Review – This War of Mine: Final Cut (PS5)
The horrors of war are not to be taken lightly. This might sound like an obvious concept, but the fact remains that many of the video games we choose to play in our free time to “escape our reality” focus on events surrounding war. There are the more outrageous and over-the-top shooters, such as Overwatch and Fortnite, which keep players dazzled with their fast-paced gameplay and flashy animations. Some war-focused games take the sci-fi route, such as Halo and Gears of War, which allow us to fight against strange enemies from unfamiliar worlds. Strangely, even with more realistic war games like Call of Duty tend provide a disconnect from the real world (although, perhaps that’s partially due to the inclusion of Zombies). Still, even though there have been countless games centered on the theme of war, it wasn’t until I played This War of Mine from 11 Bit Studios that I truly felt it captured properly.
This War of Mine takes place in the fictional city of Pogoren, Graznavia. There’s not much in terms of a traditional narrative. All you need to know is that war has broken out, and you and your fellow civilians must do whatever it takes to survive. There’s no glorification of battle to be found here, instead This War of Mine takes a realistic look into how regular citizens would struggle for survival in a war-torn environment.
Instead of being a shooter like most war themed games, This War of Mine is a survival game. Each playthrough starts off with one to four survivors, which you are able to switch off controlling. The original version of This War of Mine had twelve playable characters, but This War of Mine: Final Cut includes the potential of having a child in your roster, due to The Little Ones DLC. Admittedly, having a child in your group will make your run much tougher, since they cannot perform the same tasks as adults. This level of challenge can either be enticing or frustrating, which is mainly dependent on which other survivors are in your group at that time.
Balancing your team is one of the main ways in which This War of Mine deviates from being strictly a survival game and also becomes a strategy game. Each character has certain strengths, weaknesses, and a specialized talent. For example, Bruno is a “Good Cook”, which means he uses less water and fuel when cooking meals, which is hugely beneficial, especially later in the game when resources are scarce. Katia, on the other hand, is weak in Combat, but has good “Bargaining Skills”, which make her the best choice whenever you need to trade resources.
However, it’s important to note that you won’t be able to choose which characters will be in your group; each playthrough is randomized. This doesn’t just apply to who you start out with either. The length of your playthrough until a ceasefire is called is also randomized. Each run can last between twenty-one to fifty days before the wars ends, which can mean anywhere from about four to ten hours of playtime, depending on your playstyle and the duration of that particular run.
This War of Mine also features a day/night cycle, which is where the strategy and survival elements really come into play. During the day, your survivors will be unable to leave their shelter, due to hostile snipers preventing you from departing. This is when you’ll have to focus on crafting items and upgrading your hideout. Items like stoves, rain water collectors, and heaters are ideal for basic survival, while things such as beds, radios, and chairs are needed for resting and improving morale. Even if your group is properly fed and watered, if they’re exhausted or depressed, they could end up abandoning you or failing during a nighttime excursion.
While the day is for crafting, the night is for scavenging. Each night cycle you’ll have to assign one of your group mates to venture out into the scary world and hunt for supplies. Some characters are slightly better suited towards this task than others, but even they have to sleep sometimes, so you’ll have to plan carefully who you want to send out at night and where. Certain locations are more dangerous than others, which is an important factor to consider. Equally critical are the specific traits each of your survivors have; these will play a huge part in how successful they are when you send them out. Send your best bargainers out to trading locations and your swiftest or most combat-trained characters into the more dangerous areas.
Just be forewarned that sometimes even that’s not going to be enough. This War of Mine will constantly throw something unexpected at you, just to keep you on your toes. For example, during the night there’s a chance that your hideout will be raided. In order to avoid having your precious supplies stolen, it’s imperative that you have some functioning weapons in your shelter, as well as assigning someone to stand guard while other party members are sleeping and scavenging.
One of the biggest differences in This War of Mine: Final Cut from the original version is the inclusion of all of its DLCs. These include The Little Ones (mentioned earlier), as well as the three Stories expansions: Father’s Promise, The Last Broadcast, and Fading Embers. I found the Stories missions to be more interesting than the regular game because they provide a more narrowed focus on one or two characters. This allows for their journeys to be more fleshed out, as well as provides a better opportunity to become invested in their plight.
For example, in Father’s Promise, I found myself truly caring about helping Adam find his daughter, Amelia, and bringing her back to safety. That’s not to say that I didn’t care about the other playable characters in the base game, but the Stories Mode gave me a different level of attachment to the characters. The events felt more personal because I got to know who they were better than in the regular game.
The graphics have also been enhanced in This War of Mine: Final Cut, with it now sporting 4k visuals, remastered locations, and an altered UI. The game utilizes a dark, hand-drawn aesthetic that captures the feel of a derelict war-torn world. Each location feels gritty, grimy, and on the verge of collapse, which is how things would look in that setting. Some of the areas can look fairly similar to one another, but that’s to be expected when playing a game focusing on the devastation of war.
The sound design is excellent. Even without any dialogue, This War of Mine: Final Cut still manages to sell the feeling of being surrounded by war. This is largely due to the sound effects, with the sounds of bullets, bombs, and building collapses being ever present. Whether the violence is happening right next to you or off in the distance, This War of Mine: Final Cut does a great job of making you feel like you’re never truly safe.
This War of Mine: Final Cut is a very good game, but not necessarily what I would call “fun”. The strategy elements are entertaining and stimulating, without question, but the entire game is wholly depressing. Again, this is by design. This is not a game that meant for you to escape the dregs of everyday life, but rather provide a thought-provoking experience about the full scope of war. This War of Mine: Final Cut makes players think about aspects beyond simply winning or fighting for “glory”. It asks us to think about the real cost of war. When battles are fought, it is the civilians who suffer most; innocent casualties caught in the crossfire. The main point of This War of Mine: Final Cut is when the horrors of war are upon them, even good people can turn into monsters out of desperation.
The dark hand-drawn aesthetic wonderfully depicts the derelict war-torn world. Some areas look very similar, but honestly that’s to be expected in a game focusing on the devastation of war.
A survival game that combines elements of stealth, action, and strategy. Controlling your characters isn’t always the smoothest, which can be annoying at times.
The sound design is excellent, even without any dialogue. The sounds of war are always present.
Be prepared for a dour, depressing experience, because really, that’s the point. Each run offers a different experience and creates a new puzzle to solve in terms of survival. Although, after a while the ideas can feel too similar and slightly tedious.
Final Verdict: 7.0
This War of Mine: Final Cut is available now on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series S/X.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of This War of Mine: Final Cut was provided by the publisher.