A sobering look into the lives of those caught in the ravages of war, now playable on the go.
Before 11 Bit Studios conquered the fantastic survival sim Frostpunk, we were introduced to the unique developer in 2014 through the bleak This War of Mine. It offered a frank look at the lives of those caught in the crossfire, living in the war-ravaged fictional city of Pogoren, Graznavia. Players were tasked with collecting the materials and tools necessary to live through the hellish war, even when their mental states were rapidly deteriorating.
It’s one of the bleaker games you’ll find out there, that’s for sure, and now that it’s made its way to the Nintendo Switch, rife with happy-go-lucky adventures, it’s available for on-the-go play. Despite its stark and somber tone, it’s an addictive side-scrolling survival game where managing your charges’ lives is as exciting as seeing the story unfold.
This War of Mine: Complete Edition takes all of the DLC previously available for the original game as well as the War Stories scenarios that recount various narrative threads about some of the characters you’re meant to take care of. If you’re looking for something that challenges you in terms of mental fortitude and in all the ways survival games normally would, this collection is certainly for you.
The game includes two different variations of play: Classic and Stories modes. Classic Mode places you with a random group of survivors with their own unique backstories and abilities. Most of your survivors will have never had any sort of survival experience or military training, so you’ve got to keep them alive by making an important series of decisions until they survive the ceasefire that ends up happening at random.
Until then, you’ve got to protect your charges, managing hunger, thirst, depression, sleep, fear, and a handful of other gauges to stay on top of things. Your survivors’ mood and livelihood all depend on you, so you have to ensure you gather the correct resources, craft the right materials, and delegate tasks in the right manner to ensure everything gets done properly.
It’s difficult enough to do this with adults, but this version of the game also includes the Little Ones expansion, which adds younger survivors into the mix. They have fewer abilities than their adult counterparts, and you need to approach caring for them in a whole new way. You can set up your own custom scenarios while in Classic Mode, including using children survivors and time periods until a ceasefire, so you can make it your own and enjoy a challenge even if you don’t want to make it too austere.
Stories is a heartrending series of story campaigns where you’ll get to know your digital companions a lot better. Whether you’re getting to know a family who’s recently said goodbye to their mother, or parents watching their children get sick and stolen away from them, Stories Mode is particularly depressing and not for the faint of heart. It’s also a much more difficult affair than Classic Mode, despite the fact that it offers a more guided experience.
As you may have already guessed, this overly bleak environment ensures you’re nearly on the verge of tears at all times, which makes strategizing and making the best decisions for your survivors all the more difficult. The visuals don’t do much to change this, either. The dark color palette and aesthetic, though smooth and polished, are decidedly gloomy. They’ll squeeze emotion out of you like you would water from a sponge, as the music swells and overcomes you in the worst way. It all comes together like some sort of beautiful dirge.
The only unfortunate thing about the game is its occasionally stilted dialogue and what some may consider higher difficulty when dealing with certain parts in Classic and Stories Modes. Otherwise, This War of Mine: Complete Edition is nothing short of fantastic, and a truly wonderful addition to the Nintendo Switch’s library – despite the fact that it’s extremely depressing and a harrowing look at war. That bit, well, you’ll just have to get over if you want to enjoy it on the handheld/console hybrid.
[Reviewed on Nintendo Switch]
Brittany has been covering games and tech for over a decade for the likes of G4, Popular Science, IGN, Empire, Kotaku, Rolling Stone and GameSpot – as well as appearing as a speaker at video game conventions such as PAX East. When she’s not writing or gaming, she’s looking for the next great visual novel.