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REVIEW / This War of Mine (PC)

 

Games about war have been a staple of our hobby for as long as I can remember, and they have all been from the viewpoint of the soldiers who’ve had to brave impossible odds in order to complete the mission and save the day.  11 Bit Studios has shaken up the genre and have created a game that takes a startling look at the ravages of war through the eyes of the civilians who undoubtedly get caught between the warring factions.  This War of Mine is set in a besieged city. But instead of playing as an elite soldier, you play as a group of civilians who are trying to survive by any means necessary.  Not wanting to be taken out by snipers or attacked and killed by hostile scavengers during the day, you must scavenge yourself at night for food, medicine and other supplies in order to survive.  This is a whole new take on the war game and it provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle.

 

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This is your hideout. There are many like it, but this one is yours.

 

In This War of Mine, your hideout is your only place of refuge and you must maintain it by clearing the rooms of debris, making sure it doesn’t get too cold so your people don’t get sick and protect it from other scavengers who might break in, steal your supplies and possibly kill someone.  You start the game with three survivors and must set out to get your hideout in a condition that will support your group.  Supplies are limited, so you must begin by clearing out piles of rubble and searching the rooms for medical supplies, food or other parts and pieces to use in making beds, a water collection system, a place to cook your meals or weapons.  Once that is done, someone from your group must set about the task of going out into the city and trying to obtain additional supplies needed to make it through the next day.  You must make life-and-death decisions because the well-being of your group of civilians is dependent on you finding the items that your group needs.

Going out at night and searching for supplies is how you acquire the things that you will need in order to survive.  Some places that are available to you will be abandoned, so getting supplies from them is as simple as doing a thorough search and bringing back enough of a variety of supplies to build the items that you will need to make life a bit more bearable.  Other locations will be occupied by people who are just trying to survive, like you.  While most people that you come in contact with are peaceful, there are some that will shoot first and ask questions later; you never know if they will be peaceful or violent until you make contact.  You can sneak into a location occupied by other people and sneak your way around and take everything that you can carry, but if you take valuable supplies that they need to survive, you may be condemning them to an early demise.

 

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You get a chance to plan your attack before you go out to scavenge. Assign roles to each other member of your group and then head out to see what you can find.

 

Once you finish your scavenging for the night, you return to your hideout and must check on the status of your group members.  Living in the middle of a war torn city is hard and it will quickly take its toll if you are not able to meet the needs of each person.  Beds need to be built so that there are enough places to sleep, weapons need to be built so that the hideout can be protected when you are scavenging at night and medicine needs to be made so that when someone gets sick or injured, they can be quickly healed.  All of the items needed to accomplish these tasks are terribly scarce, so you are constantly weighing the ways to make the best uses of the available supplies.  For example, you might have the ingredients to make medicine, but if you don’t have the necessary supplies to make the tools and equipment needed to do so, it could mean the difference between life and death.

The visuals in This War of Mine help to bring home the horrors of war and presents the player with a landscape that is utterly destroyed and devoid of morality.  All of the structures that you will need to scavenge for supplies are bombed out, falling apart and some are even on fire.  They are done in a very surreal pencil sketch style which helps to accentuate the desolation and destruction that these people are being forced to live in.  It is dark and sad, even in your own hideout during the daytime and this atmosphere really brings home the type of nightmare that your group is living.

 

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Your workshop can only make certain items in the beginning but can be upgraded to make more sophisticated items later on.

 

Strategy plays a big role in your ability to keep your group of survivors healthy, optimistic and alive.  You will never have enough supplies to keep everyone happy at the same time so you must decide on who gets to sleep, who gets to eat and who is tasked with scavenging for supplies.  In addition, you will never have enough materials to build all of the things like barricades, tools, weapons or furniture that your group will need so where do you start first?

The repetition helps a bit in having a routine that you would probably realistically need to keep if you were in this situation in real life.  However, it can get a little monotonous to wash, rinse and repeat, over and over for however long you are able to keep your group together.  Luckily, there are some events that may happen on one day and not on others or you will be visited by individuals who need help or want to join your group that help to break up the monotony somewhat.

 

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People will come to you to trade items. The good stuff like medicine will require a hefty payout to acquire.

 

This War of Mine is currently available for $19.99 on Steam and I think that is a very fair asking price.  The ability of 11 Bit Studios to capture an authentic portrayal of what life would be like living in the middle of a war-zone is uncanny.  They have been able to capture what it must feel like to not be sure if you are going to be alive at any moment and it is a little scary.  I became so invested in making sure that my group was well rested, giving them as much to eat to sustain them as possible as well as making sure that I had all the necessary materials needed to keep the hideout in as good as shape as possible that I often forgot that I was playing a video game.  It has been a while since I have played something that has engrossed me to such an extent.  People are often saying that game developers keep making the same types of games, well this one is truly something new that everyone needs to experience for themselves.

 

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