11 Bit’s This War Of Mine Examines The Very Real Perils Of War

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My opening day at GDC was full of hands-on previews and great sessions. My single hands-off demo came by way of 11 Bit Studios. The recently announced This War of Mine had me incredibly intrigued straight from the outset of the trailer. Yesterday I saw nearly 40 minutes of the game in action, and I was thoroughly impressed by what I saw, but more importantly, what I felt.

11 Bit is designing This War of Mine to supply the player with the interactive tools to make their own gut-wrenching choices. They’re boldly exploring the very real peril that civilians caught in the middle of conflict face every single day. The studio’s research wasn’t restricted to modern conflict, either. Their Polish roots mean the devs are well-versed in the conflict that plagued Poland during WWII. The unfortunate people caught in the middle of the opposing forces were in constant mortal danger and left to fend for themselves. That being said, the conflict in This War of Mine isn’t defined by geographical landmarks, or specific opposing forces. Everything remains utterly ambiguous so players are able to identify with the situation as if it were their own.

In light of the realism 11 Bit is trying to convey, the art direction is vividly bleak and murky. However, the sharp visuals aren’t weighed down by a loss of color, they’re in-place to reinforce the themes 11 Bit are aiming to drive home. It’s easily the best looking game they’ve made to date.

The demo I was shown consisted of three characters trying to survive a deadly siege. Each one possesses their own skill set they can contribute to the survival of the group. The characters I saw had varying proficiencies; some of which were tailored to maintaining your refuge, others are more geared towards executing dangerous scavenging missions.

A persistent clock rules your actions. During the day, you’ll be mostly constricted to the small haven you’ve carved out; unless you want to chance losing a character (permanently) to the trained snipers outside your domicile. Night time raids are also governed by the clock. You’ll only have until just before dawn to gather supplies and get home.

That’s not to say scavenging will be a walk in the park. There’s a large breadth of folks you’ll run into out in the world. NPCs will range from survivors, to bandits and military forces. Some may be friendly and looking to trade, others may be fearful, and some may be looking to harm you. During nightly raids, you have the choice of slowly sneaking through dilapitated buildings or quickly rifling through supply caches to cut down on occupancy time.

My demo saw a protagonist encounter hostile survivors during a scavenge run, armed with only a crowbar, Pawel from 11 Bit chose to flee and fight another day. If he’d chosen to stay and had survived the scrap, he may have found a large cache of supplies, or possibly nothing. If we flip the situation and become hostile with a fellow survivor, and say murder them for their supplies, your group will have knowledge of your actions. This behavior may lead to you losing stock with your party.

Raids are randomly generated, so what may have been an empty building in the past, could be bustling with supplies and activity during your next visit. Peering through keyholes and taking it slow will keep you alive during dangerous situations. Noise indicators will let you know if there’s something moving in the building you’re about to explore.

At the end of the day, I found the subject matter and themes of This War is Mine to be the most compelling part of my time with the game. The devs are genuinely passionate and knowledgable about the situations they’re presenting. I’m looking forward to seeing more in the future.

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Dylan Zellmer

Dylan splits time between games journalism, designing video games, and playing them. Outside of his deep involvement in the games industry, he enjoys It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Shameless, A Song of Ice and Fire, fitness, and family.
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  • BarneyStinson

    This sounds fantastic, really looking forward to it