A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that This War of Mine is a downloadable stealth action game set in a fictional war. Unlike other war games wherein players take on the role of soldiers, players control a group of ordinary citizens attempting to survive through the conflict that's destroying their town. These common people express a whole range of emotions, from joy at helping their fellow survivors to remorse and despair when they commit a crime that's necessary for their survival. The game does have a certain amount of violence, and characters can use their fists, knives, or guns to inflict damage on enemies. However, there's no blood thanks to the limited color palette for the graphics. Characters frequently smoke cigarettes and can even produce tobacco and alcohol for use or trade. Mild language is used infrequently, but the word "f—k" is spray-painted outside the player's main base. Parents also should know that the game provides a link to charity organizations so players can donate cash to help refugees.
What's it about?
THIS WAR OF MINE is inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo and takes place in the fictional town of Pogoren, which war has devastated. Players are put in the shoes of a group of ordinary citizens trapped in the town thanks to the rampant violence that's taken place and must rely upon each other for support and survival. Taking shelter in a partially destroyed house, players attempt to outlast the hostility of the war by any means necessary. That means managing goods to stave off sickness or hunger, along with providing for the emotional and psychological needs of your people. Gameplay happens in two phases. First, thanks to the open warfare during the day, it's too dangerous for your characters to roam the streets; confined to the safety of their shelter, they craft tools from materials, fortify their base, and try to handle the health needs of characters. Second, at night, players can scavenge areas across the city for valuable supplies that can be used to survive or traded with other people. Random encounters will let you decide whether you want to help people you come across or rob and kill them for their prized possessions.
Is it any good?
This War of Mine turns the war game concept on its head by putting you in the shoes of people forced to survive on what they can salvage from the ruins of their city. It really captures the relentless emotional toll of these circumstances on war-torn citizens. They're not soldiers or adventurers; they're average people who get depressed when they have to steal and become completely unhinged if they have to kill someone, even in self-defense. Aside from grappling with these moral questions, they face significant survival questions on a daily basis. Do you use the wood in your shelter to fortify your base from raiders or burn it for heat? Should you cook food with your meager supplies, or can you starve for one more day, making the supplies last? These are some of the lighter dilemmas you'll handle. Nighttime is just as dangerous; you'll be sending a character under cover of darkness to search for items while contending with enemy soldiers who will shoot and kill you on sight. Unlike in other games, you can't haul every bit of equipment that you find with you; you'll have to pick and choose with the limited amount of space your character has for possessions.
Knowing that you need every screw, every can of food, and every bullet you can find, and yet you can only take so much back in a night, increases the tension and feeling of helplessness for players with every move. This can even make you question whether you chose the right location to search or you grabbed the right items. Since there isn't a manual or tutorial to give you an idea of what you should do, you'll engage in lots of trial and error to figure out what you're doing -- one wrong move, one bad decision, and your group could pay with their lives, forcing you to restart the game. That can be one of the most frustrating parts of This War of Mine, because your margin for error can be so slight. However, each play-through gives a glimpse of what should and shouldn't be done, giving you an edge on how to best adjust your tactics to help future groups survive. This War of Mine is powerful and emotionally gripping -- one of those gaming experiences that can't be missed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the impact of violence in games such as This War of Mine. Is there less of an impact because players can complete missions without killing others? Is the impact reduced because no blood is shown?
Talk about the extremes people suffer in war. Is it ever justified to steal from others to ensure your survival? Is it OK to kill? Would you feel remorse for doing things you wouldn't resort to in peacetime?
- Platforms: Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
- Subjects: Social Studies: citizenship, cultural understanding, events, exploration, global awareness
Hobbies: building, collecting
- Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: decision-making, deduction, defining problems, investigation, logic, making conclusions, memorization, problem solving, strategy, thinking critically
Creativity: combining knowledge
Self-Direction: goal-setting, identifying strengths and weaknesses, set objectives, time management, work to achieve goals, working efficiently
Emotional Development: empathy, identifying emotions, persevering, perspective taking
Responsibility & Ethics: integrity, learning from consequences, making wise decisions, respect for others
- Price: $19.99
- Pricing structure: Paid
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: 11-Bit Studios
- Release date: November 14, 2014
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Adventures
- ESRB rating: M
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.