“This War of Mine” is a war survival horror game which launched in November of 2014, developed by the Indie company 11 Bit Studios. It’s unique for being a war-based game that has the player play as a civilian caught up in a war-torn city, not as a soldier or anyone involved with direct combat. On the Nintendo Switch, it found its way to digital sales in late 2018. 2018 was a few years ago, yet according to the Nintendo E-Shop, it’s among the top ten most downloaded games in the months of March and April of this year. Why is that?
At the time of writing, for the next four days, This War of Mine is available at a whopping 95% off, costing players just $1.99 to own.
Is This War of Mine just a minor cheap thrill? Or is there more substance to it that could even justify its original price tag? Let’s discuss the game, starting with what it does right.
It is loaded with content
For just $2, you easily have at least 100 hours of gameplay, potentially more as this game has a great deal of replayability. The $1.99 version available right now is the Complete Edition, coming with three packs of DLC plus the base game. There are three well-fleshed out stories available for DLC in addition to the sandbox which is the base game. For this reason alone, you are assuredly getting your money’s worth, and likely would be even if you paid full price for the game.
Storytelling is interesting and simple
In “Father’s Promise,” the player plays as Adam, a man living in his rundown house that has been basically destroyed by an unidentifiable invading force. His wife, Barbara was apparently killed somehow and his daughter Amelia is gravely ill. For the first few days, Adam does whatever he can to keep her safe and healthy. Within a few in-game days, Adam passes out due to exhaustion. When he wakes, he finds Amelia has been abducted. The rest of the game encompasses Adam’s journey to get her back while maintaining his own health and safety along the way.
While very simple, the narrative is done up well enough to be supported by solid gameplay.
Moral dilemmas are incredibly powerful
Early in “Father’s Promise,” Adam will enter a hospital in search of Amelia. He finds a sickly old woman wearing Amelia’s hoodie — this woman clearly has had nothing to do with kidnapping Amelia and, when approached, tells Adam that she is frail and will certainly die of extreme cold if she doesn’t use the hoodie. Here, the dilemma is deciding whether or not to risk the already sick Amelia getting even sicker out in the elements, or to allow the old woman to die so you can correct this problem once locating Amelia. In general, powerful moral dilemmas like this are fairly common throughout the game, giving it quite a lot of depth.
Gameplay is decently structured
For the most part, gameplay is simple and enjoyable. It is a survival game, so maintaining your character’s physical and emotional state is paramount. Scavenging for needed resources is necessary, but this will often force the player into hostile territory, where invading soldiers pose a major threat. Fellow civilians aren’t always friendly either, and may try to rob or even raid the player’s base at times. As such, decision making is frequently stressed and consequences for messing up are quite realistic, making this game out to be reasonably challenging and engaging.
This War of Mine isn’t quite perfect. Let’s talk about what’s not so great about it.
Combat is very clunky
This isn’t the end of the world as, quite frankly, rushing a group of soldiers armed with rifles while you yourself have a shovel isn’t something you’d want to do anyway. Having said that, combat in general is a little bit messy and difficult to enjoy. The player must pull out a weapon, hope they aren’t standing next to anything they could interact with, select the target they want to attack and randomly hit buttons until someone ends up dead. If the player is standing next to an interactable, doing this becomes irritating as the player can very easily accidentally select to, say, smash a hole in a wall with their hatchet instead of smash an enemy with it, causing their character to be killed by the enemy, or at least wounded. Combat itself is also very barebones, as both combatants will simply raise their weapon up and down like they’re action figures. While combat of some kind was definitely necessary, it was poorly handled. If the limitations of a 3D platformer constrained game development, perhaps handling combat similarly to the typical Pokémon or Persona game could have helped make it more refined overall.
Load times are horrendous
You can tell this is an Indie game because loading screens look and feel like the game was made in the mid-2000s. Even loading simple things like the title screen takes minutes. Expect to read ‘Loading…’ on a pure black screen for quite a while.
And that’s about it.
Overall, This War of Mine is easily worth the $1.99 price tag considering how much quality content is in this game. For that matter, this game would probably be worth the original $40 price tag as well. I’d give the game a solid B, as it checks off all boxes that make survival games good. As an Indie game, this is definitely one of the better ones out there.