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    Cheesus's This War of Mine (Other)

    [January 28, 2016 01:36:45 PM]
    Day 3 Entry:

    At this point, I've actually gotten very near to the end of the game. Not quite there, but close. For this play session, I started a new game with Marko, Pavle, and Bruno, and I subsequently added Katia to my group of survivors. This set of people, it turns out, are fairly bad-ass. Marko has the scavenger perk, giving him 15 storage slots (up from Pavle's and Katia's 12). This makes him incredibly valuable.

    At the beginning of the game, I played quite cautiously, avoiding conflict as much as I could. I also prioritized getting an axe, which turns out to be an incredibly useful tool, allowing the player to chop up useless furniture both in the sanctuary and outside of it. Furthermore, the axe is a useful combat weapon, so I had the dual advantage of keeping my scavenger armed and allowing him to break down materials he encountered. I still looted the Quiet House for its easy resources (a morally dubious decision), but this time did not murder the elderly couple -- keeping my group relatively happier. Happiness, as I played it, was treated as another resource -- if I could afford to sacrifice a little to gain another valuable resource, I would. I treated theft throughout the game as a double-edged sword; if the group was feeling low, I would avoid it -- otherwise, I might take the opportunity.

    The game really turned once I managed to reach the warehouse. This place was, from the outset, incredibly dangerous, containing three armed soldiers. On my first visit, I managed to sneak attack and kill one of the soldiers after he started chasing Marko. The soldier had an assault rifle and a bulletproof vest. I then managed to take high ground to kill the other two soldiers as they came to investigate the noises they had heard. Now I had enough weapons to arm my scavenger and my base at once. The rifle proved exceptionally useful for other locations loaded with resources and controlled by enemies that the game deemed OK to kill, such as St Mary's Church and the construction site. It was amazing how dramatically the difficulty of the game diminished once I had a real weapon. It's not that Marko was never wounded in any of these encounters, but he was never critically wounded. I had stocked enough medical supplies to allow him to recover from any wound.

    The radio also proved an invaluable asset. It made me aware of shortages, the items which I could sell at great exchange rates. I saved most of the tobacco I gathered in unrolled form, and I would make cigarettes only on the actual day that the trader visited (which was conveniently predictable). Bruno, being sort of a louse, would crush cigarettes if left to his own devices, so I needed to limit his consumption. The radio also gave important weather warnings, allowing me time to build heaters and prioritize consumables. The visiting trader also was incredibly important for providing basics in exchange for the valuable but useless items I collected while scavenging. I unloaded gems, shotguns, and cigarettes in exchange for building materials, water, and food.

    Self-sufficiency, at least to a limited extent, proved invaluable. I built 2 animal traps early on, and I always kept them operational. I eventually also upgraded my garden to be able to grow vegetables, but the intensive water requirements were problematic. With four mouths to feed, there were times that food became somewhat scarce -- those were the times that I was driven to steal from innocents. Again, due to the penalty to the general well-being of the scavenger in particular, I would try to avoid stealing, but if it came down to survival, I had no qualms about it.

    Oddly enough, it was ultimately water that became the greatest challenge, but that was a function of running out of construction materials, leaving me unable to make water filters. Part of this was maybe mismanagement on my part -- the real shortage happened at the time that I upgraded my garden and then had to build heaters to deal with the winter -- but part of it was an issue of communication within the game. The requirements of the garden, for instance, included 10 units of clean water, an enormous investment in scarce times. The requirement of "clean" water for the garden didn't make intuitive sense either.

    One last thing that I will mention is that this game did an incredible job taking relatively flat characters and building player investment in them through mechanics. The time investment and commitment ensures cautious and rational play to avoid danger and death. Now, at Day 35 and having received news of the arrival of international aid about a week ago, I am close to escaping the war. But this didn't happen without a fairly cutthroat attitude about survival.
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    [January 28, 2016 04:01:11 AM]
    Ok, so for the second day of play, I had my bearings set more effectively. The game taught some punishing lessons in my first day, and now I had a better feel for the strategy and the potential pitfalls I might encounter.

    In terms of making building priority, I focused on the necessities: food, water, and a place to sleep. I played cautiously at the beginning as well, focusing my scavenging on the abandoned house, which appeared to be a low risk option. The map warnings of "caution" and "danger" seemed more legitimate after realizing how easy it is to die in this game. What's more, the game has the incredibly punishing mechanic of auto-saving your game, as well disallowing multiple save files. Deaths in this game are therefore permanent. The longer that I played, the more invested I became and the more carefully I played, knowing that I could lose everything with a single mistake.

    I also tried to test the moral system of the game a little bit. Early on, I gained access to "Quiet House," a place largely untouched by the ravages of war and occupied by an elderly couple. I opted to murder and rob them with Pavle. Really, I just wanted to rob them, but the old man threatened to call the police, and I acted to protect my character. Upon returning, Pavle was depressed and Katia was sad at the news -- meanwhile, Bruno remained unaffected. This was an interesting glimpse into their personalities. Pavle, as the murderer, felt the weight of the deaths most heavily. Katia seems to be an empathetic figure, saying that she felt sad for the people who died. Bruno, meanwhile, seems mostly egoistic, instead talking about how Pavle did what was necessary. As a result of the interface, I could tell that sad/depressed was likely a dangerous state for the characters.

    The very next day, however, two children came by the house, asking for medicine. I had just collected a bunch from the elderly couple I'd offed, so I decided to help them. Predictably, Katia and Pavle responded positively, while Bruno reacted negatively. One thing that bothered me, though, was how dramatically Pavle was impacted. After opting to share the medicine, he felt sad rather than depressed, nearly cancelling the impact of the double homicide he had committed by beating two people to death with his bare hands. Really?!

    Several nights later, I was attempting to scavenge at a supermarket when I encountered a soldier and a scavenging girl. I went about my business in secret, hearing the situation between the two escalating as the soldier attempted to rape the girl. I opted to bust through the door as he attacked her, stabbing him with the kitchen knife I had crafted in my shelter. The decision to do this was motivated by the assumption that it would improve the moods of my characters and -- more importantly -- that I could probably loot a gun off of the soldier. While I did manage to stab the soldier, it wasn't enough: he turned around and shotgun-blasted Pavle to death. And that was the end of my second day.

    I will say that the game promotes behavior that is egoistic more so than anything else, and it follows roughly a consequentialist moral system. For every decision, there are consequences. For every action, there are consequences. And often those consequences are severe. The save-feature, in particular, promotes gameplay that is at once cautious and highly self-interested. It only takes a couple of scavenging trips going poorly (as in not finding necessary resources) to put your entire group in mortal peril, and so every move must be planned and optimized.
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    [January 27, 2016 12:54:06 AM]
    So quickly, I decided to try this game on Android rather than on PC (which I think everyone else is using), just to have a different perspective on the game.

    Let me give a quick summary of gameplay. The player has control of three characters from the outset of the game. Characters may be scrolled through or directly selected to complete actions. With a character selected, the player may interact with various objects within the game space. Some objects may be directly used from the beginning, and others have restrictions/limitations based on the material that the player possesses. Characters possess certain traits -- such as carrying capacity, unique skills (cooking, bartering), health and physical characteristics, emotional states, and so forth -- which impact their ability to perform certain actions. The primary game objective is simply to survive for some uncertain amount of time without dying of malnutrition, illness, exhaustion, or physical violence. The game has a decidedly dark and dreary aesthetic, although not something that is unpleasant to view. The characters and environment appear hand-drawn or painted, and the animations for their behaviors are simple yet complete.

    Ok, so for my first play-through, the game took a little bit of adjustment to understand. The interface wasn't entirely intuitive at the beginning, so I definitely made some silly mistakes. Some of the character traits made sense automatically (good cook, for instance), whereas others don't really have a clear meaning (smoker?). During my play session, this character trait didn't appear to have any impact on the game ... I even found a cigarette, but there doesn't appear to be a way to use it.

    The game follows a loop in which the player has control of all of the characters during the daytime -- trying to produce enough material to keep all of the characters in good condition -- and into nighttime, when the player may opt to send a character into the surrounding area to scavenge for more resources. I admit that I restarted the game at the end of the first night upon realizing that I had effectively squandered the day acquainting myself to the interface and the importance of various objects within the sanctuary. And I also definitely quit after the second night as well, when one of my characters was mortally wounded during a scavenging operation. I will talk about each of these experiences at greater length, but it is important to note that both of these outcomes taught a punishing lesson.

    The first lesson was the importance of selecting what to build and prioritize. At the end of the first day, I had upgraded the workshop needlessly, leaving me in dire straits once I realized how hard it would be to recover more resources in the outside world. There wasn't a lot of clarity to how much each character could actually carry and recover in scavenging missions, but I soon discovered the truth: not much. I could tell then that food and sleep were very important things to attend to, and I hadn't prioritized them very well. The game simply let me make the mistakes without much of a tutorial, and I quickly felt the consequences of my errors.

    After restarting the game, on my second night, I sent one of my characters to a new scavenging location that had been unlocked. At this point, I had recognized the need to prioritize food and somewhat rare resources. However, I hadn't yet run into any unfriendly NPCs. Well, this was the night that I would. I unfortunately found myself detected by another NPC, who ran away. Brazenly, I continued to loot the area. A couple seconds later, two characters ran down the stairs with knives and proceeded to beat my character to the edge of death. After that, I had had enough for my first day. I am pretty sure that I was being punished for stealing, although I thought I might be confronted non-violently to begin. Instead, I was brutally punished, again paying the price of my actions.

    So far, the game appears to follow a fairly consequentialist ethical structure, with mistakes being represented by diminishing stats and potentially death. We will see where this goes in future sessions ...
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    Cheesus's This War of Mine (Other)

    Current Status: Finished playing

    GameLog started on: Tuesday 26 January, 2016

    GameLog closed on: Thursday 7 April, 2016

    Cheesus's opinion and rating for this game

    No comment, yet.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstarstar

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