Caption: Not everyone in war carries a rifle Courtesy of jeuxvideo.com

Caption: Not everyone in war carries a rifle Courtesy of jeuxvideo.com

“They wrote in the old days that it is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But in modern war, there is nothing sweet nor fitting in your dying. You will die like a dog for no good reason.” Ernest Hemingway

By Blair DeLong, News Editor

Developed and published by 11 Bit StudiosThis War Of Mine, will be available on the Steam platform on Friday the 14th. How many games have you played as a super ordinary soldier fighting against some foreign or domestic threat? It depends on the game, and is normally only seen with explosions and bodies piled on the screen. You’d be content of a body count and the damage you have done to the game world.

This War Of Mine turns the concept of a war-based videogame, on its head. You aren’t looking through the eyes of some super soldier, nor are you storming a beach, quick with a one liner. Before you put a round between some general’s eyes, you are playing as the little man. The everyday guy that got stuck between the battle that you have no place to be in. As with war, it has always affected the civilian population that it has visited.

During the first and second Gulf Wars, I watched in utter awe at the strength of the American military machine. Night after night I would watch CNN and be captivated by the bombs and explosions going off all across Iraq, some of which are the most spectacular sights of brutality ever recorded. At the time, I didn’t realize that those bombs were dropping on an important infrastructure that people like me and you need every day to carry out our lives. Power stations, sewage processing plants, roads, nothing was spared. It seemed as though everything was a target. In the “Shock and Awe” days of the Gulf War, these targets were deemed to be military targets and susceptible to destruction. Therefore, stymying any type of resistance the Iraqi Republican Guard might have put up against the invading American forces. The loss of this system affected the civilian population the hardest.

 

This is what This War Of Mine explores. What is it like when you’re hometown has been destroyed by the constant shelling of artillery and mortars? You’d be hearing the muffled gunshots in the distance, fighting off your fellow neighbors attacking you and trying to steal what little you had left. And this was all before lunch, if there was any food to be had.

11 Bit Games captures the atmosphere of hopelessness and constant fear of warfare brilliantly. Through the game’s score, a somber guitar plays that through it’s forbidding chords damn you, but give you a bit of hope. Hope that you will one day not have to scavenge at night for food and supplies. Hope that you won’t have to go another day without clean water. The atmosphere is captured and expanded upon even more so with the aforementioned sounds of war. Gunshots in the distance, muffled explosions of mortars that you think will hit your safehouse at any moment. The loud banging on your front door. Is it a friend, or someone else trying to take what little you have left?

The art style looks as though it was drawn on an old piece of paper with charcoal that a member of your group found in a dust covered desk in a blown out bedroom during a nightly scavenging run. Scratchy lines fill the darkness, as well as angry white flashes of explosions in the distance, there is a muted color scheme that adds a layer of dust and grime. Thus, coating every inch of your group and their safe house, making you wonder when the last time anyone in the city of Pogoren even saw a mop, or better yet, a working shower.

Every time you start a new game, it’s exactly that- a new game. You start off with three characters, each with their own set of skills and sometimes, their own set of disadvantages, such as being sick or wounded right off the bat. Even the contents of your safe house each game can change giving This War of Mine  incredible replay value.

This War Of Mine runs on a day/night cycle that has been done before, but twists it around a bit. During the Day portion, you have until 8 p.m. to complete tasks like cooking for your group, eating the meal, improving the safe houses amenities, such as crafting tables, beds for your people to sleep in. This even includes making some booze that you could possibly trade later on if the situation arises. When Night hits though, it’s down to the business of survival. Before you send a member of your group out into several locations of the game world, you must assign the others duties, such as guarding the safe house, or letting a group member sleep due to restlessness. After you have given your members their duties for the night, you can choose ONE member to go out and scavenge from any open location on the map. During this time, anything can happen, and most probably will. From running into fellow survivors such as yourself or soldiers who depending on their disposition might just use that group member for target practice. While it’s risky to go out at night in a war torn city, it’s a necessity. Your safe house needs the supplies you can bring back to further improve the house and feed your group. When your scavenger returns though, any number of things could have happened while they were away. Your safe house could have been attacked and robbed and a group member could have become injured or even worse, killed. These are the risks you take when you need to take care of those you come to care about.

 

The controls are a simple point and click with contextual icons that represent different objects that can be interacted with. Doors will open and close doors, granted they aren’t locked. Rubble piles that can be cleared out of the way to make way to new areas of a building. Even an eye to look through a keyhole to see if anyone is on the other side of the door you’re about to open during a scavenging run. The controls are tight and intuitive that they are easy to learn right from the start. Left click and context icon and the character you have chosen will go to it and start to perform the action needed. If you just want to make a character move or even change a character, all you have to do is click on him or her, and then to the area that you want them to move to. Even combat is handled in the same simple manner of choosing a weapon, that is if you have one, and clicking on the person that you want to attack.

Do you really want to attack them though? If you ran into a group of people just trying to get by such as yourself, could you bring that crowbar down on the poor woman that is kneeing in front of you crying out, “Don’t kill me! Take whatever you want, just don’t kill me.” This War Of Mine forces you to make this decision. Which is most important to you? Your group or keeping your humanity? It’s not an easy choice, nor is it meant to be. When the world has gone to hell, the people you used to see at the bar every Saturday night have now become demons, no one can be trusted, but how do you know? How do you know that the person at the door of your safe house just wants to trade with you? How do you know that the woman in the upstairs bedroom is by herself, just waiting to be killed and looted? These dilemmas are meant to test you in the most perverse way war can test anyone. Do you keep your humanity, or do you become a monster to look after you and your own? This is the ugly face that This War Of Mine makes you stare into, only instead of staring into someone else’s face. You’re looking into your own.