This War of Mine: The Little Ones Preview

It's NOT child's play.

"Children are a liability." Whether you believe that or not in general, this is unfortunately true when it comes to surviving in a modern wartorn city where food and water are in short supply. That's the reality of The Little Ones, the upcoming expansion for This War of Mine, which deals with the consequences of needing to care for a child when it's already difficult to take care of yourself.

If you haven't heard of This War of Mine before, it's a bleak, survival-themed strategy game that plays like 2D version of The Sims where the point was simply to stay alive. Characters need to gather food and water, scavenge for supplies at night in dangerous locations, defend against potential looters, and craft beds and ammo as best they can. It's essentially the zombie apocalypse… without the zombies. But as depressing as all that sounds, GR's very own Gil Almogi awarded the game five perfect stars.

That said, players have had plenty of time since its release in November 2014 to master the resource and time management skills needed to conquer This War of Mine. And so, The Little Ones (I imagine Helena from Orphan Black saying this subtitle in her Ukrainian accent) adds another layer of difficulty in the form of children, who need physical, emotional, and psychological support in a place where there's not much to give in the first place. You don't have to start the game with kids in your ramshackle household (which might be the better idea), but you may encounter parents knocking on your door, hoping that you will be generous.

While children have the ability to cheer up members of your party, raising the household's spirits, they don't contribute much to the home. They're still another mouth to feed (not as much since they're small), can't defend themselves, can't go outside the home to scavenge, become depressed if the parent leaves them alone at night to scavenge, and will run away (they can't die, since the developers believe that would be too bleak) if you don't take care of them. If they do run away, they will never return and the parent will become severely despondent and wrought with guilt.

The best they can manage is cooking some small meals and crafting simple toys to keep themselves busy like a ball or some jump rope. But the other adults in the home will need to teach children how to perform most of these tasks first. I would like to see adults be able to teach them how to make ammo, plant seeds, or craft furniture, anything practical so that they aren't such a burden… anything to assist the child in growing up to be as useful as the 14-year-old Ellie from The Last of Us, right?

The other important note about The Little Ones, beyond a few new locations and characters, is that this expansion is, at this point, an exclusive to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 when it launches in January 2016—surprising, given the game's incredible response on Steam. There are no current plans to release The Little Ones on PC, though I think it would be foolish for 11 bit studios not to do this eventually. No price has been announced either, though the base game on PC is currently priced at $19.99.