This War of Mine: the War of the Ct of the Victims

Seeing war from a different perspective. In this case, that of civilians. This War of Mine:This War of Mine: The Little Ones, the title of the Polish 11 bit studio, released on January 29th on consoles. A singular point of view exploited with great subtlety that gives rise to a captivating game, both in terms of its mechanics and the reflection it invites to nourish.

video games have often been criticized for their appetite for war. Or, at least, his approach to it by almost systematically siding with the Armed Forces or the men who lead them. In these productions, which regularly feature a lot of action, civilians usually play only a minor role. They still need to be taken into consideration. This is where This War of Mine comes in. For the title developed by the Poles from 11 bit studios reverses the point of view. And with it, all the concerns of the players by letting them control the first victim of the conflicts, namely the population.

After a noticed passage on PC in November 2014, This War of Mine takes advantage of this beginning of year to make a bracket by the consoles box via an enriched version affublished with a subtitle: The Little Ones. This does not, however, change the substance of the original game in any way. So here you are in the middle of the civil war in the town of Pogoren. A fictitious city directly inspired by Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which was the victim of an almost four-year siege between April 1992 and February 1996 that forced its inhabitants to live in extreme conditions. The objective is very simple: to survive. Not by standing up to the military who threaten your existence, but by finding the equipment and food you need so that you don’t die. Hunger, fatigue, cold, a bullet in the head or psychological distress.

A gameplay split in two

This War of Mine invites you to control up to four characters simultaneously at the start of a game, your goal being to have one of them alive after a given number of days (42, for example, for the first scenario). But nothing is less guaranteed. For the conditions in which they live are precarious to say the least. They are housed in a house that has been ripped apart by shellfire, letting the climate dictate the temperature inside. A refuge that must be set up in the daytime phases by building various indispensable elements such as a bed, heating or a rudimentary stove to prepare decent meals. Before you go exploring the area at night.

The game has the particularity of splitting its gameplay in two. The nocturnal phase, the one that naturally makes you more stealthy, lets you discover and explore the different places in the city. The hospital is full of drugs when the supermarket is full of abandoned food. So the mechanics are quite simple. At night, the characters harvest what they will use during the day to cope with the horror of their daily lives.

The art of inviting reflection

Beyond the point of view adopted, which is relatively original, it is the way in which the title introduces the notion of ethics that comes as a surprise. Night visits are often accompanied by unforeseen encounters that give rise to so many complex, and by extension, interesting situations to deal with. It is impossible not to hesitate to loot the barracks of a couple of elderly characters begging you to at least leave them some medicine. There are many moral dilemmas. They play both on you, as an emotionally involved player, and on the characters themselves. If they have ordinary primary needs, they also suffer mentally when the actions you ask them to take clash with their values.

The consequences can be serious. A simple event poorly negotiated under stress or simply out of necessity to the needs of the group can quickly turn into a drama. If endangering other civilians causes sadness, killing an innocent person or allowing them to be slaughtered in front of you may cause your survivor to commit suicide. Since death is final and safeguards impossible, the pressure of night raids is easily imagined. So there is a kind of vicious circle induced by war and the difficulties it creates, which pushes you to go further and further. Putting aside your initial reflection so that the days continue to pass. It is in those singular moments when the reality of survival conflicts with your convictions that This War of Mine takes on its full dimension.

Children’s issues

A dimension further reinforced by the arrival of children in this console version. Like adults, they need to feed and rest, but they have an increased need for distraction and are logically more fragile. Having toys in one’s possession becomes necessary to keep the morale of the younger ones high. Unlike their elders, however, they cannot die. They’re just fleeing the shelter if the situation becomes untenable. A choice that contrasts with the realistic bias of the Polish studio, even if it is easy to guess what motivated such a decision. However, war also takes its toll on children. And that evading a question like this can be a source of debate, as the message sent can appear ambiguous.

Nevertheless, the presence of minor characters obviously reinforces the notion of responsibility and generates increasingly difficult situations and insoluble questions. Is theft more legitimate when it comes to saving a child?

Certainly, This War of Mine: The Little Ones does not display enough variety between the parts – despite random events spicing up the whole – to sustain the experiment for weeks. But the game is very challenging in terms of its concept, and necessary if we talk about the themes it deals with. The 11 bit Polish studio managed to perfectly embrace its subject. To make sure that civilians are really at the heart of the gameplay and not a pretext to use an under-exploited theme. The situations that arise from the various attempts to survive allow for reflection and give a militant side to this original title. A rarity that makes it immediately precious.

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