point-and-click, visual novel
Located near the Czech-German border is the small village of Svoboda (meaning ‘liberation’ in Czech). But in this seemingly unremarkable place, a local historian is seeking landmark status for a schoolhouse. In order to approve or deny his request, the heritage institute has sent a personnel to investigate the claim: you.
As you proceed with the investigation, you realize that there is more to Svoboda and its inhabitants than meets the eye; including some previously unknown personal family ties.
Svoboda 1945: Liberation is very much a sequel to Charles Games’ previous title, Attentat 1942. Both are visual novel-styled games with point-and-click elements, full-motion video interviews professionally performed by actors, interspersed with interactive comics when going down memory lane. Likewise, they both tell a fictional story set in recent years that ties to The Czech Republic’s past as a means to share its true history. The gameplay mechanic in both is a point-and-click one where you select people to interview on a map and occasionally play mini-games. If you played Attentat, you already have an idea of what to expect out of Svoboda (there are even some recurring characters!).
But while Attentat dealt with the atrocities of World War 2, Svoboda deals with the aftermath of the war. As you progress with your present-day investigation, you will learn first-hand accounts of how people with German origins were expelled from then-Czechoslovakia after WW2 or the enduring effects of the communist dictatorship that came after.
You won’t only learn these by interviewing people but also experience these through mini-games, also operated in a point-and-click fashion. For instance, you will be tasked to pack your belongings before the forced expulsion and will need to decide which items to bring with you or leave. In another mini-game/recollection, you will need to harvest crops and reach the increasingly demanding quotas set by the communist regime as a means to force you to give up individual farms and join collective ones instead.
These mini-games do help give an idea of the hardships that people had to go through during those periods of history. As someone forced to leave the country, you will learn about the bare minimum that you could bring with you while being obliged to part ways with items of sentimental value. During the communist era, you will see how increasingly absurd quotas would be hard to meet, forcing you to join the collectivization. Of course, those games oversimplify many aspects and don’t convey the whole spectrum of challenges but they do help inform the player about how life could be in a certain era.
In fact, Svoboda 1945: Liberation, like Charles Games’ previous title, is very much an educational title rather than a traditional game. You won’t find challenges you’d come across in traditional games. Even if you make a wrong choice in the mini-games or don’t ask the proper questions in interviews, there aren’t any negative consequences for the player. You’ll be able to go back to interviewing the same people as part of your investigation and even if you get something wrong in a mini-game, you will see prompts about why it’s the wrong option. But the game also explains to you why your choice is right or wrong and its relevance in that period of Czech history.
Moreover, as you progress through your investigation and engage in recollections, you will unlock entries in the game’s Encyclopedia. There, you will be able to dive deeper into some specifics of mid-20th century Czech history.
So really, Svoboda 1945: Liberation is a gamified take on a segment of history lesson and the developer’s endeavor to portray it in such an interactive way is laudable. I would myself prefer playing through such a game rather than attend a traditional history lecture and hope to see more such takes in the future.
But even as a gamified take, you won’t find many aspects of a traditional game in it. Challenge is decidedly lacking in Svoboda in comparison to Attentat where there was some minor challenge to interviews since you had a limited number of coins to use to replay a section but this feature is gone in Svoboda. There are no real stakes at play other than completing the story and making a decision at the end of your investigation. This lack of challenge is even more apparent given the game’s short duration, clocking at around 2 hours (you can still go for another run and try the alternate ending depending on your choice to preserve or have the schoolhouse demolished).
When it comes to the presentation, the FMV sequences are professionally acted (in Czech language but with English subtitles), with the actors looking the part and having distinct personalities. It's interesting to discover, as you progress, how they are related to one another and how their views are influenced by the village's past. But shifting to interactive comics can break the immersion since most of the game is “live action”. However, this amalgam of visuals does give Svoboda the distinctive Charles Games touch.
On a technical note, I started the game on the AYA NEO but since it didn’t support controller input, I had to switch to playing on PC (controlling with the touchscreen wasn’t optimal either). With the rising popularity of handheld gaming PCs, especially after the announcement of the Steam Deck, I hope that developers will start favoring the implementation of controller support a bit more!
Even if Svoboda 1945: Liberation doesn’t make the cut as a traditional game and feels lacking in this way, it will prove to be important work, especially for posterity, given how it presents historical content with its original, interactive and interesting approach.
Svoboda 1945: Liberation Launch Trailer
- Interesting, interactive way to depict historically-accurate events
- Professionally acted FMV scenes
- Lack of challenge
- Short duration