More often than not when you play a war game you play as the underdog soldier who shoots his way up the ranks to end whatever war you are fighting. There’s no doubt we have seen every angle of war from the perspective of a soldier, but what about the civilians caught up in the ordeal? While you’re running around guns blazing, what is life like for the people whose homes get shattered into pieces? 11-bit studios pondered the same question, and the result became This War of Mine. The game originally released on PC back in 2014, but now it’s back and hitting the Nintendo Switch with additional DLC and all upcoming updates included in This War of Mine: Complete Edition.
This is a survival game set during wartime. You take shelter in a war-torn building and try to survive for as many days as you can. You can craft furniture and repair the building, scavenge for food and other necessities, and keep track of your characters’ well being. While that all sounds simple enough on paper, it gets much more complicated in practice. Every move you make has a hurdle of some kind you must overcome. The controls take a bit to get used to. After all it’s adapting the keyboard/mouse control scheme of the original computer game to analog sticks. As far as PC game adaptations go, the controls have had quite a bit of thought put into them to work as well as they do.
The number one goal, of course, is to survive, but there are many layers to accomplishing this. You must survive the scavenger missions, making sure to avoid threats and getting back to the shelter before dawn. You must survive the weather, by weatherproofing the house and building equipment like heaters to make it through the winter. And you must survive the war long enough to reach the day of ceasefire. You will have to manage your food, supplies, and health of your characters. Survival plays a big part in this game, and what you do to survive may leave a lasting impact on your characters.
You will start the game with very few people, but as you play the game you’ll unlock more character scenarios to play through. Each one is unique through both their backstory as well as their own special traits. Some of them may be fantastic cooks, some may have better carpenter skills, and some may just be faster at running than others. Every trait, no matter how small, will seem significantly more useful in the war-torn environment. Each character also has their own levels of sensitivity and needs. These can add an additional layer of challenge to keeping your characters fully functional in this harsh time. Managing all of them can become quite the ordeal, so you’ll have to make the decision as to how many you want to have in your care at any one time. It’s a double-edged sword because while you want all the help you can get, you also have to take care of each one, which becomes incrementally more difficult to do.
The gameplay quality is great and I had fun playing through the different scenarios. The Nintendo Switch version includes the base game, which in and of itself provides hours upon hours of gameplay and replayability. On top of that are several DLC packs that are included free of charge that have even more to unravel. One of them even has you playing the game from the perspective of children, which is quite profound, and there are heavy story scenarios to keep you engaged. The developers have more DLC planned and all of it will be free for Switch owners, so there’s a lot of content here to keep gamers coming back for more.
If there’s one thing the game excels most at, it’s the atmosphere and tone of what it must be like to live in a warzone. A lot of time and effort went into showing what it’s like to have your normal life ripped away due to wartime conflict. The backgrounds are pencil shaded, emphasizing the depressing imagery of shattered homes and broken streets. The music has a naturally eerie tone to it, which is benefited by the sounds of gunshots and explosions in the background. Even your own characters can contribute to the overall atmosphere in how they develop. They can get sad and depressed to the point where they don’t want to go on. In fact, depending on your actions you can cause your character to break down and refuse to move at all, which could end up causing them to commit suicide due to having no hope left. This is a very dark and somber game, but to its credit it needs to be to adequately portray the horrors of war.
My favorite part of This War of Mine is how it grips you with its story. The depths of the characters and what they experience makes you care for them. It breaks your heart to see one of them die from injuries or sickness, and it hurts even worse trying to continue on with the other characters after their death. This game gives you the difficult choices to make, and your attachment to the characters makes it all the more difficult. Whether it’s trading away all your food and supplies just to get some medicine for your sick child, or stealing from a harmless elderly couple due to you having no supplies at all, the game makes each decision have a heavy impact on your playthrough. If you stole from that elderly couple then your character will never let you forget it. There are no black and white decisions here – all of them are equally grey and bleak. There’s nothing quite like this on the Switch, and it’s worth experiencing!
This War of Mine: Complete Edition Review
- Graphics - 7.5/107.5/10
- Sound - 8/108/10
- Gameplay - 7/107/10
- Lasting Appeal - 9/109/10
Final Thoughts: GREAT
This War of Mine: Complete Edition is a dark and harrowing experience that does the survival genre justice. It’s not the usual happy-go-lucky game that you’re used to on the Switch, but if you’re looking for a provocative title with excellent storytelling and captivating characters, this is a great one to purchase.