11 bit studios’ This War of Mine may be one of the most highly anticipated games currently in development. After making a big splash earlier this year with their emotional cinematic teaser trailer, the team behind the game has been hard at work crafting a unique and artistic experience. I had the opportunity to sit down with the game for a few hours to find out if This War of Mine can really live up to the awesome hype that the teaser trailer generated.
The first thing that you must know about This War of Mine is that it isn’t based on any specific real-life war. Instead, the team put in many hours researching various wars in throughout history. Rather than diving into the political debate regarding any specific conflict, 11 bit chose to remain conflict agnostic, and instead tell the human side of war.
Everything began about 2 years ago. Grzegorz Miechowski (founder/managing director of 11 bit) brought an article titled “One Year in Hell” to the office, which was an interview with a man who had survived the siege of a city in Bosnia in the early 90s. That was a thrilling and absolutely moving piece, and a spark that instantly ignited the team to make this game. From then, we’ve done (and are still doing, actually) extensive research on many modern conflicts, looking for memoirs and stories from regular people, civilians. Many of those small stories have been forged into events in the game. Examples are the well-documented siege of Sarajevo during the Yugoslavian war in early 90s; “Robinsons of Warsaw,” which relates to people who survived in the ruins of Warsaw during and after the Uprising of ’44; the great siege of Leningrad; as well as Kosovo and modern Syria.
In addition to the historically-inspired stories, 11 bit studios called upon their own team members, friends, and family to populate the game’s world. Check out this video for a look at how they turned a programmer into a priest.
Additionally, the team has tried to faithfully create a very “human” game, and so have scanned themselves, photographed themselves, made 3D models of characters based on their own postures. The fictional characters in the game are based on them, their friends, wives, colleagues. Anton is based on Mirek, the security guard in 11 bit’s office, who happens to also be a very nice man that became a friend as the team worked on This War of Mine.
Diving into the gameplay is pretty straight forward. I gained control of 3 unique characters (Pavle, Katia, and Boris), all taking refuge from the conflict inside of a war-torn building. Time is quickly revealed to be a very important factor that players must manage throughout the game. Surviving, scavenging, and preparing for the unknown is your goal every single day.
Since daylight is the best time for open conflict between factions, civilians are safest within the confines of their home. Players use this precious time to do the various things that they must, in preparation of a night of scavenging. Early on, I decided the best use of my time would be spent harvesting my own surroundings for precious resources such as bandages, wood, and whatever food was left behind. As the daylight grew dim, I had Katia craft a bed so that at least one of them didn’t have to sleep on the floor.
As night turned to day, I selected Pavle to go out scavenging. Before the war, Pavle was a football (read: soccer) player. His speed on the field might translate into something useful in case things get hairy out in the city at night. As Pavle left for a night of uncertainty, I was left with a difficult decision on just the first night, what do with the others do whilst he was gone. After some thought, I chose to give Boris a relaxing night in the freshly built bed. The other, Katia, was tasked with a long night of keeping watch.
I was offered the choice of a few locations to scavenge for the evening. What exactly awaited me at the building you choose was mostly a mystery. Will there be a glorious stock of exactly what I needed? Or instead, could other, less-than-hospitable, scavengers already be there? As the days went on, I exhausted the resources available closest to me. I was clear that I needed to branch out further.
During one of the nights while Pavle was gone, bad guys broke in and beat up my other 2 characters. They were in pretty bad shape. I needed bandages, medicine, and food. Katia hadn’t eaten in 2 days, not by choice. I had to do something. I gave Pavle as much rest as I could during the day. No matter what, I was coming home with food and bandages for Katia, even if it meant doing something crazy.
That evening, I came upon a quiet house. It looked like this might be a place to get what I needed. As Pavle reached the unassuming home, I peaked through the keyhole for a small glimpse at what might be inside. To my surprise, and elderly man sat comfortably in his recliner. I told myself it didn’t matter. I broke into the house. Alarmed, he rushed towards me, though unable to do anything to stop what I was going to do. As I rummaged through his cabinets, the old man begged me to stop. I had grabbed the last of his food. My bags half full, it was time to head upstairs. His cries continued. “Take what you want, just don’t hurt us” he said. As I reached the upstairs bathroom, his concern became more focused on what I was really after. “Please don’t take our medicine, my wife is very ill”. His pleas were beginning to get to me, but I knew what I had to do. One of mine was sick. Katia would die if I didn’t bring back some medicine, his wife’s medicine.
As Pavle handed out the night’s score and explained what he’d done, it was clear things would never be the same. The food, medicine, and bandages had gotten Katia back on her feet, but at what cost? The guilt of what Pavle had done for her was too much. Katia and Boris were no longer sleeping through the night due to severe depression on account of Pavles actions. Without rest, they couldn’t do what was needed during the day. Any entry in Pavle’s journal reveals his guilt as well. In the quest to stay alive, he and his companions had lost their humanity.
Another night, another opportunity to scavenge. I took Pavle out again in hopes of getting ahead, maybe finding something of value to trade. Instead, as I opened that door, I found my fate in the form of armed Bandits. Pavle never returned home that morning. No food would be on the stove for breakfast, no wood to keep the fire burning. Katia and Boris would never find out exactly what happened to Pavle, he was just gone. Now there were just two of them. Maybe it was better that way, it would be easier with one less mouth to feed.
This War of Mine is easily one of the most powerful and thought provoking games I’ve ever played. Despite this only being a limited preview of the game, I stand here today sending out a simple message to you. Get this game.
|Developer: 11 bit studios||Publisher: 11 bit launchpad||Official Website|
|Version Played: press preview build||Steam Achievements: n/a||Steam Cards: n/a|
|Buy on Steam||Buy on Games Republic|
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