WAR is a terrible thing, unless you’re a computer gamer, in which case it’s the premise or setting for a mind-boggling number of games.
The Ancient Greek poet Pindar once said “War is sweet to those who have not experienced it”, which is what makes This War of Mine, published by 11 Bit Studios for PC and Nintendo Switch, a refreshing take on war games in general.
Instead of being a soldier, you play civilian survivors of a fictional besieged Balkan city in a fictional conflict clearly inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo and the Bosnian war of the 1990s.
The basic game is about survival – ensuring your group has enough food, stove fuel, medicine and the like to make it through the days, while at night you sneak out to scavenge supplies from locations around the besieged city.
The game forces some pretty weighty choices on you as a result of the limited resources available for your group of survivors. People will starve to death or die of disease, or they’ll freeze, or other groups will try and take your stuff – but if you’re lucky, you’ll make it until the ceasefire which ends the conflict.
Suffice it to say it’s not the most cheery of games and while it is excellent, it isn’t something you want to play when you’re looking for something to brighten your day.
Since the game’s 2014 release it has received several story-based add-ons, the most recent of which is Fading Embers.
The add-on puts you in the role of Anja, a young woman taking shelter in her grandfather’s house. Her grandfather was a talented artist and she has been sheltering a collection of artworks despite all the destruction in the war, especially as she is part of a persecuted minority.
As the game starts, she rescues a stranger who has been shot by one of the military forces during a pogrom, and begins the difficult path of nursing him to health while juggling their need for food and medicine and heat with rescuing and protecting their history and heritage – particularly artefacts and artworks they collect.
Given the game takes place in the middle of an Eastern European winter, it won’t be long before you’re looking at a wooden artwork or old painting and wondering just how much fuel you could get out of it should you take to it with an axe.
Later on, you can shift to the city’s museum, where the challenge becomes greater – especially once you start dealing with priceless medieval manuscripts and the like too.
In keeping with the general tone of the game, it’s all pretty downbeat – so don’t go in expecting a big musical number at the end – but it is thought provoking and a great addition to an already worthy game.
This War Of Mine remains a must-play game and one I recommend to anyone with an interest in games as a storytelling medium or for anyone who wants to experience the human side of conflict.
If you’re a fan of the game, you’ll enjoy the new facet of the experience offered by Fading Embers – but if you’re new to it, play through the main campaign first to get a feel for what this worthwhile title has to offer.