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This War of Mine Preview: Sidescroller Survival Stories
For a medium riddled with as much violence as it is, video games haven’t really got a lot to say about war. Sure, a whole lot of games large-scale conflicts quite centrally into both their narrative and mechanics but very few attempt to provide more nuanced explorations. For a lot of people, it feels like it’s safe to say that games won’t be approaching All Quiet on the Western Front-levels of depth anytime soon.
Or are they?
11 Bit Studios new title This War of Mine seeks to let players explore war from a very different angle to – setting them not as active participant in the conflict but rather as an everyday civilian caught in the crossfire. I recently spent some time with a preview build for the survival-focused title and came away very impressed with what I played.
After a brief introductory cutscene, This War of Mine throws you right into the thick of things with your named band of survivors finding shelter within an abandoned home. From there, I found myself quickly setting my humble crew to work stripping the house for resources and fortifying the residence against intruders. The game gets a lot of mileage out of its relatively simple control scheme here, which helped me pick up the mechanics relatively quick considering the lack of a proper tutorial.
Though things start quite slowly, there’s a compelling and constant sense of danger conveyed through This War of Mine’s ambient soundtrack and graphite aesthetic. The continual rumble of gunshots and bombings in the distance kept me on my toes and wondered how far the game would go with its depiction of a broken down society – a backdrop given added weight by the surprisingly rich sandbox/management systems.
Daytime segments are also frequently interrupted by visitors to the house, sometimes friends, sometimes foes and sometimes traveling merchants with various goods for sale. These encounters did a great job of keeping things interesting and I can’t wait to see what the full game has in store.
Nocturnal sequences in the game see you decide which of your survivors will sleep, scavenge or spend the night on guard-duty. It’s a cool mechanic and one that’s cleverly tied into the balancing act of keeping your crew in the best shape possible. Send too many people out for supplies? You might return to find your home attacked and ransacked by looters. Send too few out? You might run out of supplies and food. It’s refreshing to see the stakes be so brutal and I found myself actively playing on in the hopes of overcoming the odds stacked against me. There was a great sense of tension carried here thanks to some genuinely engaging stealth mechanics and there was even a nifty element of strategy when it came to choosing where to spend my time scavenging.
This War of Mine still lacks a release date but amidst the sea of various survival titles flooding digital distribution channels, it looks like something definitely worth checking out. It’s trying to explore conflict in a different light than video games have dared to in the past, and its mechanics are just as ambitious.