PC Review: This War of Mine

Is there no end?

Is there no end?

By: Ted Chow

In a war torn society where people must do whatever they can, This War of Mine is a simply engrossing game that deftly explains the backlashes of what it means to be a survivor of the fittest. With dreary ambiance and a constant feeling of hopelessness, the game vividly portrays the brutality that comes with war and the victimization of the masses.

If there was ever a game that questioned if this day would be your last day, then This War of Mine is a prime candidate for evoking such questions. Are humans good by nature or are they inherently evil? You are left to choose how best to survive the coming hardships.

CONTROLS (4/5)

Once you load up the game you are instantly brought to a game that resembles a 2D platformer with 3D elements.  You command the survivors by clicking on their portraits or the characters themselves and control their movement by either clicking to a particular destination or interaction with an object.

The camera panning from character to character is pretty smooth, and the command inputs are well received by the AI. Salvaging and combat are handled nicely with floating bubbles to initiate actions based on your current equipment. Overall, the controls felt good and didn’t require much effort to get accustomed to.

GRAPHICS/SOUND (4.25/5)

From the moment you see the in-game environment, you are left breathless at how unique the perspective is and the portrayal of a war torn society is graphically stunning. The game captures the mood and atmosphere really well with lovely pencil effects to represent the fog of darkness, while modern textures etch out the characters and environmental set pieces.

There is always that ominous feeling of dread and despair for our characters, and the photographic portraits provide a level of surrealism with those blinking eyes. The game is additionally enhanced by the grim ambience of the soundtrack, which really sells the state of the game world.

GAMEPLAY (4.25/5)

This War of Mine is a 2D/3D survival game that takes place in a war zone locked in some suburbia that appears to be somewhere in the United States. There isn’t much back story as to why everything is happening as it is, but from the small tidbits of information, it all points to rebels versus the oppressive military in an all-out clash. As a survivor of the city you are left to experience the atrocities and acts of selfishness committed by humans. Your goal is to survive with your rag-tag group for as long as you can, but the game will hinder you in many different ways in order to force players to make hard decisions.

With a system that requires your characters to be provided with the basic necessities, the game will require you to constantly monitor the health and well being of your characters. They will require food to eat, sleep when tired and consultation with fellow survivors when depressed. It almost sounds like you’re playing The Sims in this regard, and I would say that is a pretty good assumption. There is trading available with survivors, but the bulk of your inventory will come from salvaging — or rather pillaging — in order to survive another day.

It is when times get tough that the true decisions are made available for the player. Do you starve to death or do you kill to steal and survive? Do you kill elderly innocents to steal medication for needy children? These are tough choices all around with plenty of grey area.

The game’s resources that you collect are used to create furniture and other essential items for your humble abode. Wood planks can be turned into beds, metal/electrical components into heaters and books into fuel. These items help maintain the well being of your characters and are essential for long-term survival. Certain items, such as jewelry, are good for trading, while gun components will help you defend or raid other compounds. Essentially, you are left to your own devices to how best to approach your current situation.

While you micro manage during the day, at night you are left to go on “salvaging” runs with your character(s). These are not only essential, as it helps bring in more resources for your group, but it is quite fun to stalk and prey on victims from the shadows. The stealth mechanic of the game is pretty robust as you can peak through doors or hide behind rubble and shadow spots.

It is rather satisfying to gather the attention of bandits and deserters and surprise attack them from the shadows with your trusty knife — in fact, it is rather hilarious and challenging to take on a military base with a knife! Overall, I was thoroughly pleased by the night raids, and the limitations of your backpack to only carry back the essentials.

As a single-player game only, your mileage will vary, but multiple survivor groups can be loaded on start up to get different stories out of each character. This also opens up new avenues of tackling situations as every survivor has perks that contribute to the group’s survival, whether it is cooking skills, negotiations and so on.

OVERALL (4.5/5)

This War of Mine is a compelling game from the start with a well thought out approach on immersing players within this sandbox. If you like games that require some micromanagement of your characters and the overall survival aspect it haughtily displays, then you will most definitely enjoy the mood and atmosphere this game conveys. I came in not expecting much, but came out thoroughly impressed.

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About Herija Green

Avid gamer, adventurous lover and all-around damned handsome man...
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