This War of Mine is a fraught, hard-hitting game that managed to keep me coming back despite it probably being the most depressing video game I’ve ever played.
Sheltering in the husk of a building in a war-torn country, resource management and risk assessment make up the bulk of activities, with small amounts of somewhat awkward combat thrown in. Days are spent making the most of what you managed to scavenge over the previous nights. Each night presents new places to explore but some carry more risk than others. Is a piece of food or a component for a radio worth it? Admittedly this does make it all sound pretty terrible, but I found myself coming back to the game to try and improve.
Generally I managed to excel in one area, whilst completely failing in another. My people might be fed but then get shot on a supply run. Other times I’ll play it safer, reinforcing the building from looters, but they’ll starve or commit suicide. It’s tough going. This is before you’ve even dealt with other people, which brings its own dilemmas. On my first few playthroughs I was adamant that I wouldn’t steal. That has since changed. In my quest to keep my people alive I’ve made some fairly horrendous decisions, such as stealing an old couple’s food as they were an easy target. Better them than me right? This is typical of the situations the game puts you in, providing a very different experience that should be applauded.
There are problems though. More than once I’ve died whilst trying to hide or attack due to combat system that’s all sorts of clumsy. Then there’s the bartering system. It’s fine, until you want to remove items from the trade. You have to scroll down past all your items to get to the trade box, where you can then amend things. This isn’t a deal breaker, it’s just frustratingly time consuming and could have been designed better.
The original version of the game didn’t include children. The ‘Little Ones’ bring their own set of challenges. Unable to help initially, they’re unable to deal with what’s going on and need constant attention. Suddenly toys and playing rock/paper/scissors is as important as getting food. Introducing kids into this bleak setting is a mixed bag. On one hand it is more realistic, as most games avoid putting youngsters in risky situations. But then the game holds back, with kids never able to starve or otherwise meet their end. I don’t mean to be cruel, but once you take away that option where’s the threat? For a game that doesn’t pull its punches this seems out of place.
This War of Mine’s subject matter is hard to swallow. It’s not the sort of game that’s going to jump out at you on the download menu. I only downloaded it as it’s a PS+ game. However, if I had taken the plunge and paid for it I wouldn’t have been disappointed. It might not be sunshine and roses but it’s a compelling game that’s worth your time.