This War of Mine - Games Weekly

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Friday, November 21, 2014

This War of Mine

So, a cook, a scavenger, and a dude with a propensity for moving very quickly walk into an empty husk of a building one day, and that’s where This War of Mine begins. It’s a side scrolling survival game hybrid that deals with the domesticity of nation-versus nation conflict and the endless pursuit of life as we barely know it.

It’s a bleak experience, one further accentuated by the stark visuals. Buildings are hollowed-out carcasses, full of debris and the wreckage of human lives. Smoke undulates eternally in the background, seeping between the dead black trees and crumbled masonry, all reminders of a war that continues to rage on.

This War of Mine opens by depositing a handful of randomised survivors into your control, each defined by a single notable trait. Some are great runners, others excel at distinguishing treasure from trash. But these proficiencies seem mostly nominal. By and large, everyone has the same duty: keeping each other alive.

Activity changes depending on the time. During the day, the game plays a little like a two dimensional take on  The Sims . Left to their own devices, your characters will wither away, all the while muttering forlornly about their grim situation. It’s your responsibility to left click their way to food, heat, and construction projects, with occasional trips to the front door to greet visitors.
By and large, everyone has the  same duty: keeping each other alive
Night brings a different set of challenges. Scavenging missions morph This War of Mine into a stealth-lite of sorts. Select a location from an ever-growing roster, then initiate your expedition one that might have you doing everything from looting an abandoned house to investigating a school filled with armed enemies.

How you choose to approach these sojourns through the city is, as always, entirely up to you. In one playthrough, I took the pacifistic route in an encounter with a young man and his ailing father. The youth wanted medicine or alcohol. I wanted a shovel. After some bartering, he gave me the gardening tool in exchange for jewellery, and then shouted at me until I went home. In another playthrough, I decided to callously murder both him and his father, and pilfer their property. There was no hero’s welcome when I returned, only an inconsolable grief.

It’s still too early to tell whether the emotional impact of such vignettes will survive repeated playthroughs. Every location I’ve revisited thus far seems to sport the same inhabitants, the same needs, the same demands. But what I’ve seen makes me want to hang onto the hope that This War of Mine  might help this war of ours against one-dimensional games.

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