This War of Mine is a game not for the faint hearted. I can honestly say I have never played a game that has made me feel so depressed that I had to stop playing it. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I don’t actually know!
The game starts off with you in control of three civilian survivors living in a rundown home in a besieged, war-torn city. The main aim of the game (that rhymed, unintentional) is to survive the war using all the tools and materials you can gather. At the start of the game in your control are brothers Bruno and Marko, with the third character being an ex-football star named Pavle. These three have joined up to try and survive the war together. Your job as the player is to control these three men and help them survive as long as possible, to do this you need to scavenge for food, medicine, weapons and anything else you can get your hands on to build items such as beds, water purifiers as well as to fortify your shelter and other items to help make your living arrangement a bit more comfortable.
All the characters have stats, and you have to keep them in check so as not to have them go insane or die of hunger, injury or illness. Think SIMS but during the war and resources are scarce. It’s pretty doom and gloom.
I picked this game up on a steam sale and on my very first play through I didn’t really know what I was doing or what to expect …
During the daytime, hostile snipers prevent you from venturing outside giving you the chance to craft tools from gathered materials, trade, upgrade your shelter, cook food and heal your characters. At night, is when you are given the opportunity to venture out and scavenge nearby areas for valuable resources for your survival, what you take with you can make all the difference in the successful return of your scavenger or not. This game is relentless in its pursuit to bring you down; you must claw your way up.
I took Pavle out on a scavenger run for the first night and ended up getting him killed by other raiders in the same location. Now I’m not going to lie, as soon as I was trapped I knew I was dead and this was frustrating to me, frustrating that there was no way out and that I had even got myself into this position! I accepted my fate as a learning curve and continued on my journey with the remaining two brothers who were both very depressed that they had lost a dear friend.
Now it’s another interesting fact that when you make certain choices in the game in terms of scavenging these choices can have impacts on your other character’s morale. Steal from old people? Well the remaining characters mope around the house saying “Why would he do that” little comments that cement the fact that this game is overall an emotional rollercoaster. I didn’t want to loot from the old people on my second scavenge attempt but I had no food left and my guys were starving. I even only took a small amount of their food so as not to leave the old folks with nothing but my other character still moaned about my choice and tried to make me feel bad!
I ended up restarting after getting to night four because I really wanted to play with all three characters. On my second attempt I made it much further into the game, to the point I even made the decision to let someone move in with us, it put more pressure on me – resource wise – but added an extra hand for scavenging. It was a rainy night and I took Marko out on a scavenger hunt because he was the healthiest at the time. I crept into a building and looted my way through it until I heard a noise, someone else was in the house above me on the second floor. Being the smart cookie I am I decided to go down to the basement in hopes that I would be out of sight and they wouldn’t hear me. Well I was mostly right, I was out of sight but I did somehow draw the attention of the raiders. They put one man with a rifle on the top of the stairs while another guy ran out of my line of sight to cover the back entrance. So I sat and waited. Five long minutes went past and they didn’t seem to be going anywhere, but the guy atop the stairs did keep making comments about knowing someone was down there. So I was trapped. What were my options? I guess I had two, run and try to get away without dying or run up and surprise attack the raider with my knife? I chose the latter, needless to say … never bring a knife to a gun fight, truer words have never been spoken as I watched Marko get gunned down losing all the loot I had gathered as well as his life.
Cut back to my sanctuary and we get the news that I had been looted while Marko was out, they didn’t get much but now the remaining few guys had some more injuries as they fought off the attackers and were tired and now severely depressed about the loss of Marko. I had invested a lot of hours into playing this out only to lose him on the 12th night. How many nights are there? How long do we have to endure this cold heartless war? I had to shut down after losing Marko because yet again I found myself feeling the emotional weight of the loss and atmosphere in the house was somehow effecting my own mood. I was invested in my characters, I wanted them all to survive so badly that their loss was also mine. This is where this game excels, In the feels.
I’ve talked about story and a bit about the characters but I’ll go into some detail about the visuals of this game. When I first loaded it up I felt like I was in a live action Sin City comic. The graphics although two dimensional are quite simply stunning, 11-bit studio have managed to create a real wretched setting as you would expect for a war torn city. Using lots of dark outlining and giving it an overall black and white feel with very little colour, I really did feel like I was playing in a comic book setting. The weather effects also added another element that I really enjoyed. Overall graphically this game has hit the nail on the head.
So in summary I haven’t actually completed the story to see the end of the war, the cease fire that supposedly takes place at the end as I have ended up too depressed to continue playing each time I lose one of my characters. Having said that the time I have spent in this game when everyone is alive was quite enjoyable, playing in a war torn city in a dark and gritty environment, crafting items to make looting quicker and my characters more comfortable in their living quarters is enjoyable, going on a scavenger hunt is exhilarating and has you on the edge of your seat. Dying makes you feel empty inside.
My one warning to anyone who wants to play this game, have a box of tissues or a bottle of scotch handy … because if you don’t, you’ll need to scavenge for them 😉