Game Review: This War of Mine

Hi. This is not being written in the morning. This is a nighttime Wakalapi post ! and I am reviewing the game called This War of Mine. It was released in 2014 by 11 bit Studios, a game development company based in Poland. I can’t say there are too many spoilers ahead because well, I haven’t beaten the game. I’ve played for about 7 hours according to Steam, but I just don’t think I can play anymore. Not because this game is crap,-its actually pretty amazing- but because in some ways its too good. If its goal was to really push home the tragic realities of war, than it fully succeeded with me.

I’ve heard about this game from a bunch of places. but  prior to making this post I couldn’t find any of them for some strange reason. I was hoping to show off how many people recommend the game. Hmm! I did find some snippets of it being mentioned here and there… Anyway, it is this game set in a war torn world where you control citizens who are just trying to eke (is that how its spelled?) out a small semblance of humanity in a large creepy broken down jalopy of a house by trading, scavenging, crafting, defending and, yes, killing.

War is one of those things, its one of those things that change people, their lives, their perspectives, especially if they have lived through it. Poland would know, or at least would remember. People (like myself) these days in ‘first-world’ countries live a life of relative peace and stability and this game thrusts you into a world completely different from what they are used to. I was up last night at 3am playing it and then up this morning again, not blogging, but playing this game – fretting and stressing over how I can just get these darn characters to heal! How many bandages, food, sleep and time does it take!?

I’ll get my shabby notes out of the way:

-“Fuck war!” was the first thing I read on the title screen

-I found it thought provoking that they chose “Survive” for what is normally the ‘play’ button.

-sketchy and bleached aesthetic with damper music, great mood setting

-the UI for the stuff was very well done. I like the “some thoughts” side of the inventory

-scavenging on day one was an amazing experience, it was terrifying with the lighting, lack of visibility and the ambient sounds

-My character died. I had no idea how to fight even though it showed me a screen. I figured when I attack, it would attack, but it didn’t it did some weird crap and I died. Needs tutorial for scrubs like me.

-“Really addicting”

-“Intensely frustrating”

-The rest of the notes are scribbled and crossed off notes on what I was trying to scavenge for

The final attempt at playing this game resulted in me having all three of my characters as wounded, and sad and/or depressed. I couldn’t ever get them to fully heal. I bandaged them, some multiple times, and had them sleep, but they never really got better. I gave them alcohol, but they were hungover. I was feeling the frustration of…, of war. People don’t suddenly just get better in the real world. War isn’t just a fantasy place and this game ties straight into the realities of the sadly all too human pastime of self destruction.

So I’ve still been on a philosophy kick, although its wearing down. I’m on my third John
Gray book called “The Silence of Animals” (2013). I started it today actually, but the first part of the book is basically dedicated to highlighting the existence and capacity of human warfare, but with a point. He takes a look at several different people throughout history, writers, and draws out their thoughts and sorta lines them up and has them have a sort of proxy conversation leading up to his point like a prodigious puppet master. What stood out for me was what he wrote about post WWI Naples.

Naples was completely devastated from the war and the citizens were suffering directly from the destruction, terror of the war, just like the people in the game, but there is a difference in the settings between these two. Gray highlights post-war Naples, while the game is set during a war, some kind of world war. And this difference is important.

Gray quotes Curzio Malaparte (Kurt Erich Suckert, a fascist looking on the war), in the yarn that he was spinning, but something in it stood out for me, where Malaparte wrote:

… When men fight to avoid death they cling with a tenacity born of desperation to all that constitutes the living and eternal part of human life, the essence, the noblest and purest element of life: dignity, pride, freedom of conscience. They fight to save their souls. But after the liberation men had to fight in order to live… It is a humiliating, horrible thing, a shameful necessity, a fight for life. Only for life. Only to save one’s skin.

All this is basically saying that when its a game of survival, people still can have their dignity intact when they do awful things. But after the war is over, when they do awful things, its just all sorts of awful. I am in no way agreeing with Malaparte’s fascist views, nor does Gray, but it is a curious quote. It was humiliating enough for me though to have accidentally shot and killed the priest in This War of Mine. I had gone off to the other side of the church area and took out a bandit. The priest came by and I put my weapon away, but he tried to fist-fight me. I fought back and killed him. All the people he cared for were programmed to cry once I came around to loot the rest of the church (yep, I did that) and it actually kinda hurt my feels. And I’m not even -or ever was- a churchy goer person thingy.

My dev question is, if we were able to make a game in the post-war scenario where the objective of the game was to control citizens who were savagely fighting in order to live, as opposed to avoiding death, would people even play it?  I would definitely play This Postwar of Mine.  I think I would have to trick people into playing it though if I made the equivalent game myself.  It would start off with an intro part of the game perhaps as doing bad stuff to survive during a war, and then people would get the mechanics with only feeling slightly shitty about their bad behavior. Then the war ends and it goes into post-war period, but the mechanics actually stay so the player feels extra crappy shitty for all the horrible crap they do. After a serious war has ended, there is still no water, electricity, money food etc. Yay! It’s educational, kids!

So it was a rather enriching experience to have read this book at the same time as playing this game. I didn’t plan it out this way at all. I was actually surprised that when I put the game about war down out of shame and frustration, I picked it right back up, but in book format. Now, here I am and its around 11pm and I’m writing about it. This war of mine is now yours! Mwahahahaha! 

Okay off to brush them teeth!

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