This War of Mine: The Little Ones - Won’t someone think of the children?
An accomplished survival management effort that placed a premium on resource management while dealing with the varying emotional states of your survivors, the base experience of This War of Mine carved out a niche for itself that very few, if any, other efforts have attempted to inhabit since.
Some twenty months on after the release of This War of Mine and a good five or so months after its spell in Console Land, The Little Ones expansion finally returns home to PC. Introducing a new dynamic to the survival management sim beats of This War of Mine, The Little Ones might not be awash with new content but it stands as a worthwhile addition to the base experience all the same.
Setting aside time for your child is vital to maintaining their mood
Much of what makes The Little Ones work as well as it does is the tactical and emotional impact that caring for children produces. From how their presence affects the mood of your survivor unit through to the concessions that need to be made when you go out to scavenge much needed resources, it’s clear that the addition of children meaningfully layers what is already an accomplished survival management simulation formula in This War of Mine.
The first thing you need to know is that The Little Ones plays largely identically to its parent title, This War of Mine (you can catch our review of the game here). That means that when you play The Little Ones you’ll still be getting up to all the crafting, scavenging and survival management shenanigans that you did before, except now you have a little tyke to take care of. Ostensibly, the introduction of children does actually have a fair amount of impact on the sorts of decisions that the player makes on both an emotional and pragmatic level.
Once built, radios remain a great way to find new scavenging locations
Like any other member of your survival unit, the little folk must be properly taken care of and their relative fragile stature means that they are unable to go out on scavenging runs with the adults. This then raises the notion of risk and reward if you’re a single parent; do you leave your child at home and potentially vulnerable so you can go out on a run for some much needed supplies, or, do you give up that opportunity and instead remain at home to guard them from any threats that might arise? Compounding the gravity of your choice is how the children act and respond to your decisions; the AI in particular espousing a real sort of emotion as they delight at being able to play with a newly created rope swing or become frightened and in need of reassurance after a raid, for example.
Indeed, though they might seem it from a functional point of view, the kids are far from being useless. In addition to cheering up some adults with their innocent banter, they can also be taught how to craft basic items such as fuel for a fire, simple tools and other things of that ilk. In fact, maintaining a solid parent to child relationship in the game feels as seamlessly crucial as any other aspect of This War of Mine, as I often found myself returning from a scavenging run and spending the next hour of game time speaking to the child and keeping them happy before going about my usual routine of eating, sleeping and constructing new tools and furniture for the home.
The Little Ones expansion interjects new character elements into the biographies
If there is any sort of sizeable knock to The Little Ones it would be that it seems reluctant to be too ambitious with its theme. You see in addition to only being able to have a single child at any one time, there is no real consequence for taking poor care of them. Instead of the various grim outcomes that can affect the adults, such as murder and famine to name just two, the children are instead spared from leaving their mortal coil resulting in a distinct lack of the sort of emotional gut-punch that their inclusion might otherwise have permitted. Elsewhere, a broader though far lesser issue is that The Little Ones is basically the same game as This War of Mine itself, so if you didn’t get on with the original, you won’t find anything to sway your thoughts on the game here.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows XP SP3 (32 bit) / Vista
Processor: Intel(R) Core(TM)2 Duo 2.4, AMD Athlon(TM) X2 2.8 Ghz
Memory: 2 GB RAM
Graphics: Geforce 9600 GS, Radeon HD4000, Shader Model 3.0, 512 MB
DirectX: Version 9.0c
Sound Card: DirectX compatible
Rather than introducing any new graphical features or visual elements, The Little Ones simply sits atop the existing audiovisual status quo of This War of Mine. As such, if your rig could handle the original game when it released back in late 2014, you’ll have no such problems whatsoever handling this expansion. To that end, my own PC build that packs in a 2.8GHZ i5 CPU, Geforce GTX 670 and 16GB of System RAM handled both the base game and the expansion without issue and to be honest; I don’t think any of you folks will have any problems in this regard either.
Despite such modest hardware requirements though, This War of Mine remains an attractive looking affair. Chiefly, the stylish pencil shading veneer that is synonymous with the game provides the 11 Bit Studios product with a truly unique look and when coupled with some great lighting and interior building design (the new colourful crayon scrawl that often adorns the walls of your abode are especially charming), it’s clear that This War of Mine: The Little One still punches far higher visually than its humble minimum specification might otherwise suggest.
Again, much like the visual side of the presentation equation, The Little Ones brings no real changes to the audio side of things. With the notable exception of a small handful of child-like sound samples that come in the form of giggling, laughing, crying and so on, the audio offering in The Little Ones is identical to the base This War of Mine experience. That means you can expect all the usual atmospheric sounds such as distant gunfire and of course, the distinctly melancholic soundtrack from the original game as well.
For fans of This War of Mine, The Little Ones would seem to be an easy sell. Keeping the essence of the original strictly intact, the expansion simply augments the existing gameplay with the addition of children who bring a new moral and tactical dynamic to the game that didn’t previously exist.
Leaving a child alone while you’re out scavenging can’t result in some deep emotional trauma for the little folk
By that same token however, fans of the original that are looking for more ambitious, sweeping changes to This War of Mine formula simply won’t find it here. The conservativism of The Little Ones also extends to its titular demographic too; with the developers somewhat undercutting the drama of having children in a warzone when there is no ultimate cost for not taking care of them.
In the end though, The Little Ones remains an eminently worthwhile prospect for players of This War of Mine. Though not quite as ambitious as it could have been, the addition of children nonetheless meaningfully builds upon the emotional and survival dynamic that sits at the heart of the core experience with aplomb, providing a grandly compelling reason to hop back into 11 Bit Studios harrowing war survival sim as a result.
THIS WAR OF MINE VERDICT
The Little Ones might not expand the initial remit of This War of Mine in any real sort of groundbreaking fashion but it does meaningfully and cleverly build upon the moral and emotional scenarios that the base game does so well. A recommended expansion for fans of the original.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Returning home from a scavenging raid and comforting a scared child by building a swing for them to play on. All the tears.
Children brilliantly expand the moral conundrums
Caring for kids changes the survival dynamic
Doesn’t compromise the base experience
More could be done with the children theme
Not quite as ambitious as it could be with the established formula
Doesn’t do enough to entice non-fans into the fold