I’ve spent so much of my time as a gamer on the battlefields of wars both fictional and real. I’ve stormed the beaches of Normandy, and I’ve battled aliens. But I’ve never in all of my years of covering and playing video games, endured something quite like This War of Mine: The Little Ones. The game takes place in a fictional civil war where you don’t play as a soldier at all, but as the civilians who are caught in the middle of it all.
This War of Mine was released for PC in late 2014 (and iOS in 2015) to extremely positive acclaim. It’s a game that allows you to control up to 3 individuals whose soul purpose is to survive during this civil war. Now two years later they’re bring This War of Mine to consoles with additional content in This War of Mine: The Little Ones. We will talk about the additional content in a bit.
This War of Mine is a game about survival. You will start with three characters each with a brief bio that explains a little about them. The bios are short but give you just enough to relate to these characters. You will be given a location to hunker down in and then set free to do what you want. The game gives absolutely no guidance on what to do. You will spend your first day collecting whatever materials are left at your home base and begin to build out your home. The starting items tend to be a makeshift stove and bed. The longer you survive and the more materials you can collect the more you can build items to help your longevity.
How do you get those materials? Well you have the nighttime to go scavenge nearby locations. The game makes an interesting choice and only allows one of your party to go out and scavenge. The other two can either guard the home or sleep. Once you choose who’s going to go out to scavenge, its time to go find food, weapons, and materials. Each location has its own set of challenges. Some will be occupied where you will have the option to steal or barter. Other locations will be locked up and you will have to break-in. The tension that comes from each raid cannot be understated. I felt my whole body tense up each time I saw a location was occupied. If you do choose to engage in combat or steal it will have tremendous impacts to your character’s psyche. And if a character is wounded the healing time is extensive. Having a person even at half-speed can have terrible impacts to livelihood of your party.
If that wasn’t stressful enough, This War of Mine: The Little Ones adds children into the mix. One of my first runs in this game was with a Father and Daughter. This experience tore me up. The Dad not only needs to survive but he has to take care of his daughter who has her own needs as a child. So along with fending off bandits, building beds, and dealing with the war around him, he has his daughter to keep alive. Not only is the difficulty of surviving amped up but so too is the emotional toll this game takes on you. On many occasions I had to stop playing and take a break as the pain of failing my daughter became to great.
Although the outlook in This War of Mine: The Little Ones is bleak the visual style is gorgeous. It does an incredible job of conveying a war torn country and all the pain and horror that surrounds it. It has an almost cel-shaded pencil drawn look that has a ton of dark shades which add to the already dreary experience.
With each play through of This War of Mine, you do start to learn more and more of the strategies that will help make you successful. Nothing in this game, however, is easy. The game is all about making sacrifices and understanding that each action you take could have tremendous ramifications. The game however rewards you for being methodical. If you go guns blazing and kill and steal you will find your party will wither and die from depression and sorrow over their actions. Once you start to learn the parameters in which you have to play in you will develop strategies that help you survive. However, making it to a cease-fire no matter what your strategy is going to have sacrifices.
For me that’s the difficulty in reviewing This War of Mine: The Little Ones. On one hand I believe it’s a truly brilliant game and an experience that everyone should play. On the other though this is one of the toughest games to play and I can’t say I “enjoyed” any of it. At the end of the day I think it’s a game that everyone should play. It’s profound in its delivery and its message. The additional content only adds to the horrors of war and for that I would say if you haven’t yet played This War of Mine, then The Little Ones is the right place to jump in.
I'm the Owner & Editor in Chief of Darkstation.com. After spending seven years as the reviews editor I took over the site in 2010. The rest is history. Now I work with our amazing staff to try and bring you the best possible video game coverage. Oh and I really like sports games.