This article provides our impressions on the Playstation 4 version of This War of Mine: The Little Ones. Review code supplied by Deep Silver.
Time doesn’t always have a great deal of meaning in games. Often the changes are cosmetic, whittling down to simple weather effects, or the changing colour of the sky.
Sometimes things go a bit further, and you may get another army of monsters, or an evolving environment.
In This War of Mine however, time is both your biggest ally and greatest foe. Especially when Auntie Irina has to tend to her little niece, Lydia.
Who are the little ones?
Exactly who you think they are. And that adds a whole other dynamic to this already tense, volatile world. Because you’re no longer leaving a grown man or woman guarding your shelter, defending it against would-be attackers while you’re out scavenging for supplies. You’re leaving a small, vulnerable child – who’s absolutely petrified living in this warped world – sleeping on their lonesome. A little girl who simply wants to ‘play with her friends’.
There’s more of an emphasis on the psychological in this new console release. Now you need to make time to play with the kid to keep their morale up. Listen to their silly stories, give them a hug, offer them food, bring them back gifts, even play Rock, Paper, Scissors.
The Little One is also extremely limited in what they can do. For instance, he/she can only build their own toys, but they’re not allowed to sift through rubble, go out and scavenge, or stand guard. There’s also the play option available to them around the shelter, so they can bounce a ball against the wall, hop around, or even soar on a swing if one has been built.
The juggling act of being the provider, as well as the guardian and entertainer is as difficult as it sounds. Some sacrifices will invariably have to be made, and with that, your survival is as much dependent on luck as much as it is solid preparation.
But you won’t look at this as a chore. In fact, I’d challenge you not to feel some form of paternal instinct kick in when your little one rushes toward you when returning from another night of scavenging, practically in tears because they’ve missed you and never want you to leave again.
For a moment, you’ll forget about the bleak outdoors, the harsh conditions, and the constant threat of raiders. Something the original release struggled to tear you away from.
War. War hasn’t changed much at all.
You begin with the bare-bones of a base. Just a solitary chair. No beds, radio or books. Clearly, it’s not safe, and needs your due diligence.
This War of Mine tasks you with creating the most secure haven possible, and stocking it up with nourishment, warmth and other amenities to help your survivors make it through the days, weeks and months ahead.
You’ll need to build heaters to stave off the chilly winter months, cook stews on a hob, construct a bed and armchair to rest, and fortify the outside so raiders can’t break in to get at any of it. If you’re feeling particularly charitable, you may even decide to help out neighbours, or trade with strangers when they recognise how secure your living arrangements are.
But in the case of Irina, you’ll need to take a 50 year old gardener out into a guarded fortress full of armed guards and find the resources needed to survive. Knowing you’re sharing the same space with someone faster and stronger with a loaded gun is one thing, but realising that going back with nothing is not an option? That’s something else entirely.
There is always the risk of getting injured in This War of Mine. People are incredibly vulnerable. But perhaps the scariest realisation of all is that, without you, that child has got no hope for survival.
Still, despite the horrors that lie in wait, This War of Mine remains utterly compelling and strangely addictive. Your morbid curiosity will not allow you to stop even if you wanted to.
Fear of the dark
This is a great addition to the PS library. The title is solid, there’s a lot of depth and replayability with the original Survival mode featuring Katia, Pavle and Bruno, and there’s even the option to craft your own story with different characters and locations. But there are issues. Most notably, the game’s font size. Even on a 47″ Full HD TV, I had to literally put my nose to the screen to read about my characters’ needs and diary entries. It’s incredibly inconsistent because there are other font sizes in the game which are perfectly legible, and almost too big.
Some of the controls are also a little clunky, particularly when you want your characters to climb to a higher ledge, or have them move down to a lower floor. It’s not always responsive and your character won’t always go the way you want it.
Future Expansion/Development for This War of Mine
The developers have already stated that The Little Ones expansion won’t be out for PC or mobile anytime soon, though it is likely to arrive at some point.
They’ve also stated that, for now, they want to focus on console stability and improving the experience, so we can expect further patches in the coming weeks, hopefully to help fix the games’ horrific font size.
We would also love to see new characters added overtime for the scenario editor, new places, as well other effects, that will keep the game replayable for months to come.
The Good Stuff
- Adding children into the game adds a whole other level of tension and heartbreak that makes the experience even more compelling.
- Thought-provoking and in-depth.
- Scenario Editor adds a ton of replayability.
The Bad Stuff
- Font size is horrendously small.
- Controls sometimes unresponsive and could use further stability fixes.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones is, at times, both sentimental and savage, but always a fascinating exploration of the ultimate worst-case scenario. A thought-provoking and heart-rendering experience that is matched with surprisingly in-depth, tactical and engaging gameplay every step of the way.