This War of Mine (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 14.11.2014

Review for This War of Mine on PC

War is not a Hollywood movie nor, in the medium of gaming, is it a Call of Duty vision of excitement and epic drama. War is bleak, nasty and generally a dirty business for all involved except for the people caught up in the middle of it. In This War of Mine those in the middle are the central characters. This is not a game that has the player controlling an elite squad of soldiers armed to the teeth, instead presenting a randomised cast of citizens who live in a bombed out building, scavenging supplies in order to survive. 11 Bit Studio's other games include the Anomaly series that portrays a science fiction-based conflict in a very different tone. This War of Mine is a huge departure from that, in place of an Eastern European city called Pogoren that could be taken from any number of recent conflicts. Does This War of Mine strike the right balance between emotional impact and fun game? Read on…

Quite simply, This War of Mine is stunning. Not only is this an utterly compelling sandbox adventure, but it is haunting in its emotional breadth. From the start menu there is a very minimalist approach. There are no tutorials, there are no introductory cut-scenes, nor is there any dramatic voice over. The player is thrown straight into a randomly generated bombed out shelter in which they are introduced to randomly selected characters. They have a name and a small biography that tells a back-story about them, and from that point the clock starts.

This War of Mine has two game phases based in a 2.5D side-scrolling environment that operates very similar in style to the base sections of XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Control of each of the characters is very easy to pick up as it is simply a case of clicking where they go and clicking on well visible icons to interact. The first phase of play takes place during the daytime and involves being inside the home shelter because of snipers operating amongst the bombed out ruins of Pogoren during the day.

Screenshot for This War of Mine on PC

The clock ticks down fast while the player manages the emotional and physical status of each of the characters who have information about their mindset and feelings such as "wounded," "sick," "sad," or "tired." Managing the people in the shelter is a constant battle in itself as supplies quickly drain away from use and it almost feels reminiscent of managing in The Sims, albeit in an entirely different context.

The real terror and brutal nature of the game comes through during the night-time phase. During the night, the screen switches to a map overlay in which the nail biting choice emerges. A choice has to be made between what area to search, which character has to do it, and what character (or characters) stays behind to guard the home shelter. It is an emotional gut punch making a decision. Is the best scavenger in the team the sickest or most tired? Is it worth going into a dangerous area for the reward of more vital medicines or food? If everyone sleeps, is there a risk of someone robbing the shelter? These are just some of the choices that need to be weighed up and all of them have consequences.

Screenshot for This War of Mine on PC

The ultimate consequence is death and that is exactly what will happen when entering some of the locations to search for items or barter with other civilians. This is a sandbox warzone - bartering supplies is an option. Attacking people off the cuff is also an option for those who favour the dog eat dog approach. With that approach comes consequences, though. The overall world is filled with gun toting psychopaths just ready to kill, and when they do, it is permanent. There are no second lives in war and like XCOM: Enemy Unknown, the bonds formed with these people mean decisions, and ultimately death, hit incredibly hard. Not to mention losing a character with a particular skill set is a blow to the survival of the others.

The benefit of these supplies gathered can be used in many things from beds to fight off tiredness and improve happiness, to a fire that plays into the temperature mechanic present. There is even an option to make a radio that not only gives snippets into the back-story of this conflict, but also plays music for a morale boost. These snippets are particularly impressive as they elevate This War of Mine into a higher echelon of intelligent storytelling. The news reports of the conflict going on do not instruct on which side to take; there are no good guys in this war. Just like in real life, conflict does not come in black and white here - there is only one goal, which is survival.

Screenshot for This War of Mine on PC

The visual presentation of This War of Mine is equally as striking and evocative as the rest of the game. The world is drawn in a beautiful but equally poignant pencil and charcoal effect. It gives the world the feel of having a layer of smoke from the shelled ruins, drifting around the outside world and sticking to the buildings. It is almost a monochromic style, which in some games might be boring, but here it works perfectly in order to emphasise the bleakness of this messed up city and creates a quite unique and impactful visual presentation. Even the character models are rundown and grey.

What is additionally impressive is the sense of scale in the locales. Considering they are randomised, they maintain a constant level of intrigue. During the night, looking through the keyhole into a room has all the potential tension of a horror movie, as anything could be waiting inside. Each of these buildings has its own story to tell of the conflict. Some buildings have "sniper" painted in graffiti on the walls outside to warn of the dangers inside. The people living inside these places are the same as the player controlled characters and elicit the same emotional response and it is a constant dilemma to decide whether to rob them and condemn them to death, or go another day without food. The choices are not always good or bad in This War of Mine, but they must be made.

Screenshot for This War of Mine on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 10 out of 10

Masterpiece - Platinum Award

Rated 10 out of 10

This War of Mine is arguably one of the most powerful games ever created at conveying the troubling reality of war in an emotional and thought-provoking way. That it does these, not through big explosions and fancy textures, is all the more impressive. These are real stories; this is a game that takes risks. There are no punches pulled in a world where everyone suffers, including children, and are shown as casualties, something other games have in the past shied away from. However, this is not just some experience to make a point. This is a damn fun game to play, it is incredibly hard to put down due to its incredibly tight mechanics, which all blend together to create something really special. Quite simply, buy This War of Mine.


11 Bit Studios


11 Bit Studios





C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  10/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   


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