The clue is in the name, really: War Hospital isn’t your usual World War I sim. Rather than controlling troops on the battlefield, you’re instead put in charge of the staff of a field hospital. As wounded soldiers get admitted, it’s you job to assign them to a doctor, ensure their treatment is carried out swiftly and, ultimately, get them back into good health.
There’s quite a lot to get your head around when you start playing War Hospital, but thankfully there’s a robust tutorial to ease you in. You’ll need to learn the ins-and-outs of each part of your field hospital. Set up in the ruins of a village, there’s a building for admissions, another for the surgery, one for recovery, and somewhere for your staff to live. There’s also a warehouse, a pharmacy, and a makeshift graveyard for the unlucky souls that don’t make it.
Staff need to be assigned to each area of your hospital, and as you progress through the game you’ll be able to unlock upgrades. Spend enough resources, and operations can be more efficient, for example, or you can have more staff assigned to any one area at one time.
You’ll need to manage your resources, of course. Once you’ve got your own pharmacy up and running, you can begin making some supplies of your own, but others will need to be shipped in via the nearby train station. You’ll need enough food to feed your staff and patients, and you’ll also need to manage your staff’s exhaustion levels. A tired doctor is going to be no good at performing surgery, after all.
War Hospital looks great: the ruined town it’s set in is suitably grim and perfectly sets the scene. And with each patient passing through your doors being given a brief history, it really does want to pull on your heart strings. One patient was only on the front line to look for his son, for example. Another might have children waiting back at home for him. It makes your assignments more than tick-box exercises: you get the feeling that they are real people with lives to lead. And so, when the game announces that they’ve been healed, you really do feel a wave of relief.
Watch the trailer for launch War Hospital:
On the other hand, hearing a patient die is devastating. But sometimes it can’t be helped. You’ll sometimes get patients admitted that simply can’t be saved. In those cases, you have the option to refuse them surgery. After all, you have limited staff and limited supplies: why waste them on a lost cause? It’s harsh, but that’s the reality of life during WWI.
War Hospital isn’t going to be for everyone, but if you like the idea of a different spin on a war strategy game, there’s a lot to like here. Trying to save as many soldiers as possible is a noble cause, and when a patient dies, it feels like a personal failure. But that’s the whole point of the game: even with the best will in the world, you won’t be able to save everyone. But you can certainly try.
War Hospital is available now on PS5, Xbox Series X/S and PC.