[Review] This War of Mine: Complete Edition – Nintendo Switch

This War of Mine: Complete edition

  • Developer : 11 bit studios
  • Publisher : 11 bit studios
  • Release Date : 27/11/2018
  • Review code provided by 11 bit studios
  • Price: £35.99 / $39.99

In war, not everyone is a soldier.

As I sit here listening to the sombre, moving soundtrack to ‘This War of Mine’ by 11 bit studios, I continue to reflect on just how powerful this game has the potential to be. From its war-torn and ravaged settings, to its traumatic stories of hope and despair, all the way through to its all-too-real depiction of how brutal life can be for some around the world, ‘This War of Mine’ pulls no punches. 

Taking inspiration from the Siege of Sarajevo which occurred during the Bosnian War from 1992-1996, 11 bit studios have looked to offer a unique insight into life, not for the soldiers, but for the civilians who are adversely affected by war and conflict. Not often attempted in the gaming industry, the developers had quite the task on their hands to ensure the game explores these themes with respect and decorum. I am always skeptical when games attempt this, as there is an extremely fine line to tread when providing an entertaining gaming experience steeped in tragedy.

The first indicator that ‘This War of Mine’ was going to successfully portray the struggles of civilians in war-torn countries was when the ‘War Child’ charity logo appeared on-screen upon start up. Further research into this collaboration indicated that after its initial release on Steam in 2014, additional DLC was released with all profits going to the ‘War Child’ charity to support children in Syria. With my reservations allayed, I loaded the first of the two parts to this Complete Edition, the ‘classic modes.’ 

In the classic mode, which is effectively the base game which has been released on all major gaming platforms since 2014, you find yourself in a run-down, dilapidated building. This serves as your shelter, and in it you will find a randomly generated number of inhabitants which you can control. Each of the playable characters has their own backstory, accessible in-game, and they keep a diary of their thoughts and feeling as the game progresses. It was this, coupled with the inclusion of real-life images of people, which brought into sharp focus for me once again that what I was to gain an insight into would be tragic and unrelenting. 

After acquainting myself with the stories of each character, I then took the time to explore our new “home” and see what I could gather. From the bare necessities of food and water, down to electrical parts and herbal medicine, it became increasingly evident that this game would offer a lot of depth. I found ‘stations’, similar in style to the likes of Fallout and Minecraft, where you craft new items based on what you have available in your inventory. I immediately built a bed, as it seemed most appropriate, and placed it in one of the many rooms in the shelter. Later down the line, I would expand my shelter to include a stove, a herb workshop, a rainwater collector and a weapon crafting station.

After exhausting the options available, I noted the time in the top left-hand corner of the screen. As it approached 8pm, I was informed that day had turned to night and I was presented with a number of options. I had to decide what my characters were to do: sleep, guard or scavenge. I selected one of each for the three characters in my party, and embarked on a scavenge with Pavle – once a footballer, now separated from his wife and child and living in squalor.

All’s fair in love and war

Before the scavenging began, I had to choose where I would go to hunt for resources and what items I wanted to take. In the latter stages of my survival, these items would take the form of weapons, a shovel and lockpicks – for obvious reasons. For now, I had to go in empty handed. When selecting the location of the scavenge, you are provided with information to make the best decision based on your current status i.e. the ‘Decrepit Squat’ has “huge amounts of materials, some weapons, and lots of parts available. It is inhabited by the homeless, however, as they are struggling with a lack of food, they won’t prove to be much of a threat.”

This is where the bulk of the gameplay takes shape, as you need to ensure you carefully select the right items to scavenge to ensure the survival of the group. With a limited number of slots available in the inventory, the needs of the group must be considered at all times. I always found this part of the game the most tense – my thoughts were with the rest of the party who were guarding our shelter and I wanted to do all I could to keep them alive. Every moment spent scavenging brought more risk, with interactions between other NPCs increasingly more likely.

Upon return to the shelter with the nights haul, you are greeted with a screen which informs you of all that happened whilst you were away. Oftentimes, it was not good news: the shelter was raided overnight and all of our items taken; Bruno’s wounds have gotten worse and he has lost a lot of blood; Marko ran away and took all of our stock. Many of the nights events can have a devastating impact on the progress you have made, and I was always nervous to see what I was going to have to deal with next. I always found that just when I felt I had everything under control, something would happen that meant we were knocked back once again.

There are a number of games which ‘This War of Mine’ shares similarities with: Fallout Shelter for the level design, Minecraft for the crafting mechanics, and SIMS for the character development. The latter is one of upmost importance, as much like in EAs simulation game, the characters have a number of different statuses which need to be monitored throughout the game. Hunger, injuries and emotions are the most common, with it often being that at least one of your characters is either ‘Very Hungry’, ‘Severely Wounded’ or ‘Broken.’ This added dynamic raises the stakes again, with management of these needs making survival a challenge.  

The other options available in game are similar variations on the theme. ‘This War of Mine: Stories’ includes the additional DLC that has been added to the base game over the years, and provides a series of well-crafted stories written specifically for the characters you start with. The other gameplay mode, and the one that deserves particular mention, is the ability to create your own scenarios, entitled ‘My Own Scenario.’ Choosing everything from the characters you start with, how many days will transpire before ceasefire, the intensity of conflict and which areas of the map are available, ‘My Own Scenario’ is the perfect way to make this incredibly challenging survival game, a little less so for those who need it. Without this inclusion, I think the game may have proven too difficult for some which would have been a shame.

Conclusion

An incredibly well-crafted, deep and challenging survival game, ‘This War of Mine’ serves as the perfect reminder of the power video games possess. Tackling mature and sensitive themes with tact and decorum, I was moved by the stories of the characters and felt an attachment which meant I had to ensure their survival. The gameplay is, at times, very challenging, and the subject matter won’t appeal to all, however what 11 bit studios have achieved should not go unrecognised. 

Verdict
A Heartfelt Hughes Experience
4.5/5

 

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