REVIEW – This War of Mine: Complete Edition (Switch)

In 2014, 11 bit studios released This War of Mine on PC, a game that focused not on soldiers and killing but on surviving as civilians. In November 2018, the Complete Edition of the game launched on Nintendo Switch. It is raw, emotional, and heartbreaking, but it is the most life-like war game I have ever played. It might not be for everyone, but if you can take it, This War of Mine is worth your time.

The game centers around a group of civilians who are trying to survive a war. Inspired by many happenings in the Bosnian War, the food and medicine supplies are beginning to run out. You must help the survivors venture into the besieged city, find more supplies, and stay alive. Meanwhile, you also need to keep them away from other scavengers, soldiers, and sickness that is out to kill them.

You control each individual in the group, having them run errands, build things, sleep, eat, and more. While one is working on a task, it’s important to have the others start their own projects. This is a bit confusing in the beginning, but with time, you eventually get the hang of it. The only thing that remains annoying are the controls. Every once in a while, I was not able to climb stairs or a ladder, for example, unless I was in the exact pixel-perfect spot on the screen. The only other minor gripe was that I was not always sure what I was to do next. Although, my guess is that is just part of the game — trying to figure things out as you go.

You cannot leave your hideout during the day, so the goal is to try to get as much done around there. But at night, it’s time to go on scavenging missions around the town. While it’s important to think ahead and plan out your strategies, sometimes something unexpected could happen to throw off your plans. You could get attacked, you could waste time by not finding supplies you thought were somewhere, your place could get raided, or you could lose someone in your party. That sense of reality draws you in, but it also makes it really frustrating when your plan is thwarted due to unforeseen circumstances.

The game’s graphics and soundtrack do an excellent job of setting the tone. The dark overcast helps to both create the proper setting and also connect with the bleak nature of their setting. The music is somber, both drawing you in but also making you realize the severity of the situation. The viewpoint is from the side. I did not enjoy this at first, but after I realized I can zoom in and out to view more or less of the building, it was much better.

This Complete Edition of This War of Mine also contains all the previously released DLC, which includes:

  • Anniversary Edition update: new characters, locations, and a possible new ending
  • My Own Scenario: write your own story and scenario within the game
  • The Little Ones: explore survival through the eyes of a child
  • This War of Mine Stories: The Father’s Promise: an additional story based on a family’s struggle to survive
  • All future DLC: all upcoming updates, which will include at least two more Stories

The sheer amount of content that is already there and that is promised to come in the future is surprising for an MSRP of $39.99 US.

Your game experience will vary depending on how you play the game. This makes the replay value high, but with the added DLC content containing more stories and the ability to create your own, there is always another experience you can have with this game. That is probably the best way to describe the game, too — as an experience. Yes, you have a goal to accomplish, but it is so different from other types of games that I cannot even explain it as fun or enjoyable. Instead, it is similar to Schindler’s List. I imagine that people do not read that book or watch the movie to be entertained but to connect with what it was like at that time in history and to empathize with the people who went through certain horrors.

Much of the time, the game is slow-paced. If you are looking for a run-and-gun game, this is not it, and that is okay. Also, things that happen are permanent. If someone in your party dies, they are gone, and you must move on without them or restart the entire game. If you are looking for respawns, this is not it, and that is also okay. However, if you are looking for something that is based in reality for many civilians during war, This War of Mine is a great way to walk in their shoes. Just be ready for the emotional toll that it might take upon you.

GAME: This War of Mine: Complete Edition
DEVELOPER: 11 bit studios
PUBLISHER: 11 bit studios
ESRB: M for Mature 17+ (Blood, Violence, Use of Drugs/Alcohol, Sexual Themes, Strong Language
MSRP: $39.99 US
RELEASE DATE: November 27, 2018
OBTAINED: Download code provided by developer/publisher for the purpose of this review

Livestream Archive
When I first started playing This War of Mine back in December, I streamed my gameplay. I’m not sure what was happening with my microphone, but the good thing was that I did not talk much during the game. If you want to see what it is like, especially when playing it for the first time, feel free to watch. Due to the M-rating, though, we cannot embed the player here. You must watch on YouTube