Review

This War of Mine Review

  • First Released Nov 14, 2014
    released
  • PC

Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums.

An hour into This War of Mine, I keep thinking about that bit in The Last of Us where someone was somehow clear-headed enough in the middle of a war zone to scrawl "What happens when the food runs out?" on a concrete wall on a backed-up highway. It's a meaningless bit of background detail there. Here, it’s an all-consuming, panic attack-inducing source of primal fear.

It's not a question a game about war ever asks, and when it shows the answer, it's never in as much emotional detail as it’s shown here. Even in a game like Spec Ops: The Line, which aims to measure the toll on the people fighting a war for too long, it's not a question you need to address, because there's only one way you can ever interact with the people in front of your gun. When the soldiers are miles away, when the smoke clears, and every home harbors the ghosts of innocent bystanders, how long do you have before basic humanity is nothing but background noise compared to the constant roar of a hungry belly?

Home sweet hell.
Home sweet hell.

My own answer to that question came about 12 days into This War of Mine. All legitimate avenues for obtaining foodstuffs--through barter, scavenging bombed-out ruins, trapping animals--had been exhausted. Our only weapons are a crowbar and a knife, which I left with the person whom I told to stand guard overnight at home. The only option that didn't involve surely taking a bullet involved entering a relatively untouched suburb. There was no security, but you're told there's plenty of food and supplies there… provided you're willing to steal them. With no other viable alternatives, I went. An old man opened the door, telling me his wife is sick, and they cannot share. He stood there, chastising my silent character. And I then had to weigh my group's survival versus terrorizing an old couple's home.

Four hours later, I returned home with enough supplies to eat for a week straight.

A week and a half later, my scavenger still hadn’t forgiven himself.

No Caption Provided
Right, booze before a bed. Because, priorities.
Right, booze before a bed. Because, priorities.

Remorse is actually a tangible, ugly thing to visit upon the survivors in This War of Mine. Remorse causes characters to move slower, hang their heads, decide not to perform simple tasks due to the pointlessness of it all. Your friends at home may feel overwhelming guilt about using stolen goods. And left unchecked, such guilt can fester into crippling depression and, worse, lead to suicide. And it's one of the more gut-wrenching ways your little settlement can fall to pieces--though there are also far more obvious ways. like getting shot, stabbed, beaten, and, of course, starving to death. Your job, as player, is to fight the good fight, but not against military bullets and bombs, or an invading army; you instead have to maintain everything else that's left in the ashes of their wake.

What follows is an oppressively somber 2.5D version of The Sims, rendered in a beautiful, but portentous, constantly moving pencil art style. You start with three survivors who have taken shelter in a dilapidated three-story house: two childhood friends, and a displaced TV chef who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. The game doesn't give you a tutorial on how to use anything, but it's simple enough to suss out after only a few minutes. By day, food and shelter must be meticulously prepared, and the convenient tools of modern living we all take for granted are now scarce or need to be built completely from scratch. By night, new supplies must be scavenged from the surrounding areas while you pray no one had the same idea about looting your place. Thankfully, the game doesn't go for complete realism, i.e. you never have to wonder why an ex-football player knows how to build a full kitchen range out of a box of random crap and a wooden plank. Your supplies are kept under simple headings like "electronics," "fuel," and "parts," and as long as you have enough of them, you can run to your workbench and craft anything you need at will, from creature comforts like chairs and beds, to simple survival tools like small animal traps and rainwater collectors; you can also do more complex stuff like fixing broken guns and armor.

The trick, of course, is actually having the resources or even the energy for any of that. When you start the game, all of your survivors are starving, one is wounded, and one is sick. Tending to them is the top priority, so you have to scrounge around the house first for enough materials to build beds, or find food, or build a crude stove. But what if you run out of materials early? Who gets to sleep in a bed instead of on the floor? Who gets to eat tonight? Is someone sick or wounded enough to warrant spending the resources on meds instead of a shovel to dig out debris? Later on, this gives way to bigger concerns, such as whether your housemates harbor resentment for something you did while scavenging the previous night, or whether they’ll sink into depression due to scraping by on raw food, with no distractions or simple pleasures like books, coffee, moonshine, or cigarettes. How is a character going to react if you have to burn the last book in the house to heat the place for another night?

No country for good cooks.
No country for good cooks.

And so, you scavenge. You can visit a single location every night, with a helpful screen telling you the current situation around the place, rumors you've heard, and what could be contained inside, and you can then search around for anything that might be of use. Some nights, especially early on, you get lucky, and the chosen location is completely abandoned, meaning you can take your time, keep tabs on what your house needs, and walk away with enough food and supplies for a few days, as well as enough resources to make serious improvements. And then come the times when you run into other people.

Interactions with other people can go all sorts of ways here. My first encounter with another person was at a supermarket--a gun-wielding man with a bandana over his face, telling his people what to look for. When he turns and sees me, there's a moment of dread where I don't know how, or even if, I should take a swing before he pulls the trigger. To my complete relief, he says there's plenty for everyone, and to feel free to explore. He and his people completely leave me to my own devices the whole night. There are occasional surprises like this in This War of Mine, where your faith in other people is rewarded. People remember when you're good to them, and come to your aid when you least expect it. People randomly share what they have if you do the same. More than once, a couple living a few doors down came by with vegetables right when things were looking their darkest, thanks to sending someone to help clear the debris in their home a few days before.

But of course, there's the other side of things. Late in my first playthrough, I happened upon a woman trying to barter for supplies from a soldier, who ends up asking for sexual favors in return. Unfortunately, the game's simple nature gets in the way, here. There's no way to knock, or sneak up behind someone, or even grab a chunk of rock to throw. So, when it becomes obvious this isn't going to go well, I barge in, crowbar in hand. I'm promptly shot dead for my efforts.

No Caption Provided

It's that moment that tended to define my interactions with people afterward. If I'm desperate enough to steal, I'm desperate enough to shoot/strike first and ask no questions later. New survivors would come to my door, asking for a place to stay, and for a while, I kept wondering if they were dangerous and, more importantly, did I really have the ability to support another hungry mouth? In playthroughs that reached later in the month, the answer was increasingly, heartbreakingly "no."

Looters are a boy's best friend.
Looters are a boy's best friend.

Even when the answer was “yes,” at times when my house legitimately flourished without the need to harm another soul--as much as it could flourish anyway--the biggest problem then came down to sheer boredom. The tedium of living day by day, carefully scraping for supplies, creating a house routine, listening to the radio and praying for a booming "THE WAR IS OVER!" announcement that never comes, it starts to bear down on you more than even seeing housemates get attacked or killed. Even in relative prosperity, you're still stuck in this place every day in a non-stop holding pattern, until, indeed, the food runs out.

And that's perhaps the ultimate point of This War of Mine: It doesn't stop. Survival when you're so disconnected from the things that right now make us full, happy, and human is monotonous. It's boring, and sad, and ongoing. For my part, I had a constant vision in my head that the events of a random Call of Duty were taking place just beyond the northern reaches of the map, and despite having that constantly in mind, in the moment, how many terrorists were being eliminated with extreme prejudice didn't matter. A helicopter rescue was always going to be there for those guys, taking them back to home base. There's no such rescue coming for my survivors. The achievements, and dudebro camaraderie seemed especially silly then, when I hadn’t been able to provide a hot meal for someone in three days and he was rocking himself to sleep in a corner because his best friend got shot last night, all because we needed to build someone a heater for when it got cold.

Is this a game you want to play? No. Is it a game anyone with a beating heart should play? Yes. A million times yes. It's a longform exercise in empathy, a sobering piece of work that fills in the blanks left when all we see of war are the headshots. It's a much-needed course correct in the current shoot-first-ask-questions-never gaming landscape that supposes war is won because one supreme badguy caught a bullet through his brainstem. No: It's won when the people who lived under his boot get to go home.

Back To Top
The Good
Distinct, dismal pencil art style
Intuitively simple controls
Wide variety of reactions and interactions between survivors
Gripping, emotional storytelling and character development
The Bad
Becomes monotonous after a time
Occasionally doesn't allow for logic
8
Great
About GameSpot's Reviews
Other Platform Reviews for This War of Mine

About the Author

Justin Clark went through This War of Mine with 5 separate groups of survivors, never making it more than a month. The longest survivor was a coffee drinking journalist named Katia. She killed herself after her last companion died on a scavenge. Justin then spent the rest of the evening watching Looney Tunes and cuddling his cat.
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elkoldo

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"I keep thinking about that bit in The Last of Us where someone was somehow clear-headed enough in the middle of a war zone to scrawl "What happens when the food runs out?" on a concrete wall on a backed-up highway. It's a meaningless bit of background detail there."

Speak for yourself, Justin.

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Gelugon_baat

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Reading a strategy guide for this game really damages the immersion. "Avoid breaking tools with over-use because near-broken tools can still have value by being sold in trades."

F***, really? Sell near-broken sh*t to other survivors?

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

At the end of any incredibly successful playthrough, the shelter is actually far, far better off than before the war even started. It probably doesn't even need to be re-built in the aftermath.

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Gelugon_baat

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I will say here that the ability of any player character to MacGuyver things together has probably damaged the presentation of the game more than a bit.

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NTM23

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I didn't even know this came out. Dang. Perhaps I will get it.

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emi_100

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@Paoksis @invizo
agree!

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invizo

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How High / Intoxicated do Gamespot Reviewers need to be to want to play this garbage over something like Assassin's Creed Unity???

Seriously Gamespot, this review is why your reputation has been so tarnished with us PC gamers over the past few years, so many garbage indies that belongs on AN ANDROID OR IPHONE not a PC.


5/10 even if it is a masterpiece gameplay wise.


PS: Stop reviewing PC games with anything less than a 780GTX

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JakariaAmin

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@invizo this kids need help, too much violence of action game made "invizo" a tool

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Layarion

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@invizo this comment confuses me, as in i'm not sure what he is itching about. from what i heard, unity is garbage. never played it, but reviews suggest rogue is way better and unity is a money grab.


anyway, about the 780GTX, not alot of people can afford that so why does it make sense to stop? if a game "must" have a 780 to be good, it failed.

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Gelugon_baat

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@invizo

Really? You are saying that?

You are what's wrong with the industry.

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MilkyMilkshake

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Edited By MilkyMilkshake

@invizo Whos up for a murder?

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vermilion04

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Edited By vermilion04

AC Unity??? Really??? That unoptimized bugs & glitches invested console port??? And you call yourself a PC gamer??? Geez.. I really hope your comment is a sarcasm.

Dont'get me wrong, I like AC series and personally, I think Unity is not all that bad of a game (not great either though). But releasing Unity in an unfinished state is like an insult to the fans of the game.

"...garbage indies that belongs on AN ANDROID OR IPHONE not a PC."

All good games belong everywhere! Whether or not there is a hardware limitation, that's another story. Actually, if there's one thing I like about windows 8/8.1 (yeah, i prefer 7), it's those games from the windows market. Not all of them are good of course, but some are pretty decent. And it's relatively lightweight so you can even play it with your craptop! Video games are for everyone who want's to play, not only for kids from wealthy families.

"PS: Stop reviewing PC games with anything less than a 780GTX"

And that would be two decades backward in gaming.

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Kevin-V

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@invizo You're joking, right? Also, are you actually saying that PC gamers at large prefer Assassin's Creed: Unity to this awesome game, which is also a PC exclusive?


:|

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wrednajasobaka

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Edited By wrednajasobaka

@invizo

You think Assassin's Creed is a good PC game? That lame, boring, repetitive console game port? And you call yourself a "PC gamer"?

My friend, do yourself and us a favor and stick with console gaming. I'll let you on a little secret: it's not graphics that separates PC from console gaming. It's the fact that we, the PC players, expect little more intelligence from our games.

Now run along. I'm sure you didn't collect all 15000 chests in your beloved Assassin's Creed.

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nicolasetespqr

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@invizo


Are you one of those people who call Fifa the most revolutionary game ever released every year?



Why would someone want to play a refreshing, different, original experience over the same old same old? I don't know... seems like a conspiracy theory to me...


Damned communists...

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teo2cry

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@invizo This game is better then any other that came out in Q4, I am playing it nonstop. It is awesome, like Paoksis said get back in your cage peasant.

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Zevvion

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@invizo ... what? Is it 1996 again somehow? I thought we established graphical fidelity and scale don't make a game good and lack of those don't make a game bad.


This War of Mine is a ton of fun to play and I found it very addictive. I already played it for 10 hours whereas I already became bored of Unity after 4.


Also, stop using 'us PC gamers' as if you can speak for me, and anyone else, just because you play on the same platform as I do. You sound crazy.

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ElistersK

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Edited By ElistersK

@Zevvion @invizo "Also, stop using 'us PC gamers' as if you can speak for me, and anyone else, just because you play on the same platform as I do. You sound crazy. " Exactly my thoughts, I can't stand these "made out of nothing" platform wars. I play PC, simply because I enjoy the mouse and the keyboard and don't really enjoy any form of joystick - but THAT'S IT! Absolutely nothing comes to mind, why even there would be a bother for a row.

5 • 
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Paoksis

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@invizo back to your cage peasant

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Bastion00

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Edited By Bastion00

@invizo "PS: Stop reviewing PC games with anything less than a 780GTX"

What are you implying? Pardon if I'm making false assumptions, but, are you actually implying that a game can't be good unless it has cutting age graphics?

Game is shit, regardless. All it's potential is bottlenecked by a single feature.


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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

@bobbetybob @CommandoAgent

CommandoAgent is way behind the times really. :\
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CommandoAgent

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Is this for real?


"Becomes monotonous after a time"

YET SOMEHOW Zombier related titles somehow always either get an 9 or a 10 and the Zombies dont even get monotonous after period of time?

I am tired of Zombie related games.....

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Kevin-V

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Edited By Kevin-V

@CommandoAgent What on earth are you talking about? To start with, we have never given a game prominently featuring zombies a 10. Ever.


Let's put this claim into perspective. I went through the entire list of reviews over the last year. Here are the games with prominent Zombie or Zombie-like things as their main themes that I can think of, and their scores.


Escape Dead Island: 5


Sunset Overdrive (they're sort of zombies, I guess): 8


Neverending Nightmares (sort of, maybe): 7


The Evil Within (kind of): 7


Dead Rising 3: Apocalypse Edition: 3


Walking Dead Season 2, Ep. 5: 7


The Last of Us Remastered (basically zombies kind of): 8


Walking Dead Season 2, Ep. 4: 9


Nether: 5


Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha: 7


Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z: 4


Walking Dead Season 2, Ep. 3: 8


Walking Dead Season 2, Ep. 2: 8


Resident Evil 4 HD: 8


The Last of Us: Left Behind: 9


"Zombies" is a tricky word, because a lot of things are zombielike but not necessarily zombies, and games with zombies in them aren't necessarily zombie games. (I wouldn't say The Last of Us or Walking Dead are zombie games, for instance, even though they have zombie or zombielike things in them.) Regardless, your comment isn't backed by reality.









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bobbetybob

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@CommandoAgent Which zombie titles got 9 or 10's? Left 4 Dead 2 is the last zombie game I can think of that got a 9.

2 • 
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RobXsiq

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Its a bit buggy still. I have had games where central park traders would sell me their entire inventory for a single sugar cube, etc. (random game nerfs though, next game it was fixed). The more annoying bug though is when trader areas become agro randomly and across the entire map. I am not sure why..didn't kill or rob anyone (outside of bandits and such) yet everyone shot first/asked questions later. I digress


Some minor points:

1) This game is what happens when you take Zafehouse diaries and add a Cosmonautica interface (2d/3d). I would have liked to see some extra randomly generated negative traits (does Bruno always have to chain smoke?)


2) This game would be fantastic if the devs release a easy to use SDK for modding. I wanna make my own characters, increase the days to minimum 120, Add new traits, add gassifiers and such (electricity), etc. Proper urban survival mods. modding makes games go from interesting fun play to must have loaded forever legend games. (see minecraft/skyrim/anything with mod support)


3) This game is begging for a zombie apocalypse dlc. Too much work for a single mod I would think, but definitely would be a instant buy for an expansion


This game is really damn fun, but once you know how to survive, then it becomes pretty easy and routine. Still, highly recommend getting it if you are into the logistics survival gameplay.


This game is very similar to the series "The Colony" (on Netflix)..which is a sort of exploration of urban survival after X happens (X being virus, war, etc). I loved that series, so loving this game

3 • 
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crunchb3rry

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@robxsiq The Colony was so cool. I wish they would bring that back. It reminded me of Murder In Small Town X on Fox. That show was great too.

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Gelugon_baat

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@robxsiq

The game which you want is State of Decay. :|

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illmatic87

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Probably gonna be a tablet version judging by the UI and the developers history. Anomaly for the tabletphones was pretty good actually, felt really natural to play.

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crunchb3rry

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Edited By crunchb3rry

@illmatic87 There are supposedly already plans for iOS and Android. Which is why I'm hesitant to buy it for $20 on Steam when it will probably be like $3 on phones.

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Talavaj

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Edited By Talavaj

Interesting game but it is a bit too much about resource managed and too light on other gameplay. It is something I would expect from a free to play browser game and something that becomes a bit too monotonous after a while.

Second issue I would have with it is that the game dictates how you should feel about it, you can't really go ahead and be the "bad guy" because your guys will fall apart, the game will tell you when you should feel bad for yourself and it does not really give you too much freedom for decision or any morally grey areas.

You either leave everybody alone or straight up kill the granny who is attacking you.

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deactivated-5b19214ec908b

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@Talavaj The game never tells you how you should feel. You aren't your characters. They have their own thoughts and feelings.


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Gelugon_baat

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@Talavaj

If a player does that, he/she will never see the ceasefire day.

Most endings which I have watched on the Internet have the players making unsavory decisions, including eliminating entire families.

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Talavaj

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@Gelugon_baat @Talavaj Yes but it is required, you either kill the elderly couple or die of hunger because the game gives you zero moral options. And that is just one of the many flaws this game has.

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RobXsiq

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Edited By RobXsiq

@Talavaj @Gelugon_baat Wha..why? The elderly couple are ignorable. just focus on good decisions, get your veggies and rattraps up asap, and always get wood/parts from trader as priority and you can live just fine until the game ends.

Its tempting in early game to kill/take all, but with a little bit of luck, and thoughtful builds, you can be self sufficient by day like 20

(just don't annoy the military..you need their bullet trade)


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Gelugon_baat

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@Talavaj

I don't see these as flaws, you may want to know. :\

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Gelugon_baat

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For once, I find it very hard to find another game to compare to this one in a reductive manner.

If there's any game which I find closest to compare with this one, it would be Zafehouse Diaries, but that one's so far off in so many ways.

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TehUndeadHorror

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@Gelugon_baat RPS compared it to Papers, Please, though it sounds like This War of Mine has a bit more depth.

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Gelugon_baat

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@TehUndeadHorror

I had thought of Papers, Please too, considering that every playthrough in this game is limited to a number of days like Papers, Please was.

However, that is just about the only similarity. Papers, Please has a dystopian setting and certainly was not about societal collapse in the face of a calamity. Papers, Please also does not have resource management with complexity beyond merely managing money.

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Dsolow5

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Edited By Dsolow5

@Gelugon_baat @Dsolow5 Unless the next sentence is "just kidding, you do want to play this game" it doesn't matter

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Ezraeill

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Edited By Ezraeill

Entered a building with other people.

The building's description had said "Danger" which ment hostiles. Bandits.
I grabbed my knife and was ready for those bandits.
I saw one bandit and after breaking in through a window, she ran calling for backup.
One guy showed up with a shotgun and chased me off but I waited.
He searched, and couldn't find me and then I got the drop on him.
We fought, he couldn't shoot, and three stabs later he fell.
I grabbed the shotgun and went inside.
My friends needed food, and these bandits were killers. They deserved what they got.
I grabbed food, supplies, and another bandit showed up!
I fired at them with the shotgun, and they dropped with a gurgling scream.
One bandit ran after me! Surely they had a knife!
No... she ran past me to the man's corpse.
She was crying. She called me a murderer.
I fired again and she dropped.
There was silence then, and I had to hurry up and grab the rest of the supplies before more bandits showed up.
I opened a closet, and snagged the food.
But, the inventory of the closet said "Private"
Someone owned this wardrobe?
I looked outside toward the other building, and between the two.. a garden someone built?
One guy had mentioned they were running low on meds.
This.... no.. it couldn't be. It just couldn't be!
This wasn't... this wasn't an abandoned building being picked clean.
This was another group's safehouse.
These people are.... were.... survivors!
...and "I" was the bandit.
9 • 
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Jfrench14

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@ezraeill I did the exact same thing. I felt kinda bad afterwards.

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supa_badman

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@ezraeill i liked this poem

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Gelugon_baat

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@ezraeill

Maybe you shouldn't have made assumptions based on the first sign that you saw. :\

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

I wonder if anyone can play To The Moon, A Bird Story and then this game without turning into an emotional wreck.

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top_lel

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@Gelugon_baat A Bird Story? check. Gonna play it.

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Gelugon_baat

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Edited By Gelugon_baat

There is actually an end to any playthrough; there is a ceasefire to the war after several dozen days. The player can make it with just one guy/gal left.

Personally, I am still surprised that 11-bit Studios, which made the Anomaly tower-offense games, made this game - and having looked at videos of it, it is incredibly different.

The only thing which I can't stomach so easily is that the game still comes with a price tag, considering its premise.

(P.S. Yes, I don't like the Call of Duty games because I don't like their fictitious take on real-world conflicts, past, present or "near-future" - among other factors like Activision's reputation as a consumer-bilker.)

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DanZillaUK

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This game needs to be shoved down more peoples throats. Put this review on the main page or something.

12 • 
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This War of Mine

First Released Nov 14, 2014
released
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • Android
  • iOS (iPhone/iPad)
  • Linux
  • Macintosh
  • Nintendo Switch
  • PC
  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One

This War of Mine is a dark survival game where players control a group of civilians trying to stay alive in a besieged city.

8
Great

Average Rating

154 Rating(s)

8.1
Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
Mature