This War of Mine is one of the most critically acclaimed and loved indie titles in history, and with good reason. Looking at the impacts of war and how it can effect individuals trying to survive, it shows personal and harrowing takes on what it means to be human and the choices that must be made during such dire circumstances. It’s a dark, depressing experience that wears you down piece by piece – and it’s now available on Nintendo Switch, with This War of Mine: Complete Edition.
Included is the original This War of Mine, plus expanded content The Little Ones, Anniversary Edition, Father’s Promise and free access to upcoming DLC. This means that this is a fantastic place to start if you haven’t played it before, but also a solid collection for fans of the game, which is very well suited to handheld mode in short burst play sessions.
In our review of This War of Mine: The Little Ones, which launched on console back in 2016, we said: “This War of Mine is crippling. It will make you upset. It will make you feel like a horrible person for the decisions you’ve made and the regrets of what you could have done. But what it’s doing is emphasizing a beautiful aspect of video games; what we have is a medium that is better than any other at making people feel. This War of Mine is a great game, not for how fun it is, but for what it can make you feel.”
The game works on a day and night cycle, with the aim to gather survivors, keep them safe and continually gather resources for your home base to do so. By day, it’s people management, checking in on everybody, making sure they’re rested, fed and happy (well, as happy as they can be given the circumstances). You can also build additions to your home and fortify it. At night time, you’ll send someone out to scavenge for supplies, which is where This War of Mine gets really interesting.
You can explore abandoned hospitals, schools, shops or homes in order to try and find as many supplies as you can. You need to gather food, drink and materials to keep your survivors from reaching the point of no return, but it’s rarely as easy as just going out, collecting things and coming home. You could encounter others out in the world who might want to hurt you. Combat is a risky prospect, as you may end up injured or worse. Then there are other encounters that take place which could prove to be more emotionally taxing.
One of my early encounters was with an elderly couple in their home. I broke in, trying to find supplies, and the husband of the household confronted me. He wasn’t violent, but he begged me not to take their medical supplies as his wife was ill and in need. I needed the supplies for my daughter back home, so a decision needed to be made. Do I selfishly take them for myself, or leave them with the elderly couple? Returning back to that same place to scavenge down the track shows you the effects of your decisions, creating small stories and a ripple effect on the world that leaves you questioning your morals.
When you do come back hoe, you may have been raided during the night, leaving your friends injured and supplies stolen. It’s a constant feeling of risk and dread no matter what you do in This War of Mine. It never feels like you’re “winning”, more just trying to stay afloat by any means necessary. It will make you feel useless and like you’re always hanging on a thread, which is a testament to the strong writing and gorgeously dark aesthetic that keeps you captivated despite the sad themes being so tough to endure.
This War of Mine: Complete Edition runs smoothly on Switch, but it does continue to have a steep learning curve that doesn’t hold back in teaching you the hard way. Wrong decisions could leave survivors dead and supplies can quickly dwindle, and it can take some time to find your rhythm. There’s lots to love about the game overall, but the slow burn strategy mixed with dark themes won’t be for everyone. If you can weather the storm, it still stands strong as a memorable perspective on war that should be experienced by everyone.