This War of Mine: Hands On

This War of Mine is, quite frankly, shaping up very well in what it’s trying to do. It’s trying to show the effects of a war on the general populace rather than the standard macho soldier. What makes it even more interesting is that mechanically, it’s all about making hard choices. Every decision that you make will likely come back and bite you in one form or another; it’s not a question of if but when. It only has the first 12 days playable currently which I’ve played through four times. Each time I’ve had some quite different circumstances to deal with. There have been similarities, but each playthrough has had a fairly different set of goals for me based on the first three days and what I’ve had to deal with or what I’ve started out with.

Beginning with three survivors – each with their own quirks and backstory – you have to survive in a partially ruined house. The daytime section of the game has you use materials you’ve scavenged to build things for home improvement, equipment and bartering items; you also have to manage the survivors’ needs and perhaps talk to any visitors that come knocking at your door.

Scavenging is the other half of the game; sending out a lone character while the others either guard your home or sleep (rough or in a bed). It changes the sort of game it is quite radically. It becomes a stealth game with influences from Mark of the Ninja. Like MotN it has sound that echoes out visually and it also greys out areas where you don’t have vision on in real-time. You wander around small levels, finding things to search and people to barter with/steal from/kill, though killing is often the worst choice both morally and for gameplay.

There are definitely moments to make you feel uncomfortable with your choices; stealing from people gets those that were at home to be sad that it’s come to this. Worse still is that if you are caught, sometimes you have to kill someone who is largely innocent – the worst they’ve done is maybe assault you after you’ve stolen from them. My first kill made me feel momentarily awful; their spouse ran full on at me. She immediately fell to the ground and began weeping over her husband who I only just killed. It made me feel guilty, and I justified it to myself in the way that any burglar turned murderer does; he came at me.

When I returned from scavenging, my character dropped to the floor and wouldn’t move for the rest of the day. He just sat there with his head in his hands thinking about what he’d (I’d) done. On his character portrait the word ‘depressed’ hung accusingly. It didn’t just affect him; both of the other survivors were sad and they were continuously saying things like “what have we come to” and “I can’t believe he did this”.

On another occasion I entered a supermarket and heard talking behind a door. I crept up and peeked through and there was a soldier and a female survivor. She was just scavenging for food; he made advances on her which she refused. It was obvious where this was headed so I crept up behind him and, as he pulled her to the ground, I smashed him over the head with a crowbar. It seemed like he was about to retaliate but then he dropped dead and fell down to the level below. I’m glad I killed him and I was uncomfortable to watch this event pan out. I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t stepped in, but there aren’t any comparable events that I’ve come across.

To step away from all the events that rip any shred of hope or decency from your characters, there are also heart-warming (or at least less devastating) events that can occur. A few times that I’ve gone to the supermarket there have been another group of scavengers; they’re heavily armed but one called me over and invited me in, saying that there was plenty to share inside. I also found a starving homeless man in a house once. He kept saying that he’d die if he didn’t eat. The next night I brought food for him; he was so thankful he showed me a hidden hideaway with some top quality liquor, which is a huge boon for trading with.

Whether it makes you wait on not, the game is already brimming with content that’s providing commentary on subjects not often (proportionally to other things) covered in media, something especially glossed over in games. It’ll be interesting to see how these subjects are treated as the player progresses further into the game. Part of me wants to know just how far they will take some of the darker stuff, but I can’t say that I particularly want to test it out myself regardless of those involved being entirely fictitious; either way I can’t wait to see how the game shapes up in its final form.

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Written by Sean P

I enjoy playing games and I enjoy writing things, so I decided to combine the two. I do bits here and there and have a twitter that mainly just announces things I've done as my life revolves around very little that is truly interesting.

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