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This War Of Mine: The Little Ones Review

by Dean James

Atmosphere is incredibly important for establishing a unique setting, especially in the world of gaming. The frontlines of war have been shown throughout many games, namely the Call of Duty franchise, but something that is rarely seen are the poverty stricken survivors of those war torn countries, which is exactly what the dark and desolate This War of Mine: The Little Ones strives to do.

Though inspired by events of the Siege of Sarajevo in Bosnia during the 1990s, This War of Mine: The Little Ones features no specific wartime setting, which greatly works to the game’s advantage. Taking control of three characters at first, this game tasks you with helping these characters to survive a numbers of days until a ceasefire is called.

In many ways, this game seems to be very much inspired by something like The Oregon Trail, while also feeling very different. Each day in the game consists of two cycles, the day time where you can control each of the characters within your shelter, in which you can explore the small area, eat, sleep, build, and more. Then once night arrives, you can choose to have one character go out and scavenge at other locations, while the remaining stay at the house to sleep or guard.

Night time is when you can acquire much needed supplies from the outside, but at the same time can go very badly. As the days go on, you open up more and more areas to visit, with some being much more dangerous than others. In a few seconds, you can come across the wrong person and get shot and killed with little warning if you aren’t careful. Some characters are better at negotiating than others, which makes certain characters the best ones to send out over others.

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While scavenging on the outside at night, your house can also be raided and your housemates injured in the process. It is almost impossible to avoid these early in the game, which can be rather annoying. However, this adds another layer of strategy to the game as you can better fortify the house and prepare for potential home invasions moving forward.

The actual movement within the shelter or other locations are done pretty simply, with each area having different levels that are traversed by either staircases or ladders. Very few button presses are needed, with even the scavenging and attack button being one in the same, including the ability to switch between each. Sometimes the movement between floors can be a little confusing with the usage of up and down, which can take some getting used to.

Sleeping is part of the game’s character status mechanic, as players must sleep and eat to survive and be functional in the game. In addition, they can get injured or sick, which can eventually lead to death. For sleep, building beds in the house is vital to keep everyone well rested, while you must go and scour the other locations to find food, medicine, bandages, and other necessary supplies. There are even emotional statuses like feeling sad, which greatly impacts these characters as well.

As the days go by, you actually start to feel very emotionally invested in these characters and their survival, largely due to the little moments where the characters display feelings like this. Watching your character reflect on their killing of an innocent person to obtain food and supplies to keep their friends alive is really gut wrenching and rather unexpected in a game like this. To see the characters get to the point where they wish they were dead themselves after losing their only friends is downright depressing, but fits the tone of this world perfectly.

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In a sense, the game takes on some RPG mechanics as well, especially with the ability to upgrade the household. Building vital objects like a stove and such are necessary to stay alive in the long term, as raw food does not satisfy you enough. Having to eat more uncooked food can cause many problems later by dwindling your already limited supplies at a faster rate, which really requires you to make tough decisions a lot in this game. In fact, many items like the stove are also very important for when Winter arrives, as you must also keep warm.

Building some objects can take a little bit of time, as well as when you are trying to access certain areas by picking locks or breaking down barriers, which can get a little tedious at times. It manages to avoid feeling too much like the time based mechanics that plague mobile games, but still does bog down the experience a bit at times.

Does a great job at presenting almost a timeless setting

This War of Mine: The Little Ones has a very grim atmosphere throughout that surrounds the world these characters live in, which is greatly shaped by the game’s uncommon art style. Everything is in black and white, which in of itself does a great job at presenting almost a timeless setting. However, the pencil style drawing that accompanies it really feels right at home alongside the game’s usage of real black and white photographs. The soundtrack certainly isn’t as impactful as the unique visuals, but it still works pretty well throughout as well.

Due to the game’s level of realism, it utilizes an auto-save system that does not allow you to save at will or load old saves. This means that anything that happens is final, with no chance of a redo. In a game like this, this can make it incredibly hard, as one little mistake can lead to one of your characters being killed. Similarly, the different raids and such that occur cannot be prevented or prepared for in any way. This can get frustrating in some ways, but at the same time, it somewhat understandable with what the developer is trying to do with this game.

While This War of Mine originally released on PC in 2014, those who didn’t play again after the first few months missed out on a major update that is available from the start in the console version. That is the game’s Write My Own Story feature, which lets you take control of many of the game’s settings. Rather than picking from a set lineup of characters, you can make a party of up to four of the available ones, or even create your own. The actual creating itself is sadly pretty limited, as there aren’t that many portraits or occupations to choose from, but it is still a fun feature.

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Even more useful though are the other settings that can be adjusted in this mode. The range of days until a ceasefire and the intensity of the ceasefire can be adjusted, which does allow you to somewhat decrease the difficulty that may turn some people off of the game on its default settings. The aforementioned usage of Winter in the game can also be adjusted, from how early it comes to the harshness and even the length. By getting to create characters and make these adjustments, it really adds a lot more longevity and replay value to this game.

The Verdict

The frontlines of war are showcased often in gaming, but This War of Mine: The Little Ones does a fantastic job at giving gamers a chance to experience the struggle of the civilians in these war torn countries. Offering surprisingly emotional situations with the number of characters available, the scavenging and survival system is quite impressive as well, though not without a few frustrating features. The new console release of This War of Mine: The Little Ones does not really bring anything new to the table from the most updated PC version, but for those who haven’t played it and are craving a survival style simulation game, this is one definitely giving a try.

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This War of Mine: The Little Ones

  • Available On: Xbox One, PlayStation 4
  • Published By: Deep Silver
  • Developed By: 11-bit Studios
  • Genre: Strategy, Survival
  • US Release Date: January 29th, 2016
  • Reviewed On: Xbox One
  • Quote: "While the new console release of This War of Mine: The Little Ones does not really bring anything new to the table from the most updated PC version, the surprisingly emotional situations and impressive scavenging and survival system is worth checking out for anybody that missed out on the original release."
Review Policy

The Good

  • Perfectly fitting visuals and atmosphere
  • Emotional connections
  • Deep survival system

The Bad

  • Occasionally tedious
  • Auto-saves only
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