This War of Mine: The Little Ones Review (XONE)

This War of Mine XONE 1
Deep Silver

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Most war video games focus on the soldiers out on the battlefield, but This War of Mine instead turns your attention to the civilians suffering as war rages around them.  Procuring food, water, medicine, or even a simple book for entertainment presents a great risk, and deciding what, and who, is important for survival presents one heart wrenching moral choice after another.

  This War of Mine: The Little Ones is a heavy game and one of the more unique and interesting experiences on Xbox One. 

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Deep Silver
  • Developer: 11 Bit Studios
  • ESRB Rating: “M" for Mature
  • Genre: Sim
  • Pros:  Fantastic concept; seeing a different side of war
  • Cons:  It isn't exactly fun; tiny text

Setting

As we mentioned above, This War of Mine: The Little Ones puts you in charge of the survival of a group of civilians caught in the middle of a war.  The frontlines of the battle have moved on, but acquiring food and other supplies is still very dangerous because of the other people fighting tooth and nail over every scrap that remains.  If you can survive long enough, fresh supplies are brought in and your suffering comes to an end and you "win" the game.  Surviving that long, or at least making sure all of your group survives that long, is very challenging, however.

This War of Mine was originally released on PC and mobile previously but makes its console debut now carrying the "The Little Ones" subtitle.

  The Little Ones refers to the addition of child characters to the game, which adds all sorts of extra moral weight to every choice you have to make. 

Gameplay

The game is played sort of like a 2-D version of The Sims.  You control a number of different survivors and each one has their own strengths and weaknesses and skills.

  During the day you have to assign them to do things like clearing rubble, preparing food, building new tools/items, or letting them rest.  At night, one person can venture out to search for supplies in a different part of town while the others rest or stand guard.  Your scavenger can only carry so much, though, so you have to always keep in mind what is actually important when you decide what to bring back.  Everyone is always starving.  Someone is always sick or injured.  Everyone is bored and restless.  What do you do?

You aren't the only person scavenging for supplies, either, and not all of the places you venture to areas abandoned as you'd thought.  You run into other survivors almost every night, and these encounters are really the driving force behind how your group's story plays on a particular playthrough.  Sometimes you have to steal from innocent people.  Sometimes people fight back.  Sometimes you have to kill others in order for your group to survive.  Occasionally you'll actually come across friendly folks who willingly share.  More often than not, however, you have to do some not so nice things in order to ensure your survival. 

As you play, each member of your group is basically an open book sharing their thoughts about everything.

  They're always hungry and sick and wish they had cigarettes or alcohol, but they also constantly judge the other characters based on what you made them do.  Stealing and killing or letting weak members die off has a huge impact on the morale of the group, potentially even driving certain folks to suicide if they can't deal with the guilt of what they had to do.  It is a heavy experience and adding children to the mix really make some of the choices truly gut-wrenching. 

Is any of this particularly fun, though?  Honestly?  No.  Not at all.  It is definitely interesting and a fresh take on a common setting, but it isn't a game you have fun with.

  I get it.  War sucks and isn't fun.  But I don't play games to constantly get punched in the gut over and over and over.  It can be satisfying to do well and does make you really think about things long after you've put the game down, but it is basically the opposite of fun.  It's work.  I also feel like the game is a bit too heavy handed with how hard it tries to beat you down for every tough decision you make.  In real life if a bunch of strangers I was trying to help complained to me every second of every day I would probably leave them to survive on my own.  You don't have that option in This War of Mine.  It is thankless, depressing, sad, heavy, brutal work, all the time.  I don't think I like it, but I do respect the attempt.​

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Graphics & Sound

Visually, This War of Mine: The Little Ones is a mostly monochromatic 2D world where you see into structures from a cutaway side view.  The environments look okay.  The character models look okay.  It is a mostly simple looking game that isn't super detailed but does offer enough so you know what's going on.  My one complaint with the visuals is that the text, which there is a ton of, is small and hard to read even on a 43" TV. 

There isn't much to say about the sound.  The game would have benefited from more voice acting instead of relying on so much text.

Bottom Line

All in all, This War of Mine: The Little Ones is interesting and certainly unique on Xbox One, but it won't be for everyone.  At it's best it is thought provoking and can be very satisfying.

  At it's worst it is pretentious and overbearing.  I'm conflicted.  I'd rather play Ori and the Blind Forest or Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons for heartbreaking depressing (but still fun) games, personally.  If it does work its hooks into you there is actually a lot of potential gameplay here if you do multiple playthroughs, but the $30 asking price is a somewhat big risk to take on something that isn't exactly fun.  If you want to play an artsy game to prove to other people how smart you are, buy it.  If you play games for fun, skip it.  Sorry that that's kinda brutal.     

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