This War of Mine's invincible children are a serious flaw
This War of Mine is a brilliant game -- I want to get that out of the way first and foremost. It deals with issues that most games shy away from, like how far will you go when pushed to the brink and need to survive. It's a story about war, but not from the overpowered super-soldiers' view that most games give you.
You are simply a civilian, a survivor who needs to scrape and scrounge whatever resources they can to get through the day and make sure that a simple cold doesn't wipe out the whole house. You fight to survive, and through interactions and random events you start getting attached to the group of survivors around you. When the finite resources in the game start dwindling, you start doing unthinkable things to try and keep your group alive. The game was a PC hit, and soon it's getting a release on PS4 and Xbox One.
But this game that is supposed to be an unflinching look at the horrors of war, flinches.
War comes to the consoles
In the console ports, called The Little Ones, developers Deep Silver and 11 Bit studios introduced children into the groups of survivors. As a fan of the game and a father, this idea excited and terrified me. Ever since becoming a father myself, I've had a soft spot for kids in bad situations. But it also makes the decisions in This War of Mine easier in my eyes, as I'm willing to commit atrocities in the game to keep my Little One alive.
Therein lies the problem. Children in the game can't die -- if they get too sick or hungry, they just run away. In this excellent game that's all about being a dark and gritty look into the horrors of war, they shy away from children's lives being on the line.
This choice kind of confused me. As I've said, this is a game that prides itself on its dark grittiness, and other reviewers and YouTube personalities rave about it for its ideas, gameplay, and realism. Yet it's to scared to allow the possibility of kids dying.
The next few sentences are going to discuss spoilers of the Telltale Walking Dead game, where this issue comes up. So if you don't want to be spoiled, then skip ahead. The Walking Dead Universe is another dark, gritty horror story where you can see how far you are willing to go to protect your people. The difference is that TWD raises the stakes in the game by putting the lives of the children characters on the line. In that game, the kids can die -- and one does in what I've always called the most heart-wrenching scene I've seen in any video game. In season two, the protagonist Clementine can be killed in some of the most brutal death animations I've seen since Dead Space.
The Art of Suspense
I feel The Little Ones takes away some of the suspense and emotional attachment to the kids by treating them as nothing more than buffers (if they stay they eat more food, but boost the moral of the group).
I don't get to say this often, but the death of children in this game can add a whole lot more to the tension of the nighttime raids, when you need to add just a little more food so your Little One doesn't die. But this is a small complaint in an otherwise amazing game, one that I can't recommend enough.
Pick it up on PC, or wait for the console port when it drops this weekend on January 29th.
What do you think? Should This War of Mine add children's deaths in the game to add to the suspense and emotional conflict? comment below!