War Hospital – PS5 Review

Now, I do find wartime history fascinating. The churn and industrial murder of the Great War is something truly horrifying. Placing you at the centre of it is War Hospital, a strategy game from Brave Lamb Studio. The Imperial War Museum has given it’s endorsement and perhaps lends the game an authentic seal of approval. Unfortunately, the management of patients in the bleakest of circumstances hasn’t really grabbed me.

The premise is fairly obvious and not one often explored. As a field hospital during the conflict, you and your staff are tasked with saving (and in some cases not) the lives of the many injured servicemen that arrive. The first chapter places you in the summer of 1918, less than six months away from armistice but deeply entrenched in the conflict.

The hospital grounds contains a handful of buildings and locations, each with a specific purpose. The casualty clearing house is a patient’s first port of call with medics making an assessment before potentially bringing them into the operating theatre. There’s also a cemetery available for the inevitable burials. A nearby Train Station can be used to import vital medical supplies and food to keep your staff morale up.

It’s not that much to keep track of with there being a typical path towards a soldier’s recovery. The big decisions seems to come within the operating theatre and once those patients are healed. These decisions usually have a binary presentation. One option will usually feature a compromise whilst the other will be considered more of a gamble. Depending on the situation, a quicker recovery might be worth the risk. Typically, if I had the resources, I’d play it safe. Losing a soldier does have an impact, especially if the enemies advance on the hospital.

In terms of failure states, German troops breaching hospital grounds is one of them. At times, opposition is very close to home and any soldiers you heal can be sent there to defend the front line. The game does well to explain the strength of your own forces and how they match up the opposition. A timeline helpfully indicates when the next push is due. Another ever present problem is staff morale. Should that fall too low, the game ends.

Whilst these are obvious time pressures, the game itself seems to pass at a glacial pace. You can speed things up but weeks can take hours and some objectives do give you big windows to plan and prepare for an objective. Honestly, the speed is something that can make the game feel laborious. The running of the hospital does lend itself to a steady routine, occasionally resulting in repetition. Despite the challenge the game presents, events don’t manifest as quickly as I’d like.

War Hospital does like to unveil mechanics and options slowly. On the one hand, it does allow players to settle and it does bring forth the importance the day-to-day decisions. Patients might have to be refused treatment to keep your surgeons fresh and ready, a less pressing matter could be put on the back-burner. I’ll confess, my moral compass would attempt to save everyone, not being particularly optimal about who had the best chances of survival. The game handedly points them out but bad decisions can snowball in War Hospital.

This sense of morality is displayed as meter at the top-centre of the screen. Ruthless and Humanitarian are the effectively the Renegade and Paragon equivalents. I do take slight issue with ruthlessness as that usually covers patient deaths. That sounds like a wholly negative label and, to be honest, ruthlessness had nothing to do with my incompetence.

The big restraint, especially in the early going, is staffing. Whilst you can hire up on medics, engineers, surgeons and scouts, it only takes a few to hit your limit. More staff puts pressure on food stocks. More patients puts pressure on your medics to work through the night, risking success on the operating table. These problems link together well but I sense these tight demands make War Hospital a difficult game to grab a foothold in.

Visually, War Hospital is very dour. The Great War was a muddy, grim time to live and it’s at least represented well here. There is barely a hint of sunshine with constant downpours really setting the mood. This does make picking out building from the overhead view occasionally clumsy. Hovering over them provides a yellow outline but I would’ve liked to see it pop more.

The controls are functional with radial menus supplementing the overhead map but the UI feels quite cluttered. There’s a lot of information being conveyed and I did find it tricky to navigate my way to the parts that mattered. I’ve no doubt it’s something you could get used to and the default speed gives you time to find it. It’s just not very elegant.

It’s nice to see your staff go about their daily routine, some of whom will have no problems voicing concerns about your running of the hospital. It gives them a personality amidst a very grey backdrop. Voice acting is also decent, although some of the commanding officers can sound slightly off. They tend to be portrayed in little portraits next to their dialogue. It does leave very little room for more traditional cutscenes. The musical score hammers home an impending dread and, whilst it’s appropriate for the setting, the relentless tone isn’t encouraging me to keep playing.

War Hospital is a game that largely steeps in its own bleakness. Whilst there are plenty of decisions to make about patient well-being and staff management, the relentless nature of the beast wears down my enthusiasm. I supposed it’s successful at placing players in that historical meat-grinder but even the mechanical aspects don’t especially grab me. I wouldn’t discourage others from picking it up. I think the premise is one worth exploring and it is available relatively cheap. Just be prepared for a lot of misery.

War Hospital
5 Overall
+ A interesting premise that's not often explored.
+ Very challenging with some tough decisions to make.
+ Appropriately dour.
+ Mostly decent voice acting.
- The routine of the hospital can breed repetition.
- Plays out very slowly by default.
- The oppressive mood might be off-putting.
- Navigating the hospital grounds can feel occasionally clumsy.
On the one hand, War Hospital is successful at setting out an appropriate tone for a terrible time in human history. Unfortunately, it can be a difficult game to crack the surface on. The game can proceed at a slow pace and, despite the ability to speed things up, time can feel like such a precious commodity. The dour visuals and downtrodden narrative can make it very hard to feel encouraged, even by the most minor of victories. The interface can take some getting used to but I think the game's biggest obstacle is the mood itself.

About Mike

Mike gets all the racing games because he understands that stuff even though he doesn't drive.

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