“What is it good for?” – This War of Mine Review

Posted: November 21, 2014 in Update Board

The world we know has changed so much. With the internet, information has become a big part of our lives. Everyday we watch news on the television, hear from the radio or read it from the paper. Sometimes even the media takes advantage of the situation and every story gives off the feeling of fear.

One incident that happened locally in the city of Zamboanga was the Siege that happened last September 2013 and it’s been a year since those days of paranoia, people directly affected are still recovering from the scars that were left. Those indirectly affected by the crisis, helped out and went on with their daily lives in hopes of something better, There is even a play at the Ateneo de Zamboanga about it and I will watch the play tomorrow with my friends.

There are loads of articles, opinions, even conspiracy theories on the net. Anyone who lives in Zamboanga City has their own stories to tell. My own experience with the crisis was indirect, I live a few kilometers outside the incident radius, but our family still took precautions and hid in the underground area of the house. That, plus saving up food stocks, making emergency plans and building up defenses just like a zombie apocalypse survival scenario.

This blog was even born during the crisis since I had little to do on the computer and had a vision. For those of you new to this blog, Zamboangamer caters to gamers and non-gamers. It advocates video games as a work of art, an educational tool, a career, a hobby, and a way of life. Face it, video games are here to stay. And if you want to know how video games can be useful then reading this blog is a must for you.

Going back to the Zamboanga Siege, it ended in victory of our Armed Forces of the Philippines, through coordinated planning, the invaders were repelled and order was restored. For many though, it was a wake up call that if the same thing happens again, we might not be as ready nor prepared to deal with the what-ifs.

It’s been a long time since I did a gaming review, the many games in the market these days plus the limited time spent on my computer leaves me with little options. But I decided that this game in particular is unique among the many war games that flood the mainstream market.

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This War of Mine is a unique game in a sense that it puts you in the shoes of the civilian who is trapped in a city that is undergoing a war. The capital and the setting are unknown but it may be an allegory to represent the horrors of war experienced in all parts of the world.

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The game begins with a back story of three companions who band together to increase their odds of survival, depending on who you get are the specializations of what they do, the first three buddies I had was an athlete, a cook and a journalist. Each time you start the game, these companions are randomized. I played 3 times to try to get the right mix and combinations since I felt that I wanted a perfect game.

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Having a perfect game is difficult, the game has no tutorial whatsoever, but survival game veterans will already know which needs are to be prioritized. The game plays as a platformer with you controlling any of the 3 people at one time. It’s kind of a mix between Sims and the recent XCom game on a darker and grey scale.

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The first things you would probably do is clean up much of the dilapidated apartment as much as possible. It would have been much faster to clear the debris with a shovel and I learned this later. Resources are scarce as heck and you must plan out every move, the most daunting task is foraging for food. Everyday your people go hungry and you must gather whatever resources you have the previous night.

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The night missions are one of the most tense parts of the game itself, you have the option to bunk up for the night, take shifts in guarding your base from looters and go scavenger hunting. With luck you might find what you need. Companions have a limited bag inventory and you can only go on one mission at a time. I can’t feel but helpless and frustrated when I went to a wrong zone only to come home empty. I am the type that cares for my virtual people and when I can’t then I start over.

And if you thought this game was hard, it’ll get harder with each passing day, as you tune in to the local radio, you can only pray that good news comes, but it doesn’t it gets worse. I’ve been playing for 5 days with 3 replays, other players who’ve gotten more days out of the game have been subjected to sniper fire, hostile looters, and bombings to name a few.

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I have a love-hate relationship with this game, I love how it tells the story through the eyes of the average people being in the middle of a war. The psychological impact of how a person without appropriate training is subjected to stress. Don’t take this the wrong way, I’m a pro-peace guy, but in my opinion there are too many games that put you in combat boots with a rifle.

This War of Mine is a testament to many people afflicted by wars. Many think that wars are noble or awesome but in truth, war is a bloody mess. Modern wars are even messier (refer to image with the Ernest Hemmingway quote), “Wars are delightful to those who have no experience of it” – Erasmus is another quote that will make you think twice.

I dislike how the game presents itself with no tutorial, the learning curve depends on the player who will be responsible for every decision you make in-game. I have no clue how the game ends as of this writing, but I do hope that it ends and all three of your characters make it out safely. Time for the verdict

Graphics:

I love the sketched out art style of this game, there is even an option to bring the pencil sketches vibrantly. The mixes of grey,black and other dark colors sets the war-torn mood like a graphic novel. Graphic requirements are not hard on the computers either, I’m running the game on a ten year old Quad-core processor with a NVidia 210 graphics card.

Sound:

The dark tones make the game feel harsher and hopeless. Aside from the classical music station on the radio, the music is somber. Sounds will also play a vital role in the scavenging missions as sneaking will alert less attention. Sound effects like creaks, wind, rain, thunder, etc are realistic with headphones giving you those chilling reminder that the war is still going on.

Gameplay:

The game runs as a simulation/stealth/strategy/platform/rpg. The mixing of these genres serves the game well. If you want a perfect game where you have the knowledge of everything then multiple replays are required. There is still a chunk of the game I have not figured out like the story and its ending.

Overall:

This War of Mine gets a 9/10 for being a one-of-a-kind game in spite of so many other blockbuster contenders, the simplicity and difficulty this game gives you will keep you playing for hours on end. After this review I hope not to spoil myself with walkthroughs due to the game’s mysterious and random nature with events or circumstances.

Lessons

In this part, we nitpick the morals and values we can learn from this game. There are so many of them and I can’t cover everything in one article, this is why we will limit most of the lessons to just 5.

1.Preparation – War takes its toll on resources, and even though you might not live in a dangerous area, you still have to prepare for the worst.Doomsday Preppers on Nat Geo can give you a good idea.

2.Purpose – In war, the civilian’s purpose is to support the state and the army with resources, that includes taxes, supplies,information and even lives. When the war gets close to home however, the purpose of the civilian becomes a liability unless you have a skill. Having skills such as cooking, martial arts, tailoring, medicine, etc. Will increase the odds of you and your family’s survival.

3.Pro-peace – Mother Teresa once said that, if you would be for peace then don’t invite me to an anti-war rally. “All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal” – John Steinbeck.War is a man made catastrophe that can be avoided if only the leaders of each country would agree to what benefits everyone. Even with the United Nations, countries keep stockpiling and researching weapons. How I want to see the day when the prophetic Bible verse found in Isaiah 2:4 will be fulfilled “And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war”.

4.Think Different – Big Hero 6 stuck on me as one of my favorite movies, the time Takashi challenged his brother Heero into making a plan unique was a lesson that moved me to inspiration too. This War of Mine took the steam market by storm and has had positive reviews for being different than all the other shoot-em-ups or battle-hardened games out there. If you are making something like a game, think different 🙂

5.Win the War – As the game title suggests a metaphor, the war could also be within us. We might struggle with our decisions, or conscience (IKR?!) Sun Tzu’s most famous quote summarized is “To know”, if you know what you are capable off, if you know how to conquer the obstacles, if you know whether to ask help or do it on your own will determine victory, not just in game but in real life.

Let me know what you think, like, subscribe, comment, discuss, and support Zamboangamer. Thanks guys and keep on gamin’ 🙂

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