A war game where you don’t see the war, a resource management game where the resources are literally a matter of survival, and a survival game where your odds of surviving are pretty slim, This War of Mine has the usual elements you find on games, but is anything but usual.
Developed by 11 bit Studios, makers of the Anomaly series, and released simultaneously for Mac, Windows & Linux, This War of Mine has garnered excellent reviews for its unique approach to war, excellent graphics and challenging gameplay.
It’s time we test it ourselves and see if it’s worth your hard-earned money.
Get it from GOG.com (DRM-free!):
Enter This War of Mine for Mac
When this game was announced I was intrigued by its original premise: based on the siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war in the 1990s, you play as a group of civilians struggling to survive in a city literally torn apart by a civil war. You start the game in a building with a randomly assigned group of civilians, each with their own characteristics and skills. You may or may not start with some resources, but even if you do, you will quickly start running out of them, and your struggle to collect what you need to survive will keep you occupied day and night.
Day and night is how you play. The game is driven by a day and night cycle, giving you two different games to play. During the day, snipers make it too dangerous to leave your building so you will scavenge what you can from your building, use the resources you gather to build and make things, eat and maybe sleep as well. During the night, you will send out one member of your team to scavenge, while the others sleep and defend your building. As time goes on, all of these tasks become more difficult and dangerous, while your daytime tasks become more complex as you finish building the simple stuff necessary for day to day survival and start working on things you’ll need to survive long term.
And your future will be probably short, even if you’re careful. One of the most effective aspects of this game is its realistic portrayal of how quickly things can go south in a lawless world; you might be going along fine, thinking you’re well taken care of, and then one simple slip changes everything in an instant. I know this because it happened to me. And when that happens you have two choices: try and muddle through and continue, or start all over. There’s no saving multiple games or going back to the previous level (day); you go forward one day at a time or you start over. It’s realistic, difficult, extremely effective and like no game I’ve played before.
In fact, everything about this game is effective. The hand-drawn pencil-style graphics are simple and clear, animations are basic but suit the rest of the mood, and the music is appropriately ominous. Everything works perfectly to create a mood of danger and foreboding, which can only be alleviated if you successfully build companionship and something more than just basic survival for your group.
This game grabbed me by the throat and didn’t let go, and despite the description making it sound depressing, the developers have created a perfect blend of gameplay, atmosphere and plot that kept me coming back day after day and game after game, trying to see if I could make it to the end of the war.
For various reasons, I played this game on my four-year-old 11” Macbook Air, and it ran flawlessly at the highest graphics settings.
As you may have gathered, it doesn’t involve the latest 3D graphics or constant animations, so system requirements are pretty low. The only two issues I had were the small screen sometimes making it difficult to read what characters were saying (though I also have old eyes) and the dock or menu bar popping up when scrolling up or down, as the only way to move the screen was to drag to the edge.
These lack of settings, especially for navigation, would be about my only gripe with this game. There’s no way to use arrows or WASD keys to move around, no real settings at all except for volume and graphics level. This was minor and probably not an issue on a desktop, but it did interrupt gameplay on occasion.
- Good story & plot
- Beautiful graphics
- Immersive music & sound
- Straightforward, but challenging gameplay
- Lack of navigation settings
- Really, that’s it
With a simultaneous Mac/Windows/Linux release, This War of Mine is rare (specially for a non-casual and single-player only game). While some might wish for a cooperative mode, there’s something to be said for leaving all those difficult decisions up to you. Beautiful graphics, appropriately moody music, a gripping story and simple but effective gameplay made this one of the most memorable games I’ve ever played. It’s good to see a developer come up with a truly original game, and to see it be successful in the marketplace. Hopefully we’ll see more like it in the future.
Get it from GOG.com (DRM-free!):
Note from Ric: This Review comes from Steven Marx, one of Mac Gamer HQ’s most loyal reviewers.