A very good game, that you will enjoy playing, and make you think in the process.
The game is not perfect, and becomes very easy once you understand its mechanics.
But playing it the first time was magical to me. I was stressed, cautious, sad. Some dilemmas really shattered me. It is a grand game.
Divided into two phases essentially, players need to apply their resources and manage their survivors during the day, taking care of wounds, hunger and psychological hang-ups. During the night however, you’ll need to head out and find parts to cannibalize, while risking your own shelter being raided while you’re out. It’s a rather gripping aspect of the game, with your line of sight being obscured and danger only a mistimed footstep away from your fragile scavenger. You could run into a garage filled with electronic parts that is completely bereft of life, or try your luck at a supermarket that is under heavy occupied guard. Whatever your choice is, you have to move fast.
There’re quite a few such locations to explore, each with their own pros and cons. Schools, churches, hospitals and suburban housing settlements all unlock as each day ticks away. Personally, I found robbing looking for supplies in the suburban area quite helpful, as liberalism is no match for a knife attached to a hungry looter.
And that’s something that you’re going to have to come to grips with in This War Of Mine. You’re not the only survivor out there, as the war has had far-reaching consequences. You can be a saint, or be a right bastard like I was. But kicking children in the face and slamming a door on them when they beg for medicine for their sick mother, will have consequences. Consequences that resulted in most of my scavengers hanging themselves when they couldn’t stand to commit any more atrocities in order to survive, their mental defenses having buckled like a dam made out of cardboard in monsoon season.
And this is life in This War Of Mine, every single day. You’re not looking to get through an entire week. You’re trying to survive, day by day while you sleep on a bed made of rotten wood and mattresses that will glow like Casper the Friendly Ghost should a black light ever pass over them. You’re trying to decide if you need to burn that one book that brings you some joy in life just so that you can have a decent meal. Maybe you’d like to drink your troubles away with a homemade distillery that will ferment some moonshine, but you might need those parts to create weapons so that you can turn back home invaders.
A friendly neighbourhood scavenger will also come a’knockin’ on most days, but his prices will always be high and his goods sub-standard, as you spend the rest of the day getting to know your characters and catching up on their constantly updating auto-biographies.
And that makes for an oppressive game. The kind of game that This War Of Mine intends to be. Sometimes, you feel like achieving a simple goal such as rolling decent cigarettes feelsfeelks like an insurmountable task, while coming back from a nightly expedition only to find your colleagues wounded and your home ransacked makes it all feel like it wasn’t worth it in the end.
In fact, there is no winning. This War Of Mine is difficult, unrelenting and just waiting for the right moment to kick you down to the ground and curb-stomp your face as you try to survive just one more day. It’s the ugly side to the mega-popular big blockbuster side of warfare, the starving civilian to the super-soldier on the battlefield of tomorrow. It is quite simply one of the hardest games you’ll ever play, and not because micro-managing every aspect of it feels like a dark version of the Sims. But despite all that constant misery, you might just find that you do have a heart.
The reality of war, hammered home through stark visuals and tight resource management, in a game where just surviving another day is winning.