This War of Mine has been available since last year on PC and mobile platforms and so its arrival on consoles comes as no surprise given the quality of the game. It’s a survival management experience at heart which aims to tell the horrors of war free of preconceived ideas about super hero soldiers and acts of bravery or suicide. It’s a different type of game which developers 11 Bit Studios are keen to point out. You’re not armed to the teeth with weapons and the reality is you’re just ordinary people trying to survive whilst the bloodshed and carnage happen in the background.
So, This War of Mine: The Little Ones adds a slightly different slant to the PC original with the inclusion of children who seemingly suffer the most during the atrocities of war. There’s a few to select to add to the roster of male or female adults (although only one child can be selected per game) with an added twist of relationships between a father and daughter for example which gives more purpose than merely surviving as an individual within a group.
So, the basics are you’re thrust into a house with three other survivors with the aim of keeping warm, well fed, and somehow entertained. It’s certainly not The Sims though as supplies are limited and have to be foraged. From the off it’s easy to simply search the starting house and stock up, but it becomes pretty clear almost immediately that there’s not enough for everyone. So, venturing out to various locations at night (whilst the rest sleep or keep watch) is crucial to success. You’re given an overview of each area you can visit which provides some clues as to whether you’ll encounter potential hostile other survivors or not, but what’s neat is the game allows you to make moral choices. For example, you can stealthily sneak into others houses and steal their supplies running the risk of being discovered and injured – or worse. You can take supplies by force if you’ve managed to make some weapons, or even simply bully and steal from those not able to fight back. Interestingly the choices you make have an impact on the morale of the other survivors in your base home. So, if you’ve stolen food, the others might not agree with this decision which affects their effectiveness in the household to the point where a depressed person isn’t much good.
People can die and if you’ve made some poor choices you’ll possibly end up being targeted and attacked at night. If you’ve not got adequate defences then people in your group can get injured and whatever gains you’ve made from foraging are negated by what has been stolen. It’s hard and challenging keeping peaceful though as you move through the days where resources become limited where there are hungry mouths to feed. How far does one go to keep the group alive at the expense of others doing the same thing. It’s an interesting mechanic made more determining with the inclusion of the children who act as a motive for ones actions. You become emotionally attached to the characters and feel their pain when they convey their thoughts to you.
In terms of visuals the side-on hand drawn sketch effects are gritty and well presented here giving the game a distinctive and artistic style. The characters animate well and the dark tone is accomplished. You’re able to zoom in and out to get a better idea of the surroundings or more detail of the characters which is neat. There’s only one complaint here being levelled at moving between floors via the stairs which can be a little awkward at times but aside from this, the interface works well and the general pacing is fair.
Audio is limited with a haunting and subdued soundtrack on offer and very little in the way of voice overs (except on the radio and the odd sounds coming from the children). The conveyance of emotion is via mannerisms of the characters and text bubbles which works but perhaps could have been acted for greater effect.
Gameplay takes quite of bit of time, and although you can spend your days building supplies, trading, crafting new useful items there’s an option to skip to the end of the day for more foraging. You’ve got to survive a set number of days which includes a harsh winter as well. What’s neat is being able to create your own character types (in a limited way) and tailor some of the base gameplay mechanics to your choosing such as 20 days or up to 80 days survival and the intensity of the overall conflict which affects the behaviours of other characters , scarcity of supplies and trading prices. There’s enough to mess around here with which means replay value is high even though a basic play through can last many hours depending on how good you are.
This War Of Mine: The Little Ones is an interesting take on management survival with its dark premise and some thought provoking moments as you and your small community strive to make way in the harsh climate of war. It’s an easy game to pick up and play but pretty tough to master as wrong decisions can prove costly and when people die there’s no going back. If you’re after a different game that ditches the overt nature of combat for something more subtle, then this is well worth checking out. It’s a slow paced affair but a rewarding and enjoyable one as well once you understand what’s required of you.