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This War of Mine (PC) Review

By shifting players’ perspective from hero to victim, This War of Mine creates a new narrative for war in a survival game. Controlling average citizens ravaged by war, you must rally your characters and help them see the end of this conflict.

This War of Mine is a survival game set in an unnamed city that has fallen victim to a war. While authorities attempted to evacuate civilians, some are left behind in what has become a war zone. The player controls a group of survivors in a house. Each turn is a day and is divided into daytime and nighttime. During the day characters have the opportunity to build things and/or fix the house they live in. At night someone can be sent to various sites to scavenge for helpful items and food. Every day becomes a struggle to get to the next.

The game’s ambiance and aesthetics are perfect. The shifting grays and grainy appearance are desolate. It establishes early that maintaining hope will be a challenge. The music is often down key, reflecting the somber atmosphere and is punctuated with the sounds of gunfire. Characters have backstories and update their bios with thoughts, fears, and hopes. 11 Bit Studios carefully created characters that are easy to relate with and understand. The connection with the characters is central to the success of the game.

This War of Mine places the player firmly in a constant struggle against despair. Immediately at a disadvantage, the player has to rally the people in the house to survive despite everything around them.There is a strong psychological connection between the player and the characters. I kept playing despite the overwhelming odds against my characters. What can you do when every character is wounded, but you have to trade bandages for food because everyone is also starving? I started rationalizing my choices to the deaf ears of my characters, desperate for them to understand why. The changes of character’s moods must be monitored as characters will break down if depressed for too long. How deep this game explores the emotional turmoil of war victims is incredible. These characters become more than mere playable figures, they feel like real people living in a warzone. 11 Bit Studios gave the game sincerity and melancholy without being contrived.

The game definitely takes several playthroughs. The strategies are often learned the hard way and there are no tutorials. This game drops you in the war zone and says ‘good luck’ like it knows you won’t see tomorrow. We are conditioned to being overpowered in video games. More often than not, the playable character is the hero. You save the day, have awesome abilities/powers, and the best weapons. This flips all of that on its head. Not even The Last of Us fully realizes the helplessness the average person would feel during a collapse of civilization. This is not an easy game. Often I walked away because it seemed like I could not catch a break. During one play-through my characters were raided three nights in a row and all my materials stolen. However, this is also what sets this game apart. It is not necessarily hard because it wants to be hard. In fact, it often feels incredibly random. Exactly how it would be in a war torn city. The reward for sticking through the game, replaying it and learning from mistakes, is extremely satisfying. The connection between player and characters is strengthened and rewarded when you safely get them through the war.


Final Thoughts

11 Bit Studios lifts the survival genre to a new level with This War of Mine. This is more than just controlling a set of sprites. The developers took the time to create great ambiance with design, set, and music. The character connection is integral to understanding the appeal of the game. While victory is surviving the war, the central point is connecting to the people in the house. The developers created a game that I did not want to quit even when the odds were stacked against me because I could not abandon my characters. This War of Mine challenges the traditional hero narrative and perspective while elevating the survival genre.

 Follow me on Twitter for more gaming news: @lmrome3

About Lisa

Favorite Game: Shadow of the Colossus. Favorite Moment in gaming: 100% completing Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Life isn't hard, Megaman is.

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