This War of Mine is a few years old now, originally released back in 2014 in fact. However, it has recently been given a bit of a sprucing up for current-gen consoles. This War of Mine: Final Cut from developer and publisher, 11 bit studios, not only gets a graphical upgrade but it also throws in all the previous DLCs, to make the most complete version of the game.
“This War of Mine: Final Cut is the conclusive, remastered edition of the game that contains all the updates and free expansions released so far and introduces not only a new scenario but also expands all scenarios with the locations known from Stories DLCs – even if you don’t own those. In short words – that means you can now experience lots of never-seen-before playthroughs and struggle with new challenges.”
Now, I have known about This War of Mine for some time, I’ve just never gotten around to playing it. So this popping up on my radar piqued my interest. The most complete and best way to experience the game, so I jumped at the chance to review it.
So, what exactly is This War of Mine then? I guess it could be described as a base-building, survival game where you have to try to live through an ongoing conflict. This is a (sadly) very topical and very anti-war game and 11 bit studios are not shy about telling you that either. The studio has been a massive supporter of Ukraine over the current war that is going on over there. To the point where they gave 100% of the profits from this game to the Ukrainian Red Cross, raising around $850,000 along the way.
Taking place in the fictional city of Pogoren, you control three characters, each with their own set of skills. There is no real story other than that there is an ongoing war in Pogoren and you have to try and survive it. Though the characters you play as do have backstories that will be slowly revealed as you play. Things that you do (or don’t do) and how you respond (or don’t respond) to situations will shape the character’s morals and the game is really open, depending on just how you play. This War of Mine: Final Cut is dark, moody and very atmospheric. You are playing in a very war-torn environment full of tragedy and 11 bit studios keep telling you that through the whole game.
The game is split into day and night cycles. During the day, you’ll need to build your base… or partially demolished house. Build beds for better sleep, an oven so you can cook food, a workstation so you can build tools and weapons and so on. If you have ever played a survival-type game before, then you know what you are getting into here. At night though, that is when you go out scavenging. Find other buildings and search them for loot and resources to help you build your base. Scavenging is a necessity but it can also be pretty dangerous as there will be others out there trying to do what you are doing or even just wanting to stop you.
You’ll cross paths with hostile civilians and even the militia. You’ll have to weigh up the pros and cons and decide if it’s even worth going out at night or if you should stay home and rest up or even guard your base. There are plenty of moral decisions to make too. I mean, you could go and raid an elderly couple’s home, an easy target for food to feed your starving survivors. Is it the right thing to do? Of course not but neither is letting your people starve to death either. There really are a lot of variables here with This War of Mine and every game you play will be different as everything is randomly generated. Your base, the map, NPCs and more. Strategy and planning are key, making decisions that you may not always agree with are also going to be something that you’ll have to wrestle with.
Just how you try to survive really is very open. Short-term solutions are always the easiest route to go. Say eating scraps of food to stay alive. But to really keep hunger at bay, you may need to cook proper meals. This one thing alone adds a lot more to the game as you’ll need to build an oven first and then you need ingredients to make the food itself. Ingredients that you could go out and scavenge… or you could even have a go at growing your own. You’ll then need to build a food supply infrastructure to keep things ticking over, which is not exactly easy when resources are sparse.
It is this dynamic nature of the game that really does keep you playing. How you try to survive is massively open and you can explore the game’s world and its mechanics with a massive amount of freedom. For a game set in and based around a war, there is very little combat. You can make rudimentary weapons, such as knives, to help defend yourself against attack while you are out scavenging. But killing people is not a fun thing to do. This is not Call of Duty where you run around AK-47ing dozens and dozens of people. Killing in This War of Mine really should be avoided and only used as a very last resort. You are playing as a civilian and taking someone’s life can and will affect your character’s mental state.
What is great about This War of Mine: Final Cut is that it comes crammed with everything the game has to offer. The Stories DLCs kind of play the same as the base game… but also not. See, with the base game, there is no story and you just have to try to survive an ongoing war. With the DLCs, you are given very structured and linear stories to play through. Even though the basics of the gameplay remain the same, the dynamics between the two are massively different. This is a very multi-layered game and one that definitely takes a while to fully understand and appreciate.
Graphically, This War of Mine: Final Cut really is very striking. The lack of colour and almost fully black & white art really helps to hit home the bleakness of the situation that you are in. The simple, basic and pencil-drawn, but really quite stunning, art style used here keeps things from getting too confusing or too muddled on the screen. Everything is clear, you can see what you can interact with and the updated 4K visuals really pack a punch at times.
Playing This War of Mine: Final Cut right now, what with all of what is going on over in Ukraine right now, really does add a lot of gravitas to the whole thing. Here I am, sitting in the comfort of my home playing a fictional game about surviving a war on a game console and a big TV. While in Ukraine, people are trying to live through a very real war right now. It really does hit home and put things into perspective.
£17 is what This War of Mine: Final Cut is going to cost you. I’m not even going to do my usual weighing up the cost against the gameplay here. Just buy this now. If you played This War of Mine when it first came out, there is enough new stuff here to entice you back. If (like me) you had not played the game before, then This War of Mine: Final Cut is the very best way to experience this one… and ‘experience’ is the right word to use too. This really is just that, an experience and a truly amazing one too.
So far this year, I have reviewed a few games that have hit me in an emotional way. From being a homeless person living on the streets to reflecting on my own life through that of an old dead man. This game has hit me in a very similar way. This War of Mine is a very heavy, downbeat and bleak title. What with all that is going on in Ukraine, that just adds a whole other level of gravitas that really kicks you in the nuts as you play. Oh yeah, before I forget… fuck the war! Buy this game.