For some reason, it’s taken me a bit of time to get to my review of This War of Mine. After finally jumping in, I have to say — delaying this is was a huge mistake. Great atmosphere, excellent attention to detail, and a ton of variety to gameplay elements make it easily one of my contenders for Game of the Year. While it lacks the lustre and grandeur of AAA titles, This War of Mine still spares nothing in its devious crafting of a dangerous, war-torn world and a phenomenal survival experience not like anything I’ve played.
This War of Mine opens with the ruined skyline of an unnamed city, and a single button that reads not “Play”, but “Survive”. As soon as you press it, the scene pans right to a trio of ragged-looking survivors, who’ll be your protagonists. From the onset you’re given a trial-by-fire tutorial that begins the game with one member of your randomized crew injured, and another sick. Offering the supplies you’ll need to tend to these is all the help the game offers, leaving it to your abilities to learn how to use them and which ones you need to stock up on.
This War of Mine uses a simple day/night cycle to break up gameplay modes. During the day, everything happens at the home base. Crafting supplies, furniture, and other necessities dominates this time. Resting and patching up wounded or sick group members happens here, as well. At night, you’re offered a chance to send one of your group on a scavenging run into the city. Each party member can opt to sleep, guard the base, or head out to search for much-needed supplies and materials. Danger fills the embattled landscape, but the rewards can often outweigh the risk.
Surviving in This War of Mine is no simple task. With sickness and injury as the most obvious threats, hunger, tiredness, and other factors have a lot to do with progress. One of my early scavenging runs left the returning Pavle wracked with guilt, represented by a ‘Sad’ status condition that lowered his productivity after walking into an elderly couple’s home and leaving with a full load of food. This moral angle keeps things interesting; you’ll also encounter other survivors wanting trade, asking for help, or outright hostile and trying to take your possessions. It all comes together to create a gruelling, no-holds-barred experience of Man vs the World.
If I’m being entirely honest, This War of Mine is one of the best all-around games I’ve played all year. A crisp, consistent atmosphere, intuitive gameplay, and surprising depth create a fantastic experience. While the pretty steep difficulty may cause some to shy away, I enjoyed myself even as my group was falling apart — it all began when Marko was killed on a scavenging run. Filled with difficult moral and survivalist choices, it keeps you on your toes and thinking the entire time. While the $19.99 price tag on Steam may be higher than many indie titles, it’s easy for me to say it’s entirely worth it. If you’re on the fence, wait for a sale — but jump on it as soon as one pops up.