Published on January 18th, 2024 | by Marc Rigg
War Hospital PC Review
Summary: An interesting take on the hospital sim. Difficult decisions and resource management are the order of the day.
Unlike World War II, the First World War is a period in time that isn’t often visited by games, even less so in the strategy and management genres. So, War Hospital is somewhat unique in this respect being a strategic management game taking place on the Western Front in 1918. As the name suggests, this is a hospital management sim. The player assumes the role of Major Henry Wells, a retired British combat medic who is brought back to the front to command a field hospital in the hope of saving as many lives as possible.
My assumption going into War Hospital was that it was going to play out similarly to something like Two Point Hospital, albeit with a much darker tone. While this turned out to be on the money regarding the tone, it’s far closer to something like Frostpunk in execution. The actual building and expansion of the hospital is largely a side task undertaken in menus, on the rare occasion that you have the resources to expand and improve the facilities.
The core gameplay revolves around the management of your staff members, their time, and the resources that they have available. You’re very rarely going to be in a position where you’re not starving for one of those things if not most of them. This balancing act throws up a great deal of moral choices that often make it genuinely hard to act like a good person even when trying your utmost to be one. It’s often a case of taking the bad option over the even worse one.
For example, one of the main tasks is dividing up patents between the available surgeons, each one has various stats assigned to them governing how long an operation is going to take, how long they can survive without it, and what kind of toll it’s going to take on your staff. Do you go out of your way to save a VIP who can offer up some much-needed supplies as a reward, but in doing so sacrificing someone else who would be more useful to the war effort? Even after making these decisions, the patient can still die anyway, making the risk all for naught.
A morale system governs everything, with almost every action raising or lowering it in some way. It’s important to keep it as high as possible at all times due to it being the primary loss condition of the game. If the hospital morale reaches zero, it’s game over. Morale is recovered by sending healed soldiers home, effectively retiring them. Unfortunately, healed soldiers are just another resource that needs to be managed. You could send one home to gain a much-needed boost in morale, or you could send them back to the trenches to boost the war effort, which may in turn reduce the number of casualties sustained in later attacks.
It really is quite stressful at times and does a decent job of highlighting how terrible it must have been at the time. That being said, when you start to get a handle on how everything works, unlocking the shift system so people don’t immediately work themselves to death is a must, it can be enjoyable. I’m hesitant to say that it can be fun because I don’t think that’s what the developers are necessarily going for.
Visually, War Hospital stands up reasonably well. Everything is very grim, it’s usually always raining and everything is either grey, brown, or greyish brown, but that’s what I’d expect for this type of thing. There’s a good level of detail on all the buildings and the art style for characters and cutscenes is simple but effective. The audio holds up better, the ambient noises from around the hospital are at times haunting, and the screams of the wounded echo throughout the buildings. A good chunk of the dialogue is voice acted and it’s done to a decent standard, a lot of very cliché, early 20th century British accents, without being too exaggerated or unbelievable.
War Hospital is an interesting take on the hospital management scenario. It offers up some unique challenges and has some genuinely difficult choices throughout while nailing the tone. Gameplay can get a little repetitive, at least early on there’s not a huge number of different tasks to complete to keep it varied and interesting, but with all that said, I enjoyed War Hospital for the most part. Aside from a few instances of audio dropping, seemingly at random, it was a bug-free experience that ran well for the vast majority of my time with it. This isn’t going to be for everyone, even those interested in this genre, but it’s worth a look nonetheless.