This War of Mine is a brutal 2D survival game from 11 bit Studios. It showcases the harsh realities that civilians struggle through in times of devastating war. Instead of putting you on the front line like the majority of the other war themed games out there, This War of Mine challenges you to do anything you can to survive through some incredibly testing circumstances.
Drawing inspiration from the terror that went on during the Siege of Sarajevo, you control a group of survivors enduring an unrelenting war. During the day you spend your time upgrading your shelter, crafting items you may need and doing your best to stay healthy. When night comes, you may choose one of your survivors to search local areas, such as abandon buildings, warehouses and military occupied bases, in search of vital resources such as food, medication and parts.
This War of Mine boasts a wonderful art direction that captures the bleak setting that is being portrayed. The hand drawn 2D environments and limited colour palette add to the intense and desolate setting. Pairing this with the docile somber soundtrack makes watching the game as intense and enjoyable as playing it.
The day and night cycles of This War of Mine involve very different styles of gameplay. When the sun is up you are in control of all of the survivors in your group, using resources to build new additions to your shelter, which aid to better protect you from raiders and withstand the harsh elements. Improving your workshops allows you to build necessities and craft weapons for your survivors. Your main focus during this time is to keep your survivors healthy and prepare yourself for the night. As crucial as the daytime is for keeping your survivors fit and healthy, it quickly loses the appeal because night is where the game really shines. Although the day elements are still important I found myself quickly getting what I needed to do out of the way and skipping straight to night.
When the sun goes down is when things get a little different in This War of Mine. First of all you are tasked to choose one of your survivors to go out and scavenge for new resources. The remaining characters are given the option to either sleep throughout the night or stand guard and try and prevent your home from getting raided. Choosing whom to scavenge is an important decision and can impact on whether you have a successful night. Different survivors have varied amounts of inventory space for bringing items home and some even have skills that compliment scavenging such as fast running and silent sneaking.
Next you are given the choice of what location you would like to scavenge. Each location has a short description about the area and what has been happening there. Ranging from a quiet home where an old couple still lives in peace to a ruined villa that is littered with dangerous bandits that will shoot on sight. Along with the small write up there is a list of which type of resources are available. This helps you decide which location to scavenge based on what resources you really need. Generally the locations work on a high risk, high reward platform and the more dangerous they are, the more valuable resources you will gain.
Trading is a very important aspect of This War of Mine. Having the ability to travel to different trade locations with a sack of your valuables and trade for items that you desperately need is vital, especially when things get tough. These places are great, especially when you have been searching for that all-important item that keeps escaping you or to finally gets some food, meds or bandages that your survivors wouldn’t live without.
Combat in This War of Mine is a desperate and bloody affair. You are advised to take a weapon along with you when there is danger ahead and slinking in the shadows and avoiding combat is definitely advised. If you are looking to take out the marauding raiders in front of you, stealth is definitely your best option. Going in guns blazing will attract all of the enemies to your location and will almost always get you killed and losing your best scavenging can tear apart the crucial dynamic of your group.
At the beginning of the game you will have a choice between different groups of survivors. Each group consists of between two and four survivors and each person comes with their own unique attribute. These traits can have a major impact on how long your survivors will last. For instance, Marko is a Skilled Scavenger, which grants him a bigger bag to carry supplies and allows him to loot quicker. Katia has great bargaining skills, which allows her to trade items for a higher value and Bruno is a good cook, which allows him to prepare food using fewer resources than the others.
Your survivors can be burdened in a handful of different ways, if your characters do not eat they will become hungry and if they do not sleep they will become tired. Both of these aspects can be combatted quite easily with a nice meal and good nights sleep. It is when you get wounded or sick where things get a little more complicated. If your survivor is injured from an attack while scavenging or defending your shelter they will become wounded, some of the more severe wounds require bandages and bed rest. If these wounds are left unattended they can quickly get out of hand and prove fatal for your survivor. This goes the same for when a survivor gets sick and doesn’t get medication. It was too often, especially in the colder times, where sickness spread like wildfire throughout my group and had us in very bad shape.
Along with their skills they also have different personalities. Some characters enjoy helping others when they are sad, some survivors can’t handle tough calls and get upset when you steal from or harm others. This can add a whole new dynamic to the mix, because even if your survivors are well fed and healthy it is still possible for them to become depressed and struggle to live with themselves after making difficult moral decisions.
This War of Mine is a gorgeous look into the horrible ramifications that result from an ongoing war. The plight that civilians suffer through is yours to experience as you do everything in your power to survive. Keeping your group healthy both physically and mentally is a true test and the dynamic between the night and day aspect is a fantastic way to break up the gameplay. 11 bit studios have captured the bleak atmosphere beautifully and have created an addictive game that will have you going to some drastic lengths in order to last another day in these devastating times.
This review is based on a retail copy of the PC version of This War of Mine published and developed by 11 bit Studios
- A different side of war
- Tense stealth combat
- Difficult moral decisions
- Daytime loses its appeal