Amidst all the wreckage, games rarely consider what happens to the ones caught in the middle. In the past few decades, countless games have featured war. Real-time strategy games put you in the role of a commander, ordering units to destroy enemies on the road to victory. In First Person Shooter games, players are soldiers who deal and receive equal amounts of destruction and kill-streaks. This War of Mine honestly and tactfully attempts to tackle this issue.
Inspired by the 1992-1996 Siege of Sarajevo, This War of Mine shows war from the civilian perspective. To mirror the confusion felt by civilians caught in a conflict, the game keeps players in the dark about the war’s progress.
The game is set in the fictional city of Pogoren, Graznavia. Government forces battle a rebel faction, while an international peacekeeping force decides whether to intervene in the conflict.
The game’s plot focuses on the day-to-day experiences of the civilians caught in the middle. Players have to carefully decide on how to survive. On one hand, one can do unspeakable things to survive easier. Conversely, players can also take the moral high ground, trading a clean conscience with tougher survival conditions. This moral grey area is what informs the decisions with an impact on the game’s narrative.
Playing This War of Mine feels like playing a more depressing version of The Sims. The game revolves around keeping the civilian group alive. Random events like an outsider asking for food, can force players to make tough choices.
During the day, snipers force survivors to stay inside their shelters. Civilians spend this time building fortifications, clearing debris, crafting, and constructing objects that will aid their survival. Aside from improving the shelter, players have to keep survivors fed and rested.
At night, the game focuses on stealth as one civilian scavenges for supplies outside of the shelter. Here, survivors can completely avoid combat, or use their weapons to survive. Everyone encountered outside of the shelter can be killed, but each kill will weigh heavily on the one who carried it out.
Art and Music
The game uses a dark, muted color palette to capture the emotions felt by civilians in a war-torn city. The dark, foreboding art and sparse music by Piotr Musial add to the sense of dread already provided by the gameplay. Charcoal-sketch style graphics convey a feeling of danger and isolation. The art and music makes it feel much more rewarding when the survivors get through another day.
This War of Mine respectfully tackles a serious subject and effectively conveys it with its gameplay. It’s a game about the small triumphs, and painful losses faced by those trapped in a war-zone. If the goal of the developers were to cause players to stop and reflect on the horrors of war, then they’ve succeeded.
Pros and Cons
+ Art and Music convey the game’s overall mood
+ Survival gameplay
+ The game effectively and tastefully presents moral dilemmas
– Difficulty level is higher than most games