PAX East – This War of Mine Hands-On Impressions

This War of Mine has been one of my most anticipated games of this year ever since developer 11 Bit Studios released the teaser trailer. When I saw that they had a booth on the show floor, I knew we had to go see if the product matched the hype. I was not disappointed. 

More than anything, the visuals are what stood out to me. Other than the walls of the bombed out house that your group of survivors takes shelter in, everything has a penciled in look. This leads to almost everything being white, black, or shades of grey. You see a 2D cross-section of every building that you’re in and can keep an eye on an entire building all at once.

In your shelter are three characters, each with his own specialty: the cook, the scavanger, and the negotiator. The start of your first day in the shelter has you switching between the three, opening up and exploring your shelter. Like any other survival game, you scavenge for food, weapons, materials, and medicine.

This War of Mine

The game has a day/night cycle with your actions limited to what time it is. Daytime means staying put in your shelter and using the supplies you’ve found to make your survival easier via beds, weapons, tools, beds, or even a liquor still. Nighttime has you picking a group member to either sleep, scavenge, or stand guard. Scavenging is where most of your supplies come from, but it also carried the risk of running into other survivors, some of which can’t be trusted. If you think it’s worth the risk, you can try to trade goods with these survivors, and some items (read: booze) are worth more than others. As time goes by, you’ll see your group’s strength and health deteriorate due to hunger, exhaustion, injury, and illness. You can leave them to their fate or try to secure the items you need to keep them going.

Instead of controlling the characters explicitly, This War of Mine plays more like a point-and-click. You click on a character then click on something in the environment you can interact with. While you’re in your shelter, you can see all the interactive objects but if you’re out exploring, the building is blacked out and a your vision cone is limited to the room you’re in.

I spent three in-game days and nights trying to make sure all my characters survived through running into other scavengers, getting sick, and being robbed while they slept. The only thing 11 Bit has to work on is improving the flow of time. Days seem to stretch on forever while nights pass by so fast, that you’re scrambling to pick anything up.

I enjoyed the almost half-hour I spent with the game and would have played more if the line behind me wasn’t so long. One of the developers working the booth said that he even had to force some people off after they spent a long time playing the game. If this level of interest carries over to the game’s release, it’s easy to see that This War of Mine will be a huge success.

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