I am a huge fan of survival games so when This War of Mine was announced I placed it on my “must play” list. This War of Mine was inspired by the 1992-1996 Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War.
A quick history lesson for those who don’t know what that is, the Siege of Sarajevo was the longest of a capital city in the history of modern warfare. For four years the capital was surrounded where it was constantly assaulted with artillery, mortars, tanks, anti-aircraft guns, heavy machine-guns, multiple rocket launchers, rocket-launched aircraft bombs, and sniper rifles.
This War of Mine differs from most war-themed games because it focuses on the people who had to live survive during the war rather than the troops on the frontline. This is where it gets interesting.
The game is considered a dark survival game where you, the player, assumes control of a group of civilian survivors in a makeshift shelter within the war-torn city. The main objective is to survive the war with the tools and materials you gather with the characters you control.
It sounds relatively easy but it isn’t. The survivors you control each have their own skills, vices, back stories, and personalities but none of which you control. Some may be better at scavenging while others are better at cooking but all of them are unprepared for war (except maybe one).
During the daytime, a hostile sniper will prevent the survivors from venturing outside so the only things you can do are craft tools from gathered materials, trade by way of an NPC who shows up every now and then, cook food, and heal any of the survivors who are sick. At night, you are then able to assign the survivors passive duties such as sleep and stand watch and send one survivor out to scavenge.
The survivor you send out to scavenge will be the one you assume control of during the night. You are allowed to equip them with tools to help (such as pick locks and crow bars) but some are one-time use, make a lot of noise when using, and take up valuable space in your backpack. Space, that you need for the materials and items you scavenge for!
One of my biggest problems (not specific to This War of Mine) is wanting to hoard everything that I find. It’s impossible to do in this game as you need to make multiple trips but you have to wait for the day/night cycle to do so. In waiting, the survivor you might want to assign to scavenge might fall sick if the makeshift isn’t heated properly. If they don’t get a good night’s rest they are tired and their pace will slow down significantly – same with hunger.
If they are wounded? You can “sleep” to heal but you’ll definitely need bandages and those are hard to come by. Most of their problems are exacerbated by another and if it gets too much then they fall into a depression. A depressed survivor is so frustrating as they aren’t willing to complete some of the tasks you assign them and if they are suicidal they won’t be able to scavenge at all.
When you are done scavenging you come back and you’ll be given a report on how the night went while you were gone. Sometimes, the night is calm and nothing has happened. Often times, you were robbed and a scuffle went down. The robbers will steal items (and always the good things like food and medical supplies) and if you couldn’t defend yourselves properly some of your survivors will have been wounded.
They and most likely the rest of the survivors will wallow in misery and reflect on how poor the conditions are. Can a survivor die? You bet they can! They will die from starvation, severe wounds, severe sickness, or getting shot/shanked while scavenging.
I had yet to survive a game when someone dies because the rest of my survivors give up. It’s utterly depressing to them and completely frustrating to me.
You’ll also be able to make some moral decisions like whether you want to give the kids and their sick mom some medicine, loot a humanitarian supply drop, or even kill someone while you scavenge. I took the “it’s either them or us, and it sure as hell ain’t gonna be us” approach to most situations that involved killing to survive.
I killed. Some of the survivors judged me when I got back while some of them agreed I had to do what I had to do. Either way, I felt like the bad guy for gutting someone.
Each playthrough is different because it can depend on your weather situation, materials, and survivors. The only constant is how depressing the game is and how bleak the plight of the survivors are. It definitely is challenging trying to keep everyone happy (and from falling into disparity) but I could only take so much before it became repetitive and just downright sad.
If you’re into survival games that’s a bit different, give This War of Mine a shot. It’s challenging, it’s unique, it’s depressing, but it’s also about human survival and compassion. The art style is pretty neat and while it will take some time to get going (spending resources correctly, knowing what to craft, etc.,) you’ll be set for the second playthrough.