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12 Days Surviving This War of Mine

Paul Goodman | 23 Sep 2014 14:00
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The trap in the basement.

Day 10

My hopes the trap would keep my crew fed fell short, as it's simply not bringing in enough food per day to give everyone a good meal. I didn't have the resources - or the bait - to build another trap, so when Franko came around to trade again, I gave up what little I could spare (scrap metal, random herbs and cigarettes, ammo for guns I didn't have) for a few more meals as well as some medical supplies to patch up my crew as best as I could. Despite having enough water and a way to bring in some food automatically, my group of civilians is barely scraping by day to day.

In a gamble, I brought my last canned food item to the homeless man, who in exchange showed us a stash of moonshine (useful for trade and for making sterile bandages) and some more jewelry that Marko could freely take. Not all that useful at the moment, but as long as Franko showed up later, I could definitely trade them for some more food or medication.

Day 11

With the building materials salvaged from the decrepit house, I decided to upgrade my stove, making it more efficient at cooking up meals through using less fuel. The trap provided another small bounty of meals, which Bruno cooked up eagerly. I'm still awfully low on meds, which could be a major concern if anyone else on my team gets injured by looters.

Guard Tower/Trading Post.

Since Franko didn't come by today and Pavle's still out, I load up Marko with anything I think might be good to trade and sent him out to a military outpost that was also rumored to be a trading post at night when the shooting stopped. It felt like a really dangerous prospect - after all, the radio I built earlier had some warnings about civilians being killed when trying to approach military positions - but when I arrived, the location was little more than a guard tower and a hooded figure standing ominously by a door with a button underneath indicating he'd be the one to bargain with. I traded all the extra bits I had that I didn't think I'd need - bullets, weapon parts, electronic parts - and managed to procure a ton of canned foods, but as soon as the transaction was over, the hooded man told me to leave. Given how heavily armed the soldier in the guard tower was, I took the advice and bailed. Maybe I could come back to trade later, but they certainly weren't too friendly.

Day 12

Pavle came back, well fed but still wounded, and the radio warned of colder days ahead. I gathered up some more food from my trap in the basement, securing at least another day's worth of meals for my group. I'm completely out of meds, but no one's injured or sick for now. With nothing left to build or do for my team, I sped up time to the end of the day. At this point the press demo of This War of Mine abruptly ended and returned me to the title screen, leaving me with a bunch of scribbled notes and a few things to ponder with my short time playing the game.

The End For Now

My first thoughts were "Well, that wasn't so bad", but I had to remind myself that this was only the first week or so in a game about long-term survival in a horrible situation. Although I was keeping my people alive day to day and making progress in getting some sustainable ways of harvesting food going, I could definitely see the situations in which one wrong move could have sent things spiraling out of control. Keeping my group fed wasn't as hard as I had expected, but I was giving away and trading items that could have been useful weeks down the line if the game went on longer. If raiders randomly showed up and actually managed to steal something important, like food or fuel, I'd be hard pressed to quickly replace those items. I also didn't have the resources to heal up my group quickly if anyone became injured, and was lucky no one became really sick, given how rare medications were. There certainly were opportunities to fix those problems - I could have easily stolen everything that elderly couple had of value - but I wasn't desperate enough just yet to do so.

When I ran into the elderly couple, I could definitely see a few instances where some of the gameplay's features didn't quite work in their current form - most notably how you interact with the people you meet. I would have very much liked to speak to the elderly couple and offer to trade with them like I had with the man in the garage, or even offer them shelter in my house in exchange for everything they had, but no options for dialogue were available. Like the house with the hostile man toting a shotgun; I would've appreciated the chance to try to talk my way out of that fight or even avoid it all together by speaking to him from a distance to see if it was okay to approach.

Fuck the war.

I also wasn't sure how morale played a part in the overall game. As mentioned in Carly Smith's preview from E3 earlier this year, characters can become depressed and refuse to help out if other survivors die, and it's not too far of a stretch to assume other factors, like fatigue or suffering injury, would further add to your group's emotional distress. In game, I did see that I could build chairs, guitars, and other luxury items that promised to keep my group in good spirits, but I also didn't see the need to waste resources building them. Keeping my group fed and well rested seemed to be all they needed. It is true This War of Mine doesn't exactly have an obvious endgame, though, so it may have been an area of concern as the days turn into weeks turn into possibly months (or even years).

This War of Mine is still a ways off from a full launch with no solid release date (other than a nebulous "TBA 2014"), so it's possible that many of these issues will be addressed in the final version of the game, especially those of character interaction. As I said in the beginning, there have been so few games that have ever approached the subject of what war does to a society, let alone those that discuss what it's like to live as a bystander in such trying times. I'll have to hope that This War of Mine will offer something substantial to think about in that regard.

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