Thirty years ago, I played a game called Little Computer people… a 2D side view of a house, allowing you control the lives of your little inhabitant and helping him carry out day to day tasks. Over the last 3 decades, the Sims seemed the natural evolution of people management but concentrated much more towards social, work and relationships.
Last years Preview program / Early access of ‘Sheltered’ went back to basics, back to the 2D side view, and gave the added problem of post-apocalyptic survival and the mechanics seemed to work well even on next gen consoles.
This War of Mine shares a fair few similarities to all of the above, so let’s take a look…
You begin in an old house, scattered with rubble, doors boarded up, but enough space for you and your group of survivors, initially there’s no choice, but as you play more, you’ll unlock more survivors and further groups to play with in the future.
Initially you have to start scavenging for supplies, to build beds, ovens, or to help secure your base, throughout the first day you’ll start to get to grips with building and maintaining your new home because if you venture outside there’s bound to be a sniper ready to take a shot at you. Each member of the group will have strengths and weaknesses to help along the way, Some might scavenge quicker, run faster or might be better at cooking, however regardless of which group you start with there’ll always be a few obstacles, whether it’s sickness or weakness or the little ones.
While caring for the adults is bad enough, you’ll find yourself parenting children too, and this brings a whole new set of problems over the original base.
There’s also set starting conditions, so depending on your group, you might find there’s different starting items in the house, or maybe its winter and the temperature is near freezing meaning you need to take a fresh approach to survival.
After your first day of scavenging your base, you’ll head into your first night, You select a location to scavenge, and choose what to do with your group members, the tired or sick might be better off staying home and going to sleep, while someone strong in combat might be best left on guard, however as supplied around the house start to diminish you’ll be relying on these nightly excursions to pick up fresh supplies and find items such as weapons.
If you can survive past the first few day’s you’ll quickly become engaged in a tug of war between night and day, with the daytime proving your chance to feed, reinforce and recuperate while the night is the only way to bring in fresh materials to build a new bed, or to reinforce your doors.
Both are equally as important, you need to keep your group in good health because negative events and sickness have a much greater effect on the kids. Then at night, just as you will, others will be out at night to scavenge your own house, defending your base and your group is equally as important, and while new characters will present themselves as you progress, you’ll want to keep everyone safe and healthy from day one.
This War of Mine looks pretty familiar due to the popularity of Sheltered, however for equal reasons it looks so much better due to the superior quality textures, animations and lighting effects give the title a moody and atmospheric feel which is highlighted well by the accompanying ambiance, sure sound work could have been a level higher, but it’s certainly not a bad job by 11bit studios.
While initially you’ll spend more time worrying about the base and the little ones, within a few attempts you’ll be spending far more attention to your characters and their health and emotions, taking them for granted will quickly end your game and because of how quickly low morale can sneak up on your and spread through your base like a ravaging fire.
Regardless of how well defended you think you might be it can all change quickly if you get your priorities wrong and while you have to put the children first, you also have to appreciate they have their own minds, and giving them a safe home is sometimes the best you can do.
There’s a deep, emotional and meaningful game with plenty of reason to return, some will find cold weather a major issue, while others will feel that having certain characters sick make proceeding near impossible, so rest assured there’s a challenge whichever way you look at it, With a total of 12 starting groups, there’s plenty of reason to keep trying even if your struggle with one aspect of the initial play through.
Obviously it’s not perfect, I still feel aesthetically it could look and sound a little better, and the decision to make children near AI drones, means you sometimes feel like things are out of your control, and the way the momentum of emotion and morale can switch so quickly means you have to be alert both day to day and as an overall view of how your proceeding.