War is hell.
I usually try to envision what the developers wanted the player to see and feel when playing a game. I do a decent job at it, and am usually entertained from it all. This War of Mine: The Little Ones is a game that tries to show off the horrors of war, but for some reason, it never really struck a chord with me in that sense. Instead, I looked at this game as what it primarily is – a survival game.
Players take control of characters who are civilians trying to survive a war-torn country. All set on a 2D plane, the look of it all reminded me of the zombie survival action game, Deadlight. Starting with three characters, the player begins in a rundown building that they must craft into a formidable home/base for the time being. They must make this place work starting with the most simplistic things like crafting beds, creating a stove for cooking, boarding up exposed entrances, and other main things.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $15
Build by day, loot by night
The game itself breaks down into two main phases – day and night. During the day, players must use their characters to craft items to use like shovels, crowbars, weapons, food and the like. During this time certain events may play out. A travelling barter may come knocking at the door and I could trade with him, a nearby settlement may have a fire break out and stop by our building to ask for help. Things like that require decisions, and depending on the situation, players may not have the time or the resources to do certain things. Management is a very important factor in This War of Mine.
The second phase of the game, night time is a bit different. Here, players can select one of their characters to go out and scavenge for materials, food, weapon parts, and other helpful things. Players choose a building to travel to. Some may be rather calm and quiet, while others may have survivors who may or may not be friendly. On the same side of that coin, the players can choose to be friendly or not friendly to people they run into. Attacking a non-hostile person can reward players with some desperately needed food or materials, but it comes at the cost of the character’s sanity. Killing someone in this game means a lot to characters. They can fall into depression, decide not to eat or do anything during the day, and even ultimately decide to take their own life due to the guilt and depression. It can be heavy handed at times.
On top of that, this updated version of the game comes with The Little Ones expansion that adds children to the game. Having to keep the adults healthy and happy can be difficult enough to do. Throw in some kids that need extra TLC adds even more of a challenge.
Gun > Crowbar
While the survival management simulation works and actually works rather well, the combat is rather lacking. Usually, I’m using a type of melee weapon to attack hostiles. This can result in some rather bad situations due to the controls. Movement is sketchy at times, which usually results in my over shooting my target when trying to run up to an enemy and hit them, and if I’m going against a person with a gun of some sort, my shovel or crowbar is going to lose. I ended up fumbling with the controls too much to try to even survive combat. Luckily, I can usually sneak in some spots.
What the game tries to drive home is an emotional journey for average every day people trying to survive in a city that is in the middle of a war. Taking normal people in a modern setting, turning their lives into a survival nightmare, and seeing how it affects them. It is mostly conveyed through diary entries each character has all of which depend on how they are feeling both physically and mentally at the time. Even with the macabre look and subtle music, I never really got any feeling out of it. When I was out of many options in one game, I decided how far I could go just to see how things turned out. I needed food and ran into an elderly couples’ home. I stole all their food and left. While it affected the character that did all the stealing, I never had an issue with it. After all, it is a survival game. Maybe that was my issue. I looked at this as a game rather than an emotional experience.
This War of Mine: the Little Ones is pretty fully featured. While not for everyone, it offers a decent experience of survival, base building, and time/resource management. The combat can be weak, and the story or at least the one it’s trying to convey is weak. Still, for the fans of survival games like Don’t Starve, there’s something to be had here.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.