I can only imagine what war does to someone. I was often told about war, both in my classes and by my elders, so it is nothing new to me as a concept. However, I don’t think I will ever grasp how much of an effect a war can have on anybody, without reliving it myself. While there have been plenty of games that try to portray how it is to be a soldier in war, and also done that well, how about a simple civilian? Inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian war, 11-bit Studio wants to showcase what war can do to a person.
“You will die like a dog for no good reasons”
Set in the style of a point and click survival game, you take control of a small group of people, trying to outlive the war for 30 days. Starting out in your house, with it all being destroyed and falling apart, here is where you will make your first scavenger run after materials and items to fight your hunger, illnesses, wounds, depression, cold, and exhaustion. From a workbench, you can construct new items to help you on your journey, with some contraptions being possible to upgrade. From beds and stoves to moonshine, guns and a shovel, all will be helpful in some way during these desperate times.
However, your resources are heavily limited. If you are not careful with what you will use your items for, you might not be able to live for another day. You are not alone in this world, however, as there will be some people coming to your door, seeking to trade, needing help, wanting to join you, or maybe even try to rob you. There is always a slight tension to every choice you make, making it important to be careful with what you do.
When evening falls, you will have the option to send one of your controllable characters out for scavenging, while the others either hold guard or sleep. From an overworld-map, you can then choose which place to visit and each is quite different. Some are abandoned with minor resources you can gather, others have people that are friendly, and some can provide a lot, but have hostile survivors. This is a great way to make strategy, as it is not always easy to be stealthy and your backpack has limited space.
Stealthing works great as you can listen for sounds in the areas and where they come from, or see some parts of a location through keyholes, but remember: the others might be better equipped than you. You might have to fight back by takedowns or create weapons, but even that can be dangerous and not just because you might get physically hurt. One fantastic example of how thought through this game is, is one apartment that is not affected by the war. I went in and asked for help, and when they said no, I attacked them and took all they had, but while I had a lot of materials, food, and more, all of my companions went into a huge depression, with one committing suicide because of my actions.
This is a perfect way of summarizing your experience: everything will have a consequence. Time moves in this world and you only have so much to deal with. Should you create a shovel to make it easier to dig through obstacles or a lock pick that will break faster, but might provide something valuable? Will you let a new member in that is quite good with cooking, but risk that there will be less to provide for a bigger group? Will you try to be civil and a good example of hope others will follow, or will you risk your humanity to survive? The gameplay creates an intense atmosphere with each day barely feeling like a victory due to the harsh circumstances.
This is also shown in the dialogues between characters, as they will comment on what is going on and try to give each other support. They might talk about recent events, memories or just to each other about how they are and what’s on their mind. It is simply brilliant to see how much an effect your choices in-game will have on the characters, both physically and mentally. Combined with the fantastic survival and strategy gameplay which gives each choice a clear consequence, it really will keep you on edge, just like a game about realistic war should make you feel.
Gameplay Score: 10/10
Simple and effective
Painting the world during war as colourless as possible, is a great move. The use of black, white and grey in the visuals, creates a depressive atmosphere, with only slight colours used usually for representing positive moods and warmth in the environment. Due to the constant harsh conditions, most you will witness are plenty of shades of grey with faded colours added, making the stronger ones more eye-catching, almost as a sign of comfort or heat. This is such a lovely artistic move, with details such as locations your characters can’t see clearly being in sketches. The pseudo-3D also helps bring the world to life and the photographs of your companions add to the realism.
The music consists of chilly el-guitar and bass, giving it an uncomfortable setting with strong vibrations that fade away. The tunes you can hear from the in-game guitar, which is made to lighten the mood, is a great and rare contrast, similar to the lack of colours in the visuals. The gunfire in the background and the noises of both humans and creatures are all unsettling and add to the intense atmosphere. It is an incredible effect to have the minimalist use of colours and music, making the warmer tones a clear glimmer of hope.
Presentation Score: 10/10
Survive another day
After your first run there are enough random events that can occur to already make a second run worthwhile, and if that was not enough: you can also create your own challenge with different characters and difficulty settings in the “My Story” mode. There has also recently been a free update with more characters added, a new ending, and new locations, which makes it even more interesting as you won’t see everything the first time you play the game. Modding the game is also easy, making more different encounters possible to create. There might not be something to come back to right after your first run as it can be emotionally demanding, but enough to pick it up for your phone or your computer more than a couple of times. Despite that, you might not survive.
Extra Score: 8.5/10
What a masterpiece. It is a fantastic and respectful showcase of how war can affect civilians, and making it interactive, makes it even more effective. It is not just something to satisfy those who want great strategy and their survival skills challenged, but also a beautiful way of experiencing what war can bring without being presented with a real one. Even those who never have held a controller before should play this game. Best experienced for PC or Android devices, but any console will do just as well. Just get it and appreciate something I hope none of you will have to experience yourself.