Our journey through My Steam Library continues. After realising the true nature of war, Kurt and Harry have finally met beneath the trenches of Vimy. We now enter into the second part of their story.
The second part of the game takes us back 5 minutes before Harry and Kurt’s, giving us control of the cat wandering the tunnels. Our mission is to catch a pigeon.
We follow the pigeon, repeatedly failing to catch it. We walk past British/Canadian and German soldiers fighting in the tunnels as we do so. Eventually we come across Kurt and Harry, who are distracted by the fleeing pigeon.
There is a cave-in, and Harry pushes Kurt out the way of the falling rocks. Trapped under the rocks himself, it is down to Kurt to save Harry this time.
During this part of the game I notice Kurt is speaking German. It’s made clear the two characters don’t understand each other. We need to solve another puzzle with Kurt to get the lights working again. After doing this we are then given the ability to switch between characters.
With Kurt we lift a fallen piece of wood, that allows us to use Harry to unlock a door from the other side. Behind is a German bunk where are two characters rest for a while. We learn a new feature in which the subtitles let us know when characters can’t be understood.
While they are trapped, the cat hangs around, and Harry tries to nurse the wounded bird back to health.
We have another minigame in which we choose a few things for Kurt to say. I’m not sure if our choices made difference here, but Harry doesn’t speak German so all he can say is that he doesn’t understand.
We go through another short interlude where Harry and Kurt need to find water. After doing so, Kurt and Harry return to the bunk and we manage to get them to communicate a little. They learn each other’s names at least.
We write another letter to Kurt’s daughter, Lucie. A letter that may not ever get sent.
Harry has now made a rat trap and hopes to use it as a way to get food. The pigeon, now back in full health, sits atop Harry’s shoulder.
We go back to controlling the cat again. It is chasing the pigeon through the tunnels and ends up in a room that Harry and Kurt haven’t found yet. On hearing the cat meowing, Harry and Kurt manage to break in and find a pantry full of food.
The find is short lived. On hearing tunnellers digging toward them, they both realise they have to escape. Both sides are the enemy to them now. Harry finds some keys that get them out, and they come across some TNT. They use the TNT to blow a hole to the surface and escape. Before they part ways, Kurt says once again, “Danke, Hero”.
The next chapter begins, Barret has sent Harry to Paris for a break from the action, and Kurt has been transferred to the Somme. We spent a decent amount of time as Kurt recently, so we choose to start in Harry’s story.
Harry is in Paris with Barret, and is playing cards with the locals. They comment on his pigeon and talk about Flanagan, Barret’s previous assistant. It’s heavily implied he died in the Somme.
Kurt, meanwhile has been transferred. He is looking for the cemetery to see if his son is interred. During the search he is given a letter informing him that his daughter, Lucie, is very ill.
Barret takes Harry to a local cabaret club. He is forced to leave his pigeon outside, but Barret gives him a pass to the VIP area backstage.
Kurt returns to his search after taking some time to consider his letter and grieve. There are soldiers digging fresh graves here. Death isn’t in the past here. It’s very much in the present.
We switch to Kurt’s cat and wander the graveyard. We find a mourning soldier and comfort him.
Wolfgang shows Kurt to the graves where his son’s unit is buried. His son’s name isn’t present on any headstone, but there is one unmarked grave. Kurt has to know, so he does the unthinkable. He begins to dig…
Harry’s pigeon has invaded the club! The patrons are doing all they can to kill it, so it is up to Harry to catch it before anyone else does. During the chase, he catches sight of Barret in tears with his companion.
Chasing the pigeon, he ends up on stage. A quick time event represents Harry’s attempt to perform. We fail, and get kicked out of the club alongside the pigeon.
We return to Kurt who is writing another letter to his daughter.
After which we enter a dreamlike sequence. The cat is wandering around as Katrin’s letter is read out. She eventually comes across corpses beneath a tree before Kurt wakes.
The dream, ending at a dead tree, inspires Kurt to climb into No Man’s Land and search for Max. He takes a look over the fields through the periscope. Poppies cover the battlefield, however with this art style they seem to resemble large pools of blood.
I’m not sure if this was intentional, but this is a powerful image to me. Poppies became a symbol of peace after the war, yet the reason they grew is because they were nourished by the blood of dead soldiers. They are reminders of death as much as they are symbols of hope.
Kurt climbs over the top and checks the dog tags of each soldier, searching for his son, but hoping not to find him.
Harry has been posted to the Somme, and is showing off his pigeon to his fellow soldiers. It has now been trained to fly out and grab things for him. He has his pigeon wake up a sleeping soldier as a joke.
The general feeling of this section juxtaposes Kurt’s story. The mood here is jovial and light-hearted – even the music reflects this. Harry wanders the camp taking pictures and playing with his pigeon.
Eventually he goes one trick too far, seriously upsetting a soldier at work.
Kurt is close to the French trenches, and is close to getting caught. He can see the soldiers through his binoculars, but he can’t get past. The conversations of the French soldiers remind us of the presence of death.
Switching to the cat, she wanders No Man’s Land unmolested, and pays a visit to the French soldiers.
The soldiers distracted, Kurt continues wandering No Man’s Land. He doesn’t need to check the dog tags to identify the bodies he finds anymore. These are friends of Max’s, people he recognises from his home.
As he starts to drag Jonas away, the French spot him. One soldier takes aim, but the other stops him from firing. “He’s just here for the bodies,” he says.
Kurt is left to drag the corpses of boys he knew growing up back to the German trenches.
Meanwhile, Harry is given a letter from Julia.
We don’t get the opportunity to send back a picture this time.
Barret is calling for Harry. He has been treating Harry badly since he was spotted through the window of the Cabaret club. He angrily asks Harry to grab his documents.
Harry sends his pigeon and what follows is one of the most beautiful sequences in the game so far. The pigeon grabs the documents and continues flying. Over farmhouses, past blimps, passing biplanes, over poppy fields…
It flies to the only other person it knew. Kurt receives the plans for the Entente’s attack. They prepare themselves for an attack on Passchendaele with gas masks. Kurt sends back a message with the pigeon.
I was not expecting to be moved this much by this game. It portrays the pain of war, the ever-presence of death, and the gray areas of war in immersive ways.
Musical cues are used to pull you into the minds of the characters. When playing the cat, the music is playful. The soldiers may be in constant mourning, but the cat is a cat, playful, cute, and always trying to catch a bird. Kurt’s music is sombre, and painful. He is constantly seeing death, and we feel it as we play. Harry’s has a light-hearted soundtrack, though not as playful as the cat’s. He’s younger and still seems capable of enjoying moments in the war, though he is suffering at the hands of a superior officer with PTSD.
The art style really stood out to me in this section. The images of the poppy fields and the flight of the pigeon over the Somme especially blew me away. I actually think these sections work a lot better than they would have if the game used a typical realistic style used in modern war games. And I say that as a developer for Call of Duty.
The sections where you can switch characters add an extra layer to the gameplay. Having the characters interact and work together highlights their relationship, even though they are unable to understand each other. It shows character development through gameplay alone, something that can’t be done in other media.
I’m hoping to complete the game before next week. I’m finding myself almost as desperate as Kurt to discover the fate of his son.