This War of Mine: Final Cut – First Sip Review
This War of Mine: Final Cut is a survival game developed and published by Polish game development company 11 Bit Studios. The game differs tremendously from most war-themed video games, because your focus is on the civilians instead of the soldiers. It is a game of patience and panic. And it is also a game of strategy and impulse. This War of Mine is a deeply intimate experience about survival, humanity, and the ugliness war creates for society.
In This War of Mine, you control and micromanage a group of civilian survivors in a makeshift shelter in the besieged, war-torn fictional city of Pogoren, Graznavia. The game does not necessarily have a linear story, but it is the experience you have with the survivors that creates its own unique story with each new game save.
In the day time, there are aggressive snipers all around, so your people must stay indoors to be safe. During this time, casual conversations happen among the characters to help them better connect. It is so human, and it is one of the strongest reasons why This War of Mine‘s lack of story still represents a much deeper story thanks to its setting and circumstance.
In the evening, one of your survivors will go out scavenging. This is a chance to find lots of useful goods and materials, but danger is always lurking. Encounters with other scavengers and innocent civilians create intense situations. Some times you even hear someone being raped or murdered and have to decide whether or not you will help.
This War of Mine does a brilliant job of causing you, the player, to struggle in your decision making. Through encounters with bandits, freezing temperatures, the military, and even your own morality, you are constantly at ends with yourself just to simply stay alive. Even deciding between helping a starving old man and killing him could be a matter of life or death.
The goal of the game is to simply survive until the ceasefire, which can happen anywhere between 25 – 50 days. There may not be much of a desire to replay the game after reaching the ceasefire, but staying alive until the end of the war is a massive accomplishment.
This War of Mine does not try to impress with its graphics, but that does not mean they are unimpressive. The game takes a simplistic approach to its game world by presenting the insides of buildings without the front-facing walls. This allows us to see the whole picture to help us better micromanage our characters.
11 Bit Studios also went the dark and brooding route. There are very few colors to be found in the game outside of white, black, and grey. This is obviously meant to capture the horrific feelings of war times, but it is difficult to see characters or item locations as they frequently blend.
For what it is, the presentation and graphical style fit really well with the theme and aesthetic of This War of Mine. However, it can be a bit boring to look at after a long gaming session.
This War of Mine has a great soundtrack that often compliments what is happening on screen. From the menu to each passing day and night, the background music constantly feels natural and never distracting.
Sound effects help to intensify scavenging situations, and every so often, the sound of a door slamming or a faint scream will cause panic. The game is quite good at elevating certain scenarios and causing alarm even if everything is clear. It is thanks to the war-time settings that the beautifully crafted sound effects constantly feel like danger.
Unfortunately, This War of Mine suffers a bit from a lack of voice acting. Considering the game is about the civilians of war, dialog in the game is common. Sadly, all of it is regulated to speech bubbles that can commonly be missed due to micromanaging. I understand that voice acting would have been incredibly difficult to accomplish in the game. However, some of the more important areas of the story and gameplay could have benefited so much from its inclusion.
First and foremost, This War of Mine is a survival game. That means if any of your characters die during a playthrough, they are permanently dead. At its core, this is the gameplay and message of This War of Mine.
You play three random civilians who are bunked together at the start of the game. As you micromanage these three people, you quickly notice icons in the house that indicate certain actions. Searching, opening doors, eating, and healing are common indicators, just to name a few. You will also be quickly introduced to the crafting table. This allows you to make better equipment, furniture, and barricades for the house.
The Day and Night Phases
During the day phase, your primary goal is to use your acquired materials to equip and fortify your safe place as best as you can. Spreading out your three characters and having them work on multiple tasks is essential to make the most of this time. The civilians are normally suffering in some way as well, so catering to their needs by feeding them, healing them, and helping them to rest is essential.
During the night phase, one of your civilians will be tasked to go out scavenging while the other two stay back. Before scavenging, you select any equipment you think is necessary for the outing, and then decide where to go. While scavenging, many things can happen, and you are able to choose whether to participate or not. Hostile locals will threaten you, helpless people will ask for food or resources, and you may encounter other innocent civilians being attacked, robbed, or even raped. Choices in this stage can lead to a large payout or the death of one of your characters, which makes survival henceforth even more difficult.
While scavenging, it is also important to keep an eye on the amount of space you have in your backpack, as each character only has a finite amount of space to carry all of their equipment and findings. This can cause a lot of stress because you will always think twice about what to keep and what to leave behind.
The War of Micromanaging
Since This War of Mine is a micromanaging game, all of the major controls are through prompts. Clicking on the door icon will instruct the assigned character to open the door, clicking a hiding spot will have your person hide, and clicking on the combat prompt will initiate combat with an enemy, for example.
It is worth noting that combat is intense. Since resources are scarce, deciding to use a knife or gun is a big deal. Killing people is also an incredibly intimate act, and it often leaves us with a heavy weight on our chest.
The micromanaging can be a bit stressful during the day phase, especially on console versions. But since you only control one character during the night phase, it is a lot easier to manage, despite the fact that it is the more stressful segment of the game.
Wisely managing your civilians during both the day and night will help make the experience less painful, but since this is a war-based game, unexpected events will happen and ruin your planning. This is when the gameplay shines the brightest because you need to think on your feet. This allows you to truly feel the hardship and pain of living in a war-torn society, and it is why This War of Mine‘s gameplay is truly brilliant.
This War of Mine: Final Cut is a powerful and intimate image of war through the eyes of everyday people. An incredibly heavy weight is placed on the value of human life and morality throughout the game that will often put your characters at risk.
It is a heavy game that helps to put a spotlight on the often forgotten side of war, and it shows the importance of every decision we make.
Micromanaging may be burdensome and the graphics will not suck you in, but This War of Mine is a fantastic game that is well worth your time.
This War of Mine Links
This War of Mine Review Summary
This War of Mine is a brilliant twist on the war genre. It brings us in touch with the harsh reality that war can take society to, and it forces us to make incredibly difficult decisions that could literally mean life or death. It is a wonderful experience, but it is a heavy one as well.
My name is Jason Capp. Originally from the US, I currently live in Tokyo, Japan. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to knock the smile off this bro’s face.