This War of Mine Review
This War of Mine is not what you would call a pretty war game. There are no jetpacks or heroic moments of single soldiers taking on entire armies. There's no piles of ammo and resources laying around to make sure you always have what you need. No, This War of Mine is not that type of war game; in fact it's hard to call it a game at all. It's a dark social experiment done in the most safe conditions; it's an experience that though rewarding at times to play through is a stark reminder that real people die in these conflicts, and they're not just nameless,faceless soldiers running through corridors. It's a tale that's bound to leave you so depressed at your own actions, regardless of which way you play that you're going to wonder why you don't just turn it off - but you won't. This War of Mine is a different type of war game that deserves to be experienced.
"...a group of survivors who are in the middle of a city under fire."
That being said, a lot of war games claim to be different, but none are like This War of Mine. From 11-Bit Studios, This War of Mine doesn't put you in the shoes of a war torn army veteran or even a new recruit, rather it casts you as a group of survivors who are in the middle of a city under fire. Their goal is not to disrupt the forces that are invading their city, they don't even want to get involved; they just want to stay alive. Throughout the course of This War of Mine you'll be scrounging for food, resources and trying to safeguard your less than humble dwelling to keep yourself and your fellow survivors safe from looting bandits and military strikes. The game can perhaps most easily be described as the darkest version of The Sims you'll ever play, and there's a bit of similar diety feeling you'll get since you'll be guiding these people and helping them stay alive but you can't help but feel a solid connection to them as well thanks to the terrific work by 11 Bit studios and their team.
This War of Mine is one of those rare games that everything seems to come together. The survivors all seem remarkably human thanks to the realistic tone and writing and the whole game has a much larger feeling thanks to the superb score from Piotr Musial. Everything comes together to form an incredible tense and different war experience that's unlike any you've played before. Be warned though, guiding the survivors through the war torn city is not an easy endeavor and This War of Mine is built to to make you think, to make you decide and then make you not only second guess those decisions, but think them over long after you've finished playing the game. It's best to warn you right away, This War of Mine is one of the darkest games you'll ever play.
Nearly every decision you make matters in This War of Mine and you're likely to be surprised in just how big of an effect even the seemingly smallest decisions can make. You'll have to find a fresh water source, obtain food, scrounge for resources and of course make sure that your safe house is well protected at all times. You can assign tasks to each of your three survivors; Bruno, Pavle and Marko but regardless of what you do, there will be repercussions. In one of my play throughs for instance, I had Bruno stay up at night to guard the safe house, while the other two slept, but eventually this left Bruno tired and easy prey to looters who may try to take away what little you have in the middle of the night. Conversely, you can send any of your team out to find resources in the field but doing so not only puts them in danger of being attacked but it also lessens the strength of your defense at home.
"...frequently had me make decisions I wasn't comfortable with..."
Plenty of games ask you to make decisions to balance your resources, but it's when This War of Mine goes even further that it becomes clear just how special of an experience this is. The game constantly asks you to make decisions both moral and tactical that you won't be comfortable with either way. On my first play through I had a knock at the door of our safe house and the military was looking for information on another group of survivors in exchange for food, water and cigarettes; knowing full well that they would die I sold out the neighbors. In another play through there was again a knock at the door, but this time it was a woman looking for refuge. This time, I felt mercy and let her into our safe house. It became clear very early that this was a mistake as she became another mouth to feed without any real skills that would benefit us. I'm not proud of it so I sent her out to gather supplies, knowing full well that she wouldn't make it back. This War of Mine frequently had me make decisions I wasn't comfortable with, especially when the game flashed each player's traits, including what they hope for across the screen. Morning is a double-edged sword in This War of Mine as it lessens some of the dangers you'll find but a crushing autosave cements all of the horrors of the night before.
Even on my most comfortable playthroughs of This War of Mine; when I had all of the resources we needed for survival, I was never truly comfortable. My three survivors would constantly mull over their decisions and start to become increasingly depressed as a result. In one play through we got a tip of an elderly family stockpiling resources, so we robbed them as they pleaded with us not to hurt them. Was it the right thing to do? Probably not, but it kept us alive for another day, even if we became depressed as a result. Even the most mundane of tasks would effect the survivors mood. Early in the game I was able to trade resources that we had enough of for cigarettes to make Bruno happy, but when things got scarce, we stopped and Bruno became increasingly frustrated as a result. He ended up taking his own life. This, in essence is This War of Mine.
I had to ask myself quite a few times just why I was kept playing This War of Mine since it depressed me at almost every turn, but I could never turn it off. This War of Mine is so well written, paced and built that it's hard to turn it off and you feel a responsibility to try your hardest to get your survivors through another day. It's a deeply emotional and crippling game, but it's also one of the most engrossing experiences you'll have this year in games or any other medium. This War of Mine may not be for everyone but those looking for one hell of a moving experience won't want to miss it.
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