This War Of Mine Review

A REVIEW BY JIM DEADLOCK

This is a 2D survival game. You play 3 characters (picked at random from a pool of 12) in a house during civil war. Time passes (accelerated) and the objective of the game is to survive until the war is declared over, which happens at a random time so some playthroughs last longer than others.

Sound & Vision

Graphics are stylish but deliberately dark and colourless. Whether at home or out scavenging, the game takes place within the 2D rooms of a building which is slightly larger than the screen so you can drag the mouse to pan the camera around and see all the rooms, or zoom in and out. Doorways and hidden items are marked by icons and you left-click anything you want to interact with – presumably the single-click is geared towards the Mac mouse.

There’s a melancholy tune accompanied by the sound of explosions and gunfire in the distance. Some additional music can be found on the radio which you can craft early in the game but in general the ambience is naturally downbeat.

This War of Mine

The graphics are intentionally dark and colourless

Gameplay

There are 4 aspects you have to maintain to keep your characters alive: health (injury, sickness); sleep; food; morale. You give instructions to each character during the daytime (craft stuff, sleep, help/barter with the visitor etc) in order to improve these 4 factors, for example build a bed or cook some food. At night you send out one character to scavenge from other buildings while the others sleep or stand guard. As in-game time progresses more and more buildings become available for scavenging. They are graded as safe, risky or dangerous – if you’re attacked and injured it can be catastrophic (as I found to my cost). You can also choose to attack others using weapons you’ve crafted or taken from victims, but this will affect the morale of your whole group so you have to consider it carefully. It’s possible (and even advisable) to play the entire game without any conflict.

Each of your characters has his/her own strengths and weaknesses which are described in their Bio. You have to learn and exploit these traits in order to maximise your group’s survival capability. For example, some have a larger carrying capacity so are better at scavenging; one is good at cooking and uses fewer resources to produce food; some smoke or drink coffee so you have to provide enough so they don’t get depressed.

Through the course of the game you’re subjected to extra challenges such as winter time and an outbreak of crime during which your scavenging becomes restricted. The severity of these events can be pre-set at the start of the game, essentially the level of difficulty. You can also choose your characters instead of random selection.

Once you reach the end of the game (either surviving or not) you see the story of what happened to your characters after the war. In the case of my playthrough, they all died in various ways.

My Experience

I knew what type of game this was going into it so I was prepared to make important decisions in reaction to an ever-changing environment, and the slick graphics looked nice in the screenshots. The reality of it was not as interesting as I’d hoped and as for the graphics, it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d be looking at the same thing throughout most of the game. The store page shows what looks like a cutscene but no such thing exists in-game so I found that a bit misleading.

You don’t really feel like you’re making big decisions, it’s just endless scavenging/crafting grind. You’re always looking at the same 3 characters walking slowly around a 2D house becoming relentlessly sicker/sadder/more tired so you’re always on the back foot trying to keep up, like in a bad dream. The decisions you have to make don’t feel proactive. You have a list of items to craft and you have to decide which ones you want, which raw items to scavenge to make them and which buildings to scavenge from. The whole game entails clicking items and occasionally deciding whether or not to help someone or barter with them. It becomes stale. In a Point & Click adventure game you have an interesting storyline, changing scenery and cutscenes. This is just the clicking without much else.

Yes yes, I understand the drudgery is the whole point, but when all is said and done this is a game and therefore should be enjoyable and something to look forward to. I had a review to write but when I found myself procrastinating, thinking of this game as a chore and doing ‘displacement activities’, as my mother used to say (ie. anything else to avoid having to play it) then I came to the realisation that this game is not for me.

I don’t disagree with the many other reviewers who have given this an ‘Overwhelmingly Positive’ rating. I totally get it. It is a professional, complex game with a powerful message, but I personally did not enjoy it. It teaches about the hardships of war from non-combatants’ points of view, but dare I say a book or the daily news might be a more appropriate avenue than a game? Just putting it out there.

Another aspect of the game I found frustrating and unnecessary is the fact that you have no save options whatsoever and if you want to change the level of difficulty mid-game (as I did), too bad, you can’t. Any devastating event or bad decision is permanent. You can’t revert to a previous save because there are none. Perhaps this is deliberate, in order to force the player to face the consequences of their actions, but to me it’s arrogant of the devs to withhold this basic function from the player, as if to say they can’t be trusted to play the game as-is.

Linux Issues

The resource requirements of the game appear modest. It’s a 2D static environment with only 3 slowly moving characters. So why does it make my i7 CPU run at 100% with the fans screaming like a jet engine, even on the main menu before I start the game, and sometimes freezes or crashes to desktop? It’s not just me, others have complained of this. The situation was so bad that I feared for the health of my hardware and decided to play in Windows instead (which doesn’t seem to suffer as much), but this further dampened my already sour mood with the game in general.

Difficulty

For my coup de grâce I’m now going to explain how this game is fundamentally flawed.

The first time you play you have no idea what lies ahead so you’re flailing around aimlessly crafting whatever you can for no real reason. There can be no informed decisions about anything, it’s all just blind guesswork. At this point, the difficulty is impossible/unfair. You will not survive.

The way you eventually survive is by knowing what’s going to happen (the events always follow the same pattern) and therefore which items to scavenge/craft. So in other words you just have to keep repeating the same game until you can predict the future and click the necessary items. Does that seem like a challenge to you?

Value

I’d say there’s more than enough content to warrant the midrange pricing, if you like this sort of thing. Replay value is compulsory.

Steam

It has everything: 30 achievements; 6 trading cards; Steam Cloud; Workshop, even DLC.

Verdict

There is (intentionally) no fun or sense of achievement in this game, until the brief moment right at the end IF you finally survive. It’s a point-and-click struggle against the environment which is out to get you. Winning involves learning the situations the game has to throw at you (by repetition) and clicking the right items to keep your head above water. Ratings show that many people enjoy this and you may well agree with them. As a non-Steam-purchase key activation I’m glad that my downvote doesn’t affect the overall rating of the game but I can’t recommend it with a clear conscience.

A REVIEW BY BORT

If you are looking for something a bit different, that doesn’t just reward you with another shiny pixel for shooting some other player in the head, or if you are bored with the regular offerings, then this may just be the game for you.

It takes place in a warzone city, based on the conflicts in Eastern Europe. The aim of the game is simple. Survive until reinforcements come and lift the siege. Actually doing it though, is far harder.

You start off with 3 or 4 people, and most of a house that seems to be out of the way of the shelling. You need to keep your people well, warm, fed, watered, and happy, or at least, content. Each night, you can send out one person to do some looting in another location. That location may be populated or abandoned. There may be people trying to live there, or looking for trading partners. Or, there could be soldiers who will probably try to kill you.

This War of Mine

The deaths of the innocent is an important aspect of This War of Mine

As the game progresses, and you bring more loot home, you can start crafting – beds, heaters, cookers are pretty essential, but then you also have things like water collectors and rat traps to provide food and water, a radio so you can listen in on the news, and find out what is coming to the city, or even something that lets you grow tobacco or medicinal herbs.

Of course, if you acquire too much stuff, and not enough weapons, chances are someone will try to raid you at night, stealing whatever they can, and injuring (or worse) one of your survivors.

If you are looking for a happy, friendly game, this is not it. If you are looking at a harsh look at the realities of war from a non-combatant’s view, then this is the game you are looking for. Or, if you are looking for something a bit more challenging than usual, this will provide exactly that, while still being fun.

Good

  • Stylish 2D graphics
  • Good amount of content/complexity
  • Powerful/emotional message

Bad

  • The chore of tedious, grindy clicking
  • Surviving entails nothing more than memorising the gameplay by repetition
7.7

Good