It might be easy to assume the city's in eastern Europe somewhere, but it's not supposed to be anywhere specific. All you need to know is that there's a war on, it's come through here not long ago, and it's left the place in ruins. You're nominally in charge of a small group of civilian survivors, who must scrounge for enough supplies and materials to eke out some nominal existence in what's left of the city. It's a war game, but nobody in it is a soldier, and no one is actually fighting the war. You're just trying to survive in its aftermath.
This War of Mine has the color scheme of an old photograph or a 1940s newsreel. You begin the game with three randomly chosen survivors, each with specific skills (physically strong, a talented cook, a good scrounger) and possibly drawbacks (is already getting sick, moves slowly). Each comes with his or her own biography and background, such as a former firefighter.
Going outside by day is suicidal because of the risk of running into enemy soldiers, snipers, or other survivors who are better-armed than you are, so you spend your days exploring the building you ended up in. For now, it's your fortress, wrecked as it might be, and you can dig out the wreckage to salvage materials, which you can turn into useful equipment, like a decent bed or a camp stove. The bed gives your survivors the option for a better night's sleep, which keeps them healthier, and the stove can be used to cook any raw food you find, which makes it a more nutritious meal and lets you get more out of your supplies.
By night, you can opt to send one of your survivors outside the building to various locations in the city, which are randomly generated, to scrounge for more materials. There, you may find other civilians who've survived the disaster, and you can fight them or leave them alone as you see fit.
In the demo on the E3 2014 show floor, one of the developers sent his strongest survivor, Marko, to a nearby house to scrounge for food. He opened the front door with a crowbar and found a well-stocked fridge, as well as the elderly couple who owned the house. He chose to do enough damage to the couple to get them to hide from him, then took all their food and stole away into the night.
In the morning, his survivors were well-fed and at no real risk of starvation, but Marko was on the verge of serious depression. He'd been a rescue worker, and the elderly couple were now probably going to starve or succumb to their injuries. (The developer mentioned that if he'd gone back to the house afterward, the couple might very well have already been dead.)
Characters who commit crimes that go contrary to their nature can succumb to depression and may eventually stop eating or refuse to be given commands. You can't save-scum your way through that, either. Your survivors have to live with the results of whatever decisions you make, even if that means they decide they can't.
The win condition of This War of Mine is to live until whatever point in the future marks the official end of the war. This could be a month, two months, or even longer; the limits on how long it takes before the war ends have yet to be established, but it's a randomly chosen number. You can gain or lose survivors as you go, due to disease, exploration, or violence, but the goal is to have at least one of them live to see the end of the nameless war.
At first glance, This War of Mine looks like a horror game, and in a way, it is. It's a war game that manages to be such without glorifying combat in any way, and it's a potentially brutal strategy game that will be different every time you play it.
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