This War of Mine Review
Games are often set in war zones, but you're inevitably cast as a heroic soldier able to single-handedly turn the tide of the war or as a general observing everything from afar as you issue orders to your troops. And then you have This War of Mine, a game that instead focuses on noncombatants, civilians trapped in a war zone not by choice, but by the most unfortunate of circumstances. Your goal is far from winning the war, it is simply to survive.
The game puts you in control of three men who have banded together for survival and are occupying a damaged apartment building. The situation is bleak as the men are all hungry, injured, and/or sick, there's not enough food to go around, and there are no medical supplies at all. Your first priority is take care of these pressing needs, first by scavenging through the wreckage in the building and then, once night falls, venturing forth into the city to find supplies. Leaving the relative safety of your building is always risky as you never know who you will encounter. If you're lucky it may be fellow survivors willing to trade or, even better, share with you, but it could just as easily be soldiers or scavengers willing to kill you for the meager supplies that you've gathered so far on your outing.
It's not just the basic needs that you'll need to worry about, though. Cigarettes and alcohol keep nerves from fraying completely. Supplies will let you craft devices for catching rain water or generating electricity, or even just to make a bed so that sleep is more productive in restoring energy. And it never really ends (well, unless you die that is). Supplies will always be scarce, and all of your needs will never be met.
There's a heavy psychological component at work as well, as everyone is stretched to the breaking point. Sometimes you may have to go a little hungry so that you can dull the despair with a little alcohol or acquire the parts necessary to get a radio working to give you a distraction. Your actions have consequences that can take their toll on the psyche as well. You may be able to fend off hunger or sickness by stealing supplies from the weak, but the guilt caused by those actions can cause far deeper despair than a growling stomach could ever cause.
From a gameplay perspective, you can take control of anyone in your group of survivors and give them orders by clicking on interactive hotspots - a pile of debris to start digging, a workbench to craft an item, etc. You'll see who is tired or injured on the status display at the bottom right corner of the screen, but to keep abreast of a survivor's other needs or state of mind you'll need to watch for the things they periodically say through cartoon style balloons or you'll risk losing someone to something like total depression.
The game struck me as being remarkably similar to The Sims in that you need to manage the needs of people who won't manage them for themselves. Granted there's a difference between a bored Sim surrounded by every convenience of modern life and a person in a war zone, but from a gameplay perspective it's remarkably similar. If someone gets hungry, then you have to tell them to go eat something - unless you traded your food for cigarettes to satisfy someone else's nicotine addiction, that is. Everything just keeps going around in an endless cycle like that.
And then there's the question of whether or not this is as much a game as it is something more akin to educational software. Buying and playing this game is a bit like choosing to watch a documentary rather than a fictional movie - you're making a decision to learn about something that you may not have any knowledge of or experience with over being entertained. In that regard the game makes you think about some of the issues facing people trapped in war zones and the physical and emotional toll extracted from them by war, but as a game it's not all that much fun and is certainly not something that most gamers will come back to that often, if at all.
Final Rating: 70%. For a game, it's more eye-opening than it is entertaining.