This War of Mine

The latest Humble Monthly — yes, of course I’m a Humble Monthly subscriber, I’m exactly their target audience — contained a couple of games I had been curious about, including This War of Mine. I’m currently one week into it, in terms of game time.

The basic concept is that it’s a story of war from the point of view of noncombatants without a lot invested in the outcome, who just want it to end. You get a team of three (to start with) displaced people, sheltering in a bombed-out house, which you see in a sort of dollhouse-like cutout view. During the day, you direct them to resource-management and crafting tasks, trying to make their improvised space more livable, feeding them and tending to their wounds. During the night, you go on scavenging missions to other dollhouses, to find more food and crafting materials. How aggressively you scavenge seems to be a matter of choice: there are places where you can take other survivors’ possessions, by stealth or force. A mere week in, the game has not yet pressured me to take the dark path. I’ll admit that I did some stealing at one point, mainly because I didn’t fully understand what I was doing, but I haven’t even tried to craft weapons yet. That may prove my downfall. Always in games with resource-management aspects, like Civilization, I tend to overprioritize research and production and underprioritize defense. And this game is in some ways Civilization played at a much smaller scale.

It’s unusually slick for such an obviously political game. This is no Papers, Please, made of cartoony pixel art, but a current-generation-console-looking work, all done in the desaturated tones and light blooms that console gamers seem to think signify “serious game for grownups”. Except that this time it might be true.

Only, I keep asking myself: Is it really so different from a zombie apocalypse game? I’ve certainly seen zombie games with very similar underlying crafting-and-survival mechanics. War is presented here as just a flavor of natural disaster, something beyond anyone’s control that destroyed these people’s lives to the point that they have to start over. And while that is a considerable statement in itself for a game to make, it also makes it seem like choosing war as the thing that destabilizes civilized life was a little arbitrary.

No Comments

Leave a reply