Sunday, February 01, 2015

Tech: This War of Mine

In 11 bit studios' "This War of Mine," a civil war rages in a fictional Eastern European city. But this is not a "Call of Duty" or "Battlefield" game, and the battle is not exciting or heroic. Instead, you control a group of ordinary civilians caught in the conflict, desperately trying to survive until the war ends:

Mechanically, "This War of Mine" is similar to numerous other survival-crafting games. Each day, you lay low in your shelter, cobbling together beds, meals, chairs, radios, and other equipment out of the sundries you have on hand. Each survivor needs food, rest, and entertainment by default, and if someone gets sick or injured, you'll need to find medicine or bandages or they might get worse. It's very much a depressing wartime version of "The Sims."

The danger ratchets up during the nighttime, when you lead a single survivor through bombed-out buildings to scavenge for supplies. You are seldom alone, however, and you'll run into all manner of people who may be helpful or hostile - homeless refugees, bandits, soldiers.  While you can craft weapons and armor to protect yourself during these excursions, you're always outnumbered, and your survivors are not soldiers. Rather, the interface emphasizes stealth and surprise over out-and-out confrontation; your line of sight is rendered in real time, and the noise that you and others make is displayed onscreen.

What really sets apart "This War of Mine" is the grim relentlessness of the setting, inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo. As in a real war, there's no karma system in place to reward you for being "good" or punish you for being "evil." Depending on your choices, there may be moments of kindness (helping to dig out your neighbors from the rubble of a shelled building) and/or moments of atavistic brutality (stealing food from a helpless elderly couple when all of your survivors are starving). The game's greatest achievement is showing how fine the line is between those moments.

Rating: 90/100


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