“This Was Of Mine is likely to be a winner”
This War Of Mine is an ambitious indie project by Polish developers 11bit studios. The game, which focuses on the perils of war from the perspective of the civilian, has gained a lot of interest recently with the unique theme and viewpoint which it offers. Stepping away from the glorified super-soldier perspective of many modern war-based games, This Was Of Mine creates a survival experience from the standpoint of the people often most effected on the urban battlefields and the wastelands which they leave behind them. Playing as a small group of civilians hiding out in a large house and fighting together to survive until the war is over, you must manage your food, medicines, materials, weapons and anything else which you can find to make it through these tough times. What will really test you however is the decisions which you might have to make along the way…
At first glance, the game feels like it is somewhere between a zombie survival title, Minecraft and DayZ in style. These are however simply building blocks, and the game has its own unique style which brings factors from each of these areas together alongside some wholly new ideas. By day, you cannot leave your house. Snipers outside pose a constant threat and the risk is too great, so during this time you instead must attempt to improve and protect your home. You can do this by crafting new items out of the materials which you have, clearing rubble and opening locked doors. You must also make sure you meet the needs of your group, by ensuring there is food, beds, warmth, medicines, entertainment and the like available to them. This is achieved by gathering resources to build appliances such as stoves and beds in order to ensure that the group has everything which it needs to survive. I suppose you could then add the Sims to that comparative list from before.
By night, you have several objectives to fulfil. Your characters will need to rest, your home will need to be defended, but this is also your only chance to venture outside in search of valuable resources. In a classic survival game style you can choose a location to venture out to each night, such as houses, schools, hospitals, shops and the like, with each offering different potential merits and dangers. You might head out and find food and medicines, or even weapons, but you might equally come up against dangers on your travels. Other people in the city are fighting to survive just like you, and whether they are friendly or not is never truly known. The question is, what about you? Will you kill for what you need to survive yourself? Or will you trade with others if you bump into them in the night? Perhaps you would simply run at the sight of danger instead. One of the biggest challenges of This War Of Mine is making such decisions. Unlike other games, there is a moral implication to “doing what must be done” in these positions, and in turn your decision will have major consequences.
To add to the realism of the game, your character’s each react to situations which they are involved in or which are happening around them. As well as having to monitor tiredness, hunger, sickness, injuries and other physical needs, psychological factors are just as important to keep an eye on. Depression can easily set in if a character is forced to kill. Sadness can affect those around such events as well. Fear is also a powerful emotion in this fight to survive, and all of these emotions will be up to you to try and keep under control. One of the major inputs into the game is the idea of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and how it can affect the innocent survivors, and indeed the soldiers, of war. The game attempts to show you how emotions can easily influence a person’s ability to survive in such situations; a factor little considered in other game’s of a similar nature. It is one thing to fight to survive, but another one entirely to stay sane and keep holding on whilst you do so. The game puts this message across very strongly indeed, and it is perhaps one of its strongest assets.
That describes some of the more serious elements of This War Of Mine, but what about some of the more standard gaming elements and mechanics? One key element of the game is the backpack system. You can only carry so much on your person at night when you venture out into the city for resources. This means you must decide what to take out with you to survive the night, and also what you will leave behind when you have to choose in the moment what is most important to you. Do you need food, weapons, medicines, crafting materials or tradable commodities the most right now? What can you truly afford to spare? Just another mental test of This War Of Mine which drags you deep into its difficult atmosphere. A mechanic which really stands out in the game is time. You only have so many hours in the day and the night in which you can perform tasks, and tasks take time to complete. It is important then to delegate jobs and manage each member of your group carefully in order to achieve as much as possible during each day of your battle to survive. Different characters have different backgrounds and skills, which also adds to this decision making process.
The game has only one real downside right now, ignoring of course the minor errors caused by its incomplete stage of development. As it stands, you cannot currently save the game, which presumably will change upon its final release but at present makes your survival efforts a little fruitless when it is actually time for you to go to bed. Just as you feel as though you are making some solid progress, you have to stop playing and start all over again next time. If a save feature is added, the game will have far more playability and will easily capture the attention of players for many hours. Otherwise, the only negative comment which might be made is that the style of control in the game is better suited to a touch screen rather than keyboard and mouse. It would be a much more comfortable experience on a tablet than a PC with its current setup. However it must be said that the game is fully playable on a PC despite this, but it does not quite feel as though this is where it belongs.
The last important thing to comment on is the game’s style, most specifically its visuals. This War Of Mine is designed in a hand drawn style, with the landscape and flicking between different types of sketch as you play and the characters playing out on top of this. It is beautiful and tragic all at once, which is complemented by the predominantly greyscale colour scheme which has also been employed. The design creates an atmosphere which is to be taken in by gamers as both beautiful artwork for a game but a depressing and emotive setting at the same time. It sets the feeling for the whole game and the adventure which plays out within it from the word go, and is the perfect setting for the story which you will create whilst you play. Eerie sounds and the audible tones of the ongoing war outside only add to the deep emotion which the game manages to present to the player too, and these complete what is an all round package with an important message to express…
That message is that war is not all about action and cool explosions, and that a lesser seen side of the battlefield is a much darker and more difficult one to take in. This War Of Mine succeeds at being an entertaining survival game to get stuck into, but also one which tries to convey an important message to anyone who picks it up. Emotion and morality are core elements of the game which do not come into many others in the modern gaming arena. It is often easy to detach from your own morals in order to win out at whatever action title you are digging into. This War Of Mine is fun, but it will also make you think. It is a game which will make you pause before you act, rather than shooting first and asking questions later. If you are looking for a game which is exciting, fun, interesting and indeed different as well as one which truly has something to say, then This War Of Mine is a must for you. If you are not, you should play it anyway, even if just once, to remind yourself of the other side of the coin in all of the digital battles which you have fought over the years. All in all, This Was Of Mine is likely to be a winner upon its release.
- Emotive gameplay with a strong message.
- Genuine moral decisions have an effect on characters mental states as a result.
- Well designed survival game mechanics which hit on all important aspects.
- A fantastically-drawn world which helps to express the message of this unique title.
- No save feature means that your survival efforts must be restarted on each play.
- The control system of the game would be better suited and to a tablet than a PC.