War is cruel, and in some parts of the world, it’s the ever-present reality. The PS4 game “This War of Mine: The Little Ones” is a game, so it’s essentially entertainment; but it also opens up your mind to a whole new way of looking at war. If you let it, the game will give you a different perspective on the harsh realities of being a child in the middle of a terrible conflict.
During the daylight hours, you can’t leave your hiding place. Instead, you spend the sunshine hours in the gloom, mingling with others in your group of survivors. You craft and create items that you need; you exchange goods with people who have things that you need. You care for those who need help or defend your loot for bandits who want to steal it.
At night, you can creep out of your hideout and go scavenging. You’ll need to take someone with you to help you carry whatever you find. The realism of the game is intense here, since you literally have to scrape and scrounge for bits of refuse that you might be able to reuse. You can craft pieces of blasted wood into furniture, like bed frames or chairs. Does your hideout lack a stove? Hunt down metal scraps and electrical leftovers that can become a makeshift stove.
Hunger is the beast that you must always keep at bay throughout the game. You’re constantly forced to think about where the next meal or cup of water is coming from. But worse than those needs are the emotional needs of your group. If a family in your hideout suffers severe loss or trauma, they may go into a catatonic state and become useless to the group. Sad, tired people also take longer to perform in-game tasks. If you’re tempted to use cigarettes, alcohol, or other means to improve the overall mood, be careful. Too much of these things can make your survivors even less helpful.
As the game’s title suggests, there’s a strong emphasis on the children. You have to designate a character to watch over them, and you have to find them a means of entertainment and distraction to keep them happy. Playing with the kids keeps them happy and improves the morale of your group, but you have to take care to balance the fun times with the essential trips into the war-blasted cityscape to collect supplies.
Control and Choices
The coolest part of this game is the control that it puts into your hands. You can assign characters to certain roles, decide on organization and morale strategies, choose a scavenging buddy for nighttime forays, explore sections of the area, and confront dangers. You get to decide how your community and your characters look and act. You get to make the tough calls and the hard choices; you get to question your entire moral framework the way you would have to if you were plunged into a genuine wartime reality.
Sleek and streamlined, with flowing animation and a unique art style, “This War of Mine: The Little Ones” will keep you glued to your PS4 for hours. It’s an experience that will stay with you long after you stop playing— and that is perhaps the truest measure of a top-notch game.