This War of Mine Preview

What you see through a keyhole may change you.

War has broken out and the military have shut off access to the town. Katia, Pavle, and Bruno, who kind of know each other, all hunker down in an abandoned, damaged building. So begins their story of survival or at least the attempt.

On Day 1 of this hell, the characters have nothing but the building and what’s left inside it. I sent each of them rummaging about, trying to find useful supplies to begin life together. Some troves are behind large piles of rubble that take hours to clear out. Other areas are behind locked doors. As soon as Katie and Pavle find enough materials, I get Bruno to build a bed, then a stove to cook the one piece of raw meat they've found. As night draws near, I realize we’re not getting into those locked rooms and cabinets today as we don’t have anything to make lock picks just yet.

Darkness falls and I decide to send Pavle, the fastest runner (he was a professional athlete), to check out an old school. Meanwhile, Bruno guards the home while Katia is allowed to rest in bed. Pavle encounters two men, a father and a son. The son begs Pavle for medicine but with none to share the boy tries to venture further into the building and becomes rather ornery. Deciding not to make things obviously worse, he jumps through an open hole in the ceiling and works his way around Bruno and Katia, hoping they won’t notice.

At the start of the next day, everyone is hungry. Thankfully, Pavle found some food which Bruno cooks after manufacturing some kindling. Katia is suddenly feeling unwell, so I have her take some meds found in the shelter. Once meals are prepared—breakfast, lunch, and dinner all in one—Bruno goes to sleep to prepare for the night ahead. Katia goes rummaging about, while Pavle constructs a metal bench and lock picks to assist her. Luckily, inventory is universal, so Katia doesn’t have to run downstairs to collect them before returning to her duty. Before the day is through, Pavle builds his own bed, used for sleeping while the well-rested Katia goes scavenging.

This time, the target is a supermarket, which should be replete with food and meds, as indicated by the map which tracks each location’s supply level and threat. Katia makes her way in with no problem, but there is no food to be found until she comes across a door. Small vibrating red circles indicate that something, human or animal, could be on the other side, so she peers in. I kind of wish she didn’t.

There, a soldier with a rifle harasses a woman looking for food. He asks her to come with him and she refuses. Using his gun, he makes it clear that he’s done being polite and soon knocks her down. Neither Katia nor Pavle have any weapons up to this point, so interjecting would be extremely foolish. Unfortunately, to get to the food Katia has to wait for the soldier to cart the woman off to who-knows-where, something that weighs heavily on her. In all the fuss, she fails to check the time and dawn hits before she runs home.

Back at the shelter, the men are bummed that Katia hasn’t returned. They go about their duties until she pops up, moderately wounded but with her haul intact. This injury, coupled with her story about the abused woman, cause them to feel sad on top of hungry and tired. Despite this setback, they can only persist forward, knowing that plenty more moral dilemmas and physical dangers will present themselves. By Day 6, we’ll have turned children away because we ran out of medicine in treating Katia, we'll have stolen food from an old couple’s fridge while the husband begs us to stop, and we'll have gone home with practically nothing because an armed squatter noticed us.

It’s all very depressing yet quite engaging. Unlike The Sims, surviving is a struggle and comes at the cost of other people’s livelihoods. Unlike survival games, emotions play a large part and you have to keep your whole party’s survival in mind—you’re not going to survive alone. There’s also an emergent narrative being created as you go. I hope when this game finally releases, this mixture of elements results in unique stories and players questioning their own approaches to survival. When everyone has nothing, going in guns blazing is no longer an option.