Posts

, , ,

This War of Mine: A Bleak Tale of a City in War Times

This War of Mine

Marko looked through the little keyhole in the grocery store. He heard two voices as he entered the broken shop, and it scared him. What he saw was a soldier, harassing a young woman who was just scavenging. He didn’t hesitate even when the man held an AK. Marko burst through the door, the soldier had no time to react so Marko struck him with the make shift crowbar his friend Pavle fashioned out of rebar earlier that day. The soldier, after a few strikes, falls to the ground and the young lady runs off. Marko doesn’t care though; what mattered was scavenging this place for supplies. He was in the way and Marko had a chance to get rid of him quickly.

You don’t get to pick who you start out with, much less who survives.

TWoM is a rare game which isn’t really deep until you choose to think about it. I did, and at the end of it, I think I wouldn’t be a very good person during war.

I’ve watched several Let’s Plays about TWoM, and in every one, I’ve seen players make decisions they regret. The unfeeling detached nature of gamers disappears when you have to deal with each of them. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Morality can die in the Face of Survival

In the last couple of years, the survival genre has gotten big. From Day-Z to Don’t Starve, it’s been a genre/trend which has attracted a lot of attention. None of them for me really captures what it means to survive day after day. That isn’t to say that TWoM perfectly replicates the refugee’s experience in times of war; it offers us a safe place to explore those things and there are dire consequences when you do. If you steal, a lot of your characters will start to question whether or not it was worth it. But surviving often means doing exactly that.

The Deserter becomes very useful when raiding.

TWoM perfects one aspect of gaming which many prominent reviewers always find gripes about; morality. Like many things, it isn’t about doing good for a pay-off, much like doing bad isn’t about convenience. They are simply decisions carrying with them their own repercussions. There are extremes, there are grays, and the game illustrates the price people pay every with decision you make.

Being armed doesn’t mean you’re dangerous.

Four days ago, we waited for the trader who comes every so often. He’s a talkative savior, always prepared with exactly what we needed. Two children came instead, beckoning us for a couple of bottles of antibiotics. We couldn’t turn them away, so we gave them whatever we could. That was a mistake… Bruno, my dear friend, died because we couldn’t get him those same meds. We mourned him with cigarettes and alcohol, and that night we were raided.

Simple Mechanics in a Complicated Game

TWoM, like many other reviewers have described it, plays like the Sims; I’d like to make the same comparison but the game is much simpler than that. You’ll click through short menus to build simple things like stoves and other crafting stations, move them to the optimal locations, and cycle through each of your characters. Each of the people you’ll control will have a unique skill and that adds a level of darkness to the game. After my first few play throughs, I started picking the characters I wanted to use; neglecting the elderly characters in favor of those with more utility.

But whenever the less skilled characters would show at our doorstep, I couldn’t stand reading the text each of them spat out after each hour ticked down. I usually just clicked the “End Day” option so I didn’t have to suffer through their pleas. I wouldn’t be a very good person in war time.

There are no restarts when it comes to companion losses.

We’ve survived… The ceasefire was declared today and we listened through a radio our new friend Marin built. Was it worth it though? I cannot help but hope that life can get better after this, but our time in the shelter leaves a dark specter which looms over each of us. But we’ve survived, we’ve helped. We did the best we could and maybe in a time of war that is enough. I kept Pavle’s notes and I will bring them to his son and wife one day. The war is over and life moves on.

Conclusion

On my first play through, I started out with an ideal team. One could scavenge, the other could run, whilst the third could cook better meals to keep spirits up. My main team didn’t make it to the end but the rest of their new comrades did. On my second ride, I had a soldier and a thief. The latter died of sickness whilst the first was scavenging to find medicine. He hung himself in the empty shelter the next day.

Perma Death in the game affects everyone in the shelter.

Depression, happiness, and contentment rarely work as game mechanics because they are usually forced. The developers of TWoM thought it through and integrated it perfectly into this puzzling survival game. But that’s just my take on it and that’s the beauty of the game. No one person will walk away with the same experience. It explores a dark place from a safe space, but it’s also a sobering experience telling us that war games need not be about kill streaks and K\D ratios.

TWoM is probably one of the most important games to come out this year. It goes out of its way to give you control, while throwing inescapable events your way when you feel a little too cocky. It’s not for everyone though, as the gameplay has a learning curve which requires you to act quickly, but to think of the future patiently.

Sometimes, we escape to games to feel like something we’re not; Heroes. Check out Spec Ops the Line, The Last of Us, or I Have no Mouth and I must Scream for other sobering gaming experiences.

Country Boy ethics with too much vague rhetoric. Plus video games, rap, rock, and films.