With its teaser trailer, This War of Mine presents a world ensnared in combat, but focuses its lens on the civilians caught in the middle of the brutal conflict. "In war, not everyone is a soldier," the ominous video notes, featuring huddled civilians within a building as uniformed soldiers battle outside. In part inspired by the mature message found in award-winning indie game Papers, Please and an article that recapped "One Year of Hell" within a besieged Bosnia, Senior Writer Pawel Miechowski says, This War of Mine is a bleak game about the repercussions of war and attempting to survive the chaos.
In development at 11 Bit Studios, the team behind the Anomaly series, This War of Mine explicitly sets out of avoid the entertainment of firing a gun and scoring kills, Miechowski tells me. "This is a serious game. A mature game."
Miechowski says the ten-person team on the project at 11 Bit Studios is making a game about resource management with elements of morality infused throughout. If you stumble across a person that desperately begs for food, you can save them by trading the precious commodity for another essential piece of survival or valuable information. Or let them die. You can also ally with civilians, adding them to your roster and adding a new set of hands able to scavenge for essentials or guard what little you own.
The game starts with your home, a building that has been ravaged by war. Buildings are presented from a 2D perspective looking into each room, as though an entire wall was removed from the structure – similar to the "Ant Farm" home base in XCOM: Enemy Unknown. Once night falls, a map appears with locations to explore. Presented with the ability to explore, players assign tasks for their stable of survivors: Select one person to scavenge, set others to guard your base, or allow them to sleep. Survivors will grow tired, hungry, and cold throughout the game. It's up to the player to manage their health to ensure their survival because once a survivor is lost, they are gone forever.
"We made it just like real life. In war you don't come back. It's the same for this game."
Structures in This War of Mine are not procedurally generated, but its contents are. Item locations shift, characters positions change, and their abilities and reaction to your presence vary. A specific building could be a serene place to discover a wealth of resources in one playthrough, but a death trap in the next.
When arriving at a building to explore, the innards are shrouded in a black fog, which dissipates as you investigate each room: a "fog of war" concept utilized in many strategy games. Players can simply rush inside the building through blown out openings or doors, but it's much safer to quietly make your way through the location. You can look through peepholes of closed doors to slowly reveal parts of the room beyond. You can search cabinets, piles of rubble, abandoned major appliances to collect food, scraps, building materials and weapons.
The purpose of not rushing a location is to ensure safety from anyone who may be found inside a building. Civilian response to your presence could be hostile, or they could be terrified. Rush in and they could immediately react with violence. Methodically approaching objectives is a smarter play, Miechowski says.
Visually, the teaser trailer for This War of Mine transitioned from soldiers of war, rendered in a slick modern engine before shifting to the cowering civilians presented in an illustrated charcoal line art graphic style. This War of Mine is presented exclusively in the gritty blacks and grays of animated charcoal art.
This War of Mine is early in development; so early that Miechowski says he doesn't want to show any in-game footage to the public yet. Whereas Papers, Please was a game about a bleak setting, it also captured attention for its poke at the absurdity of horrific situations. This War of Mine doesn't have a lighthearted approach; it doesn't have that element that tells the player "it's okay to enjoy this, despite its message." This War of Mine a game about being stuck in the middle of a war and war is hell.
11 Bit Studios plans to launch This War of Mine on PC and unspecified mobile devices later this year.