This War of Mine is a ‘war survival’ game, set in an unnamed town beset by war between unknown militaries. Subverting the usual video game tropes of playing a soldier, fighting hordes of zombies, or both, the game is focused around scavenging food, equipment and rudimentary medical supplies in order to carve out an existence in a bombed out apartment building. The civilians controlled by the player spend their days taking care of their various needs (hunger, warmth, nicotine, and more), and their nights either guarding the house, sleeping, or out hunting for more supplies.
Developed by 11 bit studios and released on November 14th, this game is already getting rave reviews. It has a dark and oppressive atmosphere, relatively simple but effective graphics, and the freedom to create something of your own narrative as you see how far you’re willing to push your characters when supplies are scarce. You should go to Steam and buy it now, but if you want a taster, we pick up David Jackson as he reaches the end of his first month:
“Please! Just take whatever you want!”
Marko, my scavenging specialist, left the derelict – and now completely barren – villa with the sobs of the nameless woman still ringing in his ears. The night was cold. Very cold. His own house was warmed by a raging furnace well stocked with wood, but the house he was leaving was cold – and the night now even colder. Clutching some spark plugs, spent shells falling out of his pockets, he stumbled in the snow.
This wasn’t what had been planned when Arica first scoped the villa out two nights prior. Lots of weapons she said, with a stocked fridge and two inhabitants – from a diary entry she had found, evidently the female inhabitant was not married to the owner of the ‘house’, but had found – and consoled – him after his wife’s death.
How Arica had managed to get hold of the diary, Marko didn’t want to speculate – she was always the cat burglar. He was more of a bruiser, always the guy sent in to do the heavy lifting once the coast was clear. He’d just endured four solid nights of traversing ‘sniper’s alley’, ferrying wood and mechanical equipment back and forth across a street with rounds cracking past his head.
The nights had dropped much colder now, and people were getting ill. The three of them – previously four, former football player Pavel having been murdered during a ‘routine’ visit to the city’s hospital – were well stocked on food (rats in plentiful supply), but short on equipment with the winter closing in.
It was amazing that this villa, damaged as it was by the ongoing conflict, was housing anybody at all. Clearly its owner, Emil, had a sentimental attachment to the place. A large photograph of his wife, presumably taken prior to war’s outbreak, hung in the living room with candlelight breathing upon it.
For whatever reason Emil and his new companion still remained in the house, it still represented one of the few remaining easy targets as the snow rendered may of the city’s streets impassable. Local gangs and militias were steadily taking over the city’s major hotspots – those which weren’t already occupied by the military, anyway. There was a sizable basement potentially full of supplies, and a bedroom where valuables might be kept. Arica had been forced to flee after nearly being caught, and tonight was Marko’s turn. Besides, the lump could carry more than she could anyway.
“Take one of the shotguns”, yelled Bruno, the former cook who always seemed to find a reason not to go out at night. “Just in case.”
It was not said – and did not need to be – that Pavel had himself refused to take a firearm to the hospital on the night he was shot dead.
It started well when Marko arrived at the house. The balcony on the front of the house would have made an ideal vantage point for a sentry – but these two weren’t military. Marko didn’t know it, but Emil was asleep, and his female companion was paying a visit to the fridge.
The ‘bread and butter’ supplies – wood for the furnace and metal components for salvage, were in the basement, but Marko knew from experience that it shouldn’t be too difficult to fetch these on the way out. He’d been scavenging from the very beginning – and of the group he had always been the best at it. No. The real deal was further into the house: the bathroom, the kitchen and the bedroom. The noise from the kitchen made clear that it was occupied, so he crept up the stairs to clear out the medicine cabinet. Not much, but it would do.
Now just for the bedroom – there was a decent chance that somebody was asleep in there, but if he was quiet he could make his escape before anybody realised. Newly acquired bottle of pills in his back pocket, he slowly opened the door, shotgun in hand.
Emil was awake and out of bed immediately. A glint of metal flashed across Marko’s face. Footsteps charged up the stairs behind him. Marko panicked.
The newly awoken Emil was staggered back by this unexpected shot to his abdomen. Adrenaline numbing the pain, he again started to move forwards towards Marko, who was clumsily cycling his shotgun.
“No!” screamed the unnamed female companion, moving to block Marko’s fire. She didn’t succeed. Emil continued to try to stagger forward despite his body failing him – the last shot was rushed, low, and had torn shreds through his left thigh.
Shoved slightly by the woman rushing past him, Marko’s last shot wasn’t low – it was directly into Emil’s sternum, and knocked him flat on his back. He didn’t – and wouldn’t – move again.
A blunt butter knife lay next to Emil’s outstretched hand, blade still clean.
Marko wondered what had stayed his hand as he saw her kneeling over Emil. His hands were as bloody as the bedroom he had just defiled. He preferred to think that she hadn’t threatened him, and that he hadn’t heard them surrender after his first shot. Or maybe she just wasn’t worth the ammunition; he only had two shells left.
She didn’t disturb him as he cleaned out the rest of the house. There wasn’t must left to steal, and the fridge was empty.
Their home had been robbed when Marko got back. An armed gang had cleared out the supply of fresh water, with Arica and Bruno both wounded in the scuffle.
Marko never forgave himself, and was shot and killed on a desperate hunt for medical supplies two nights later.