This War of Mine Review, Prepare to Question Your Morals
Developed by 11bit studios, This War of Mine is a dark survival game based of off the Siege of Sarajevo, the longest siege in modern warfare. This isn’t your typical war game. You’re not a super soldier, hell you’re not even remotely close to being a soldier. You control a group of civilians that each has their own unique skill. Some, like Marko, are extremely helpful since he can carry more weight while scavenging. Others seem to have skills that offer little to no help, such as caring for children.
The first thing you will notice about this game is that it is very… real. The first image you see is your group in a broken down building, when you first check out each individual person you notice that they are not all models posing for their pictures, they are real people. People that you would expect to see in a situation like this. Some even start out slightly sick or wounded, right off the bat you have to decide what your priorities are going to be.
During the day you are spending time gathering materials left over in your shelter and also building new structures to help bolster your living conditions. There are snipers that keep you pinned down during the day so this is your only time to improve your shelter and build new crafting tables to create anything from weapons to gardens. Night time is when the games mechanics really get to show off. Before you even set off to scavenge you have to decide what your remaining members are going to do. You have to manage their energy levels but you also have to make sure that if bandits show up to raid your shelter you have someone awake to defend your property. After deciding who gets the short stick, your next decision is where you want to scavenge. Each location shows what kind of resources it has and if their is a danger level.
Moving from room to room trying not be discovered creates some of the most strenuous gameplay I have ever experienced.
When I first started I only had two locations to choose from, I chose a small abandoned building that was not supposed to have anyone living in it. Sound plays a huge part in this game. Each action you choose will create a different amount of sound. If you see a locked door you can use lock picks and create a very minimal amount of noise, or you can use a crowbar and pry it open but everyone within a large radius of you will be hurrying to check out what the commotion is. Being prepared for every situation is an absolute must, making too much noise when there are hostiles around is asking to get dead.
Depending on what you get from scavenging is going to largely dictate your gameplan during the day. Building a stove, basic workshop, and beds should be priority #1. After that it is making the tough decisions on how to care for your characters. Do you use valuable medical supplies on someone that’s only skill is having great math skills or do you use those supplies on the character that can cook more efficiently? This is only one of the tough moral decisions you will have to make. The first time I truly felt bad about my decisions was my second night of scavenging….
Each night there is a chance that more locations will be unlocked to scavenge. I saw that there was a small home that had tons of supplies with little danger. I strolled into the house and noticed there was an elderly couple sitting around a fire. My first reaction was to pull out my knife, knowing that they would defend their property no matter what. Their reaction was much…. different. They begged and pleaded for me to leave them alone and just leave their house. When I reached their fridge the older woman said something that made me stop what I was doing and leave. She simply asked “Please just leave a little for us…” Wow… I have done some pretty horrible stuff in videos games and never batted an eyelash. This was the first time I actually felt bad about what I was doing. I left and went back to my home immediately.
Combat shouldn’t always be your first option
That is when I realized another character aspect you have to manage, depression. Depending on the character you use and the actions you take your character can range anywhere from content to broken. When your character is broken they are unusable. They will just sit on the floor and talk to themselves about the horrible things they have done. Your only remedy is to get your other characters to console them and let them know everything is going to be ok. Sometimes you have to do this multiple times with different characters until they feel good enough to just walk around.
After you have learned how to manage your characters needs and get your basic crafting out of the way, the game gets very interesting. The game is all about a risk/reward system. Scavenging areas that have little danger also produce little rewards. You can live off these areas for a few days but the supplies will quickly run out and you will notice that the safe areas you go to on a nightly basis are depleted of their resources and it forces you to go to more dangerous areas.
The locations in this game each have their own little personality. The hospital will heal you only if you are on the verge of death but be weary, if you get caught trying to steal from them not only does your character have the chance of being depressed, there are multiple guards outfitted with military armor and fully automatic rifles you’ll have to be careful of. The brothel offers a chance to trade outside of the traveler that visits you randomly during the day and the warehouse has more supplies than you would know what to do with but is guarded by three bandits that will shoot on site.
This game keeps that dark post war feeling wherever you go
There are so many aspects of this game that it is hard to figure out what the best course of action is. I have tried going straight for weapons and scavenging anywhere but that left my shelter unprotected with a lack of barricades and the bandits would come at night and would my other companions. Only barricading my shelter kept the bandits out but I soon ran out of food due to me only scavenging for wood. You really have to play this game a few times before you can develop your own strategy and play style. Not to mention you can get a different group of playable characters each time you start, which adds a huge replay value to this title.
Final Opinion: All and all this game is superb. The graphics are unconventional but perfectly capture that dark survival feel the title is going for. The gameplay is top notch and the decisions and encounters you will make while scavenging will keep you coming back for more. If that isn’t enough for you, then just take in the most impacting trait from this game, it makes you feel the decisions you make. The first time you kill someone and their spouse drops on the floor and weeps beside them, you will feel it and that. When you steal from the hospital and a patient dies because of you, you will feel it.
If I could sum up this game in one word it would be “emotion”. Prepare to delve into a game that makes you feel each decision you make and keeps you coming back for more.
*This war of mine is available on Steam for $19.99 for GNU/Linux, Microsoft Windows and OS X