This War of Mine
Gameplay 9
Graphics 9
Sound 9

This War of Mine takes on a serious subject and manages to turn it into a great game without compromising the core message. War is hell and trying to survive it as a non-combatant is something that nobody should ever have to experience in real life. The game offers a glimpse into the trials and tribulations faced by ordinary people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. It is a dark experience that will probably not appeal to everyone, but once it sucks you into its bleak world it can be hard to leave until you have done all you could to save the people placed under your guidance.

Gameplay: Simple to control, but hard to master, this game will challenge you in more ways than one.

Graphics: The unique art style perfectly captures the bleak reality of being trapped in a hostile environment.

Sound: Fitting audio and outstanding sound effects

Summary 9.0 Outstanding
Gameplay 0
Graphics 0
Sound 0
Summary rating from user's marks. You can set own marks for this article - just click on stars above and press "Accept".
Accept
Summary 0.0 Terrible

This War of Mine

Developer: 11 Bit Studios | Publisher: 11 Bit Studios | Release Date: 2014 | Genre: Adventure / Indie / Simulation | Website: Official Website | Format: Digital Download

In gaming we’ve seen every type of war from historical to modern and fictional, but always through the eyes of a soldier that is actively participating in it. This War of Mine turns the tables on this formula by placing you in charge of civilians that are caught in the crossfire of a war that they never asked for. Trapped in a city where the military and rebels clash on a daily basis, the sole purpose of the people left in your care is to survive.

As your characters are not part of the skirmishes between the rebels and military it might sound like an easy task to keep them alive until the end of the war. You are given a ramshackle building that serves as a shelter and a group of three civilians that are drawn from a random pool. Each character is given a short biography which tells you more about their life before the war and what skills they have to offer. One might be a fast runner or an excellent scavenger while others are good cooks or good barterers. Each has their own role to play in the group and to ensure their survival everyone has to work together.

This War of Mine presents the action from a side view where what you see is based on the line of sight of your characters. Areas that are not visible to your characters are represented by dark, charcoal style smudges which adds to the bleak, foreboding atmosphere of the game. The visuals pack plenty of detail, but all the color has been drained out of the gameworld. Apart from an occasional flickering sign or the burning husk of a busted tank you won’t see any splashes of color in the uninviting, war-torn environments. The charcoal stylized aesthetics of the game looks great, but this is not a title where you will be wowed by the visuals. However, they do fit the mood of the game perfectly and the animations in particular are very good.

The game features a day and night cycle, but thanks to snipers you are stuck in your refuge during the day. Sometimes a trader will brave the danger to come knocking on your door while other times someone might come asking for help. Whether you want to risk the lives of one of your people to offer any assistance is up to you. Mostly your characters will spend the daytime relaxing, smoking or reading away their boredom and depression, if these luxuries are available, or crafting new items using the materials you scavenged. Once night falls however you get to select one character to go out searching for items and supplies. If your characters have nothing pressing to accomplish during the day you can skip forward to the night, but in doing so you might miss out on a trader showing up.

You can only send one character out to scavenge and they are limited to whatever they can fit in their backpack. The game presents you with a map indicating locations as well as some basic information about what to expect at each. A house with an old couple might be easy pickings, but will your conscience allow you to steal from the defenseless. A supermarket on the other hand might have plenty of goods, but you run the risk of encountering soldiers or bandits there. The people left behind at the refuge can either sleep, sleep on beds if you made any, or stand guard. The latter is definitely preferred as other looters might attack your shelter at night and make off with your valuables. You have no control over these encounters beyond a text box greeting you with the bad news when your scavenging character returns from their nightly excursion. Boarding up the shelter and guarding it with weapons reduces the risk of losses, but in a war zone there will always be people desperate enough to try to steal in order to survive.

As the days drag on you might find that it is your characters that will have to abandon their morals in order to make it through the day. Tough choices need to be made and when your life hangs in the balance the line between right and wrong quickly becomes blurred. Initially it is simple to stock up on items from easy to loot locations, but as the weather changes and temperatures plummet it becomes a different story. The weather and military operations in the area can also cause certain locations to become inaccessible, forcing you to either steal or risk entering dangerous areas to get what you need. Some items might even become scarcer and you’ll soon find that there is never enough of anything to go around.

During my first playthrough it was complacency that got me in the end. By day 20 Pavle had yet to fail at finding armfuls of useful stuff each night. I had enough materials to craft a gun and got cocky. It was time to take on those locations marked as “dangerous” on the map and bring back even better items. Forsaking the usual sneaking I burst through the front door of an apartment building and Pavle promptly got shot in the chest by a man wielding a shotgun. Panicking I tried to make a run for the exit, but it was too late and Pavle was gunned down like a dog.

The death of Pavle took a huge toll on the people back at the refuge as I had been relying on him to bring back the food and items that the group needed. When Cveta became ill I sent Bruno out to find medicine. During his excursion he got wounded by a sniper and came limping back to the hideout empty handed. With Bruno hurt and Cveta becoming more ill thanks to the cold weather the task of saving everyone fell to Katia. A quiet house with old people was the easiest target for the food and medicine I needed, but during the raid Katia was forced to kill. She returned with the items needed, but the murder of innocents took its toll on her and she spiraled form sadness into depression until she ended up broken. The medicine helped Cveta a bit, but Bruno still needed bandages, so I had no choice but to send her out to scavenge. When I returned Bruno had frozen to death because the temperature in the hideout had plummeted. A day or two later Katia took her own life leaving a sick Cveta to cope on her own. I soldiered on for as long as I could with her, but she never fully recovered from her illness and eventually succumbed to it after the hideout was raided by bandits.

If this sounds grim and depression that’s because it is. Despite what the first person genre would have you believe, war is not pretty and it is not cheerful. In This War of Mine your characters don’t “level up” or gain experience that provide them with any perks. They get sad, hungry, tired, sick and wounded as the constant stress and danger takes its toll on them. Characters can become so broken down by events that you need to use other characters to bring them food or medication as they are unable to do so themselves. When this happens it is also the only time in the game that characters can directly interact with each other and have conversations. The rest of the time they will utter their thoughts randomly or jot down what they think in their diaries which you can then view. Being able to read what characters think of the actions of their friends is neat, but I would have liked to perhaps see a bit more interaction between the characters considering how cooped up they are together.

Although the game doesn’t have any voice acting it does have a great audio soundscape. However, with “great” I mean in the sense that the subtle audio and ambient sounds are depressingly somber and entirely fitting with the bleak war theme. Being stuck in the shelter while listening to the gunshots and explosions in the distance makes for an immersive, but thoroughly gloomy experience. Crafting a radio allows you to play some classical music in between listening to weather reports or news flashes about what’s happening in the city. The entire game is mouse controlled and you perform actions simply by clicking on the relevant hotspots. A single click causes your character to walk or sneak to the indicated spot while a double click prompts them to run. Areas with which you can interact are indicated, along with whatever tool that is needed to do so effectively, be it shovel, crowbar, lock pick or saw. Despite the simple controls the game never feels restrictive and hiding in a dark doorway with a knife before leaping out to perform a stealth kill might only take two clicks, but it feels just as tense as in games where you are given full control.

While it would be hard to call This War of Mine a “fun” title, as there were scenes and events that actually made my stomach turn, it is something that I couldn’t stop playing. The game never resorts to blood and gore to get its point across, but the somber visuals and dark tone of the game will stay with you long after your characters have succumbed, or hopefully, weathered out the war. The randomized world and characters mean that the replay value is quite high although after you have seen all the locations it can feel like a bit of a grind to build up your shelter again during subsequent playthroughs. This War of Mine is a game about pure survival, but it is done in the most thought provoking and grim way that I have ever encountered in a game. What 11 Bit Studios was able to achieve with this game is quite amazing and it is something that should be played by everyone that want to experience what is possible when you tackle a familiar topic from a completely different angle.

System Requirements

  • OS: Windows XP SP3 (32 bit) / Vista
  • Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo 2.4, AMD Athlon(TM) X2 2.8 Ghz
  • Memory: 2 GB RAM
  • Graphics: Geforce 9600 GS, Radeon HD4000, Shader Model 3.0, 512 MB
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible
  • OS: Windows 7
  • Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Quad 2.7 Ghz, AMD Phenom(TM)II X4 3 Ghz
  • Memory: 4 GB RAM
  • Graphics: GeForce GTX 260, Radeon HD 5770, 1024 MB, Shader Model 3.0
  • DirectX: Version 9.0c
  • Sound Card: DirectX compatible

Related posts

Layers of Fear

Layers of Fear

With its surreal setting and constantly shifting rooms Layers of Fear is a game that is both immersive and captivating. It loves messing with your perception, but also features enough jump scares to keep you on edge all the time. Unless you take the time to explore your surroundings and uncover the clues you’ll miss out on most of the story elements, so it is not a game to rush through. Thanks to its beautiful visuals and excellent audio it is definitely a cut above similar titles in the genre. Gameplay: Minimal puzzles, but simply exploring the surreal setting of the game is a nerve wracking experience. Graphics: Very polished and highly detailed. Sound: Quiet when it needs to be, but also very effective at using audio to unnerve players.

Borderlands: Mad Moxxi’s Underdome Riot

Borderlands: Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot

After I praised The Zombie Island Of Dr. Ned as a good example of how to do DLC properly Gearbox goes and does the exact opposite with Mad Moxxi's Underdome Riot. The arena fighting idea is nice but by removing all the XP and loot gathering we are left with a empty shell of the addictive Borderlands experience. This could have been so much better. Gameplay: A tedious grind with very little to show for all your efforts. Graphics: Nice, but nothing we haven't seen before in the main game. Sound: Pretty good, but Moxxi can become a bit repetitive with her quips.

Sakura Space

Sakura Space

The Sakura series heads into space for a yuri adventure with this release by Winged Cloud. Players get to experience what happens when Captain Shika and her crew of mercenaries stumbles across the bounty of a lifetime. Although it might look like you have choices in the game, it plays out more like a kinetic novel, but offers some entertainment nonetheless. We would recommend sticking to the uncensored version though, as it offers a bit more content. Gameplay: There are some interesting story elements, but the focus is mostly on the ecchi escapades of the girls. Graphics: The artwork by Inma is gorgeous as always, but the cast is small and the locations limited. Sound: No voice acting and decent, but unremarkable music.

Go! Go! Nippon! 2015

Go! Go! Nippon! 2015

Fans of the original game will love the new locations, enhanced visuals and expanded story of Go! Go! Nippon! 2015, but newcomers are also in for a treat. The game is packed with information and offers a unique way to experience Japanese culture and tourist attractions without hopping on a plane. The lack of voice acting is a letdown, but overall this expansion lives up to expectations. Gameplay: Lots of information about Japan and a lighthearted love story as well. Graphics: The new animations are great and the widescreen visuals are a step up from the original game. Sound: Still no voice acting, but the audio is very upbeat and fitting.

Koihime Enbu

Koihime Enbu

Join the all-female cast of fighters in Koihime Enbu for some great 2D fighting. The character roster is fairly small, but very unique and the game is designed to be accessible to newcomers. However, there is still plenty of depth and experienced players can take the fights to a whole new level. Even if you are not familiar with the source material we recommend the game to anyone looking for a fun, accessible and great looking 2D beat ‘em up. Gameplay: Deceptively simple, but with enough depth to keep you coming back for more. Graphics: Great character designs with plenty of detail and colors. Sound: Full Japanese voice acting and some nice background music.

Scarlett Mysteries: Cursed Child

Scarlett Mysteries: Cursed Child

Scarlett Mysteries: Cursed Child is a new hidden object puzzle adventure where players take control of a young woman with psychic abilities. The game starts out as a quest to find her father who abandoned her at an orphanage when she was a child, but quickly turns into a paranormal mystery. There seems to be much less of a focus on hidden object scenes and mini-games in this title, while your exploration is also confined to gloomy areas such as train stations and factories. However, the Gothic style visuals look great and, while very short, the game remains interesting throughout. Gameplay: The story is interesting, but the puzzles quite easy and the overall game is very short. Graphics: The Victorian setting allows for some moody visuals, but most of the locations are not very imaginative. Sound: Standard voice acting and nice, albeit limited, tunes.

3 Comments

  1. Ren@g@tor December 4, 2014
    Reply

    I love games that are able to leave such an emotional impact. Wishlisted.

  2. Soultwi][ight December 4, 2014
    Reply

    Well damn. Congratulations on depressing and intriguing me at the same time. Sounds like a departure from their previous games.

  3. SlenderX December 8, 2014
    Reply

    Definitely getting this when its on sale.

Leave a comment

twelve + ten =