This War of Mine is a game about helping a group of civilians in a warzone to survive. The game challenges players to scavenge for scarse resources, balance your needs as a group and make incredibly difficult moral choices. In the base game, I knowingly allowed a woman to be violently attacked, because the attacker had not spotted me robbing him. It’s not a happy game by any means.
This War of Mine: The Little Ones takes an already depressing, dark and difficult game, and adds young children to it. Yep, now you need to make sure those kids stay safe, healthy and sane too.
Now, to be clear from the start, you won’t actually see a child die on screen in The Little Ones. Sure shitty situations may arise, sure you may lose them, but the developer does avoid showing these deaths on screen. It’s not like I’m desperate to see murdered children in a piece of media, but it does feel somewhat at odds with the games otherwise unflinching look at the horrors of war. Adding children in but shielding the worst things from happening on screen is an interesting choice that did feel at odds with some of the other design elements.
Kids are also not allowed to go out at night, which sucks because I could occasionally use a vulnerable infant to crawl into small spaces for me.
So, what effect do these kids have on the gameplay? Well, these additional children will spend their time cooped up indoors, basically being children. They’ll entertain themselves, but they are VERY susceptible to mental and physical health dropping. They’ll need feeding all the time, they take up resources offering very little benefit in return, and infighting in the group can quickly become detrimental to their mental health.
Keep them healthy and happy? It’ll be a big moral boost for the adults.
Fail to meet these needs? They will run away from home / your shelter and conspicuously not die on screen. Again, that feels really obvious and at odds with the rest of the design.
So, This War of Mine: The Little Ones is basically the base game. It’s a little more depressing, but the lack of child deaths is noticeable in context.