This War of Mine: The Little Ones DLC Review
I first played This War of Mine a few months ago, and can honestly say I had a lot of fun with it. That being said, I can absolutely see how this game would not appeal to the masses, and can envision many people flatout disliking it. But, who’s to say it was made for the masses? If you like a heavy narrative over gameplay fluidity, and like games that force you to make difficult decisions, you’ll absolutely dig This War of Mine -- and its new DLC, The Little Ones.
This War of Mine, developed by 11 bit studios, is a war simulation game that has you playing as survivors and refugees of war, rather than the soldiers on the frontlines. It actually plays very similarly to The Sims, in that you have a group of characters you control at once, instructing them to do things like cook and eat. However, as you can imagine, the tone is much darker.
Your characters start off in an old abandoned building, waiting for your instruction. You can make them craft things like chairs, beds, and shovels, or make them forage the house for supplies. Once the house is dry of goods though, you have to start searching other buildings. The catch here is that during the day, snipers prevent you from leaving your house.
So, the game operates on a day/night system, where during the day you craft and cook and at night you send survivors out to forage for goods.
Tough decisions arise, like who to feed if the food supply is low, who gets the bed if there’s only one, and whether killing fellow civilians in town is justified if you need their supplies. Every choice you make affects your characters a great deal. For example, one of my characters was searching for supplies when he was attacked by the resident of the house he was in. Defending myself, I had my character beat the attacker with a shovel, to death. Then the deceased’s wife appeared -- mourning how I had just murdered her husband in cold blood. I didn’t know what to do except run away with the stuff I found.
Decisions like these hang around your characters, causing them to become depressed and even verbally lament their actions later. If not comforted by other survivors, your character will even eventually hang themselves. Darker than The Sims, huh?
So there you have it -- an emotionally intense survival sim where every decision you make is heavily weighted. The gameplay is a bit clunky, since it is entirely point-and-click and you’re sometimes controlling several characters, but the gameplay isn’t really the focus here. These developers wanted you to feel the horror that wartime refugees feel everyday, trying to survive in combat zones on minimal (if any) supplies. And this, I think, is achieved.
Now, let’s talk about The Little Ones, the first official DLC for This War of Mine. This expansion pack costs $9.99 (compared to the $19.99 for the base game). The purpose of this expansion was to expand the repertoire of characters by adding in children, since in the base game the only playable characters were adults. The developers wanted to stress the way children are affected in wartime survival situations, and I suppose they have also succeeded...sort of.
New groups of survivors are available to play as (I played as a father and his daughter for my playthrough) and while the additions are interesting… I don’t really see the expansion being worth 10 bucks. From what I can tell the only thing that’s been added is playable child characters, who are no different from the adult characters except for they can perform fewer functions (they can’t clear rubble, pick locks, etc). Every so often my “daughter” would come up to my father character while he was building or cooking, and ask for a hug or to play patty-cake. This was just an annoyance if anything, and I don’t even think it’s particularly realistic.
The child character will beg your parent character not to go out and scavenge at night, forcing you to disappoint the fictional child since scavenging is the only way to get any supplies once your house has been stripped clean.
This War of Mine is a great game, well worth its own price if anything just for its emotional value, but The Little Ones could have been a free patched update -- not an expansion that’s half the price of the original game. The main redeeming factor of the expansion, to me, is that 11 bit studios donates $1 from every purchase of The Little Ones to the War Child charity, which helps war-affected children across the globe.
I implore you to play This War of Mine… just don’t sweat the expansion (unless of course you just want to donate that $1).