Gamers are no strangers to war and violence. While most developers are creating newer and cooler ways to shoot someone's face off or blow something up, 11 Bit Studio's new game instead focuses on the flip slide of the coin. In what is probably the closest thing to a “survival game” as you can get, This War of Mine centers around the civilians who experience the horrors of war.
In This War of Mine the player starts off with three randomly chosen characters living in a run-down shelter with no food, beds or stoves. The game operates on a day-night cycle. Most of the day is spent crafting necessities, improving the shelter and bartering for supplies. At night, the player gets to plan a scavenging mission by setting one character on guard duty and sending another to go look for supplies in various locations around town.
The scavenging missions are the emotional core of the game. Supplies never regenerate, so once you've exhausted all the abandoned locations, you have to start breaking into other peoples' homes and steal supplies that they need to survive, even kill them if necessary. But if you think your characters are just grunts who'll shrug off cold-blooded murder, think again. For the stories and characters, 11 Bit Studios interviewed actual war survivors detailing the atrocities they saw firsthand. This adds a sense of realism to the game that is sometimes too bleak and morbid to handle.
In my first playthrough I had a severe shortage of food, so I sent my character to break into a home to find an elderly couple sitting in their living room. When they wouldn't cooperate or barter, I decided to kill them and steal their supplies, because another day without food could result in all my characters starving. What I didn't expect was my character becoming absolutely unresponsive for the whole day, sitting in the cornerand muttering to herself. The next day, she killed herself. Never have I been so emotionally exhausted by a video game.
The art direction is also beautiful and appropriate for the depressing setting. A somber synth soundtrack plays throughout while you navigate the gloomy charcoal-drawing inspired landscape, setting the tone just right.
“This War of Mine” is a really good game with a truly unique concept, where every decision you make really does matter. It is available on PC, Mac and Linux on Steam.