It’s cold, I’m low on supplies, and one of my survivors is bleeding to death. I guess it’s best to go out and scavenge for medical supplies, but wait, if I leave them alone we could get raided again. Situations like that are common in This War of Mine: The Little Ones, where every decision you make could possibly be your last or offer great reward for the risk.
You begin the game in control of three survivors, bundled inside a war-battered house as civil war breaks out around you. The survivors you can choose from are Pavle, an ex-footballer; Bruno, a cook who loves his cigarettes; and either Marko, a friend of Pavle’s, or a young journalist by the name of Katia. Your job as overseer is to keep this ragtag group of survivors alive by scavenging for food, water, and more.
During the day, you can put these survivors to work and try to make your living situation more bearable. Moving around the house can be sluggish at times, with walking up and down stairs sometimes infuriating. Countless times I go back the way I came, forced to take my time to turn the corner and stay on the floor.
While crafting, there’s a multitude of different things you can create, from furniture and weapons to crafting stations that produce medical supplies – a must when scavenging. However, to create you must scavenge for items and that means leaving your humble abode and exploring more dangerous locations. This is where the game really shines, implementing many of those features we saw in This War of Mine on PC.
You can only scavenge at night and as one survivor, with the game giving you the option beforehand to choose who can sleep in beds and who should stay up and stand guard in case of a raid whilst you’re out. You quickly learn that 11 Bit Studios have created an experience that always puts the odds against you, pushing you towards those hard decisions when out collecting items. Should I take the wood for fuel or the weapons parts? You lose either way, cause you need everything and you can’t have it all.
How you choose to go about collecting items is up to you. At night, you’ll come across other survivors with their own supplies, willing to fight you to the death to keep them safe. If pillaging is your thing, then feel free to murder your way through the game and reap the rewards of it, just be prepared for the emotional backlash it will have on you and your character.
You might be taken back by how disturbing the game can be at times. During my first playthrough, I came accustom to using Pavle due to his decent running speed until he was lethally wounded during a raid and became bedridden. Being the newbie I am, I didn’t have medical supplies to heal him and on my return from a night scavenging, he passed on. It got worse, as another of the survivors took his death pretty hard, falling into depression and taken their own life without little warning. These events remind you of the emotional impact war can have on people, making that connection to the characters you control all the more important.
As the title suggests, children come into the fray this time around, adding some unsettling moments when they become sick and cry out in hunger. A natural instinct is to help the young in need, and by doing so, you sacrifice supplies and focus them elsewhere on easing their pain. Thankfully, children in the game can’t die, meaning you are spared the worst guilt of all if you fail to intelligently look after them.
Away from the constant reminder of suffering that war brings, they’re moments where human nature’s nicer side takes center-stage. These rare acts of kindness don’t make your living situations any easier but give you the option to remove some of that guilt you’ve stored over the last few murder sprees. This includes helping other survivors outside your homestead by giving away medicine, food, or going to their settlements to lend a hand.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones is a solid survival game that forces you to acknowledge the darker side of war, one away from the explosions and sniper fire you see littering the concept in other avenues of entertainment. The introduction of kids to the series makes your decisions every day feel raw, but also shows you the more charitable caring side of human nature when times are bleak. Bar a couple of buggy animations, the brutally honest story that unravels through the well-designed game will keep you entertained from start to finish.
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Note: This War of Mine: The Little Ones PlayStation 4 version review copy was provided by the publisher.