This War of Mine: Stories – The Last Broadcast Review – Codependence on the Battlefield

    Title: This War of Mine: Stories - The Last Broadcast
    Developer: 11 Bit Studios
    Release Date: November 14, 2018
    Reviewed On: PC
    Publisher: 11 Bit Studios
    Genre: Survival/Adventure

Imagine this: It’s late at night and you’re home alone — just about to fall asleep, when all of a sudden, you hear a gunshot from afar. Frightened by the possibility of a shooter being nearby, you quickly lock your bedroom door, and hide in the closet. With only a radio in your possession, all you can do is hide, wait, and quietly listen to a news radio station to find out what the hell is going on.  Just think of how difficult it would be to be in that kind of situation — to have to rely on a radio station to learn about what’s really happening in the world around you, and to figure out how to stay safe and avoid danger.  That’s something scary to think about, especially in our day and age when we can easily find information in just a matter of seconds. 

The struggle yet need to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth of the terrors that occur in a dangerous world full of unknowns is essentially what This War of Mine: Stories – The Last Broadcast is all about. The latest story DLC for 11 Bit Studios’ This War of Mine has a unique narrative — and if you don’t mind how it slowly develops — it can keep your attention from beginning to end.

This War of Mine: Stories – The Last Broadcast is based on a scenario from Meg Jayanth, the writer of IGF-winning game 80 Days, and tells the story of Malik, a disabled radio-operator, and his wife who takes care of him, Esma, who live in the war-torn city of Pogoren during the middle of the Grazni Civil War. Malik focuses on spreading the news about what’s happening in the city, while Esma goes out to scavenge for materials and get the news that her husband needs to report.

As Esma, you must decide to completely share all the news you find with Malik, or, not tell certain pieces of information. How you handle sharing the news, changes how The Last Broadcast is played out. For instance, you can choose to tell news that can save people but puts you in danger, or you can choose not to and save yourself from being a target.  

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Jayanath did a great job with the story as it truly captures the effects that war has on people. Also, I enjoyed the news choice-driven mechanic, and how it led to some challenging moments. Even though I was drawn to both of the characters and the struggles they faced and was completely interested in finding out how they would develop — I soon learned that the execution of The Last Broadcast’s narrative is the game’s biggest downfall.

While the narrative is without a doubt interesting, you’ll have to have a bit of patience to completely experience it all. This is due to how The Last Broadcast’s gameplay is set-up. You technically have control of two characters, Malik and Esma, but you’ll often be playing as Esma. Malik’s crippling disability is so severe that he can only walk around a single level in the large house (your home base) that he and Esma live in. 

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Because of this, Esma is the only character that can venture to different places outside of the house. You have to make sure to focus on her well-being so that she’s healthy enough to go out and get materials, along with the news that Malik desperately needs. Without Esma, Malik doesn’t get any news, and thus the game doesn’t move forward. In addition to getting news, it’s up to you to have Esma serve as Malik’s caretaker by feeding, treating, and entertaining him. This dilemma of having to juggle Esma’s two important roles, explorer and caretaker, leads to many moments where you’re left to make tough decisions. If Esma dies at any time, though, you’re met with an unavoidable “Game Over” as Malik, unfortunately, kills himself.

I would’ve liked for Malik to play a bigger role, especially gameplay-wise since it’d make the game not so linear. Exploring the melancholy city of Pogoren, meeting and learning about the other characters in the city, and getting into some tense moments like having to avoid sniper fire and engaging in combat with hostile enemies along the way is what makes The Last Broadcast a thrilling experience. However, the payoff for doing all this is just so minimal, and it makes the game feel like a series of necessary fetch quests. 

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Aside from my mixed feelings about The Last Broadcast’s gameplay, I’m glad that it does feature the distinct, evocative pencil art style that I loved in the main This War of Mine game. The city of Pogoren is enhanced and bigger than before thanks to remastered and new locations, and new characters in The Last Broadcast — which is a nice bonus. Sadly, however, the autosaving mechanic from the base game is still is a thing.

I love how 11 Bit Studios has continued to support This War of Mine, even after four years since the game released. It just shows how the developer cares about fans of the series. However, This War of Mine: Stories – The Last Broadcast is a challenging game — in a good and bad way. The Last Broadcast has such a powerful and emotionally gripping non-linear story that deserves to be experienced, yet experiencing it is a struggle due to the game’s monotonous gameplay. Even though there are gameplay and pacing issues, This War of Mine: Stories – The Last Broadcast tells an engrossing survival narrative that’s worth experiencing. 

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brad Crespo

Editor-in-Chief - On a quest to play as many new games as possible while trying to finish an endless backlog.