A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Darwin Project is a downloadable online multiplayer third-person battle royale game for Windows PC and Xbox One. Ten players face off against each other in a last-man-standing match, hunting each other with bows and arrows, bear traps, and axes, all while trying to survive the harsh cold of the environment. The game has a reality show presentation, with the program run by a player-controlled "Director," who has the ability to alter the game on a whim with special abilities, perks, and obstacles to use on the competitors. Due to the game's online-only nature, as well as its focus on interaction between the Director, the competitors, and even audience members watching via livestream, there's a risk of players being exposed to offensive language and toxic behavior. Finally, the game is violent with some blood shown, but its artistic style is more cartoonish and lacks any substantial gore.
What's it about?
In the post-apocalyptic dawning of a new Ice Age, there's one reality show that keeps humanity glued to its sets: The DARWIN PROJECT. Part science experiment, part entertainment, the Darwin Project drops contestants deep in the Canadian Rockies and pits them against the bitter cold and each other in a brutal, last-man-standing battle royale. Overseeing all the action is The Director, an omnipresent AI being that cares less about fair play and more about keeping the game entertaining. Earn its favor and you might benefit from a quick blast from a healing ray or even a few seconds of invulnerability. Earn its scorn and expect to be singled out as a high-value target. You'll need to outwit your opponents, outlast the cold, and most importantly, entertain the masses if you have any hope of surviving. Let the games begin ...
Is it any good?
This fast-paced action game is challenging and difficult, and frequently unfair due to player interference, but its gameplay keeps you coming back for more. The battle royale genre has taken off, with games like PlayerUnknown's Battleground and Fortnite Battle Royale often dominating livestreams; Darwin Project takes full advantage of this, adding its own twist by combining the battle royale formula with wilderness survival and presenting the whole experience as some sort of warped reality show, complete with plot twists and audience participation. The biggest X factor is the addition of the player-controlled, all-powerful Director. This omniscient overlord can turn the tide of any given match on a whim, using its abilities to help or hurt whoever it sees fit. While it seems like this can (and admittedly, sometimes does) throw off the overall balance of the game, there are certain safeguards in place to help keep Directors from abusing their power. It's not a foolproof system, relying on players' votes to rank a Director's effectiveness, but it helps.
Lots of unique features make Darwin Project stand out from the crowd. Aside from being hunted by nine other contestants and dealing with the Machiavellian antics of the Director, players also must contend with the environment's bitter cold. While crafting a fire is a quick way to keep from freezing to death, it's also a dead giveaway of your current location. Plus, every time you craft something new, you leave a glowing trail behind for a short time that others can use to track you down. All of this can actually be used to your advantage, though. For example, you can build a fire to warm up and then use the trail you leave to lure unsuspecting predators into a carefully placed bear trap. Plus, using this sort of strategy tends to stand out with the audience, and with whoever is in the role of Director ... unless your cunning ingenuity gets upstaged by some plucky underdog who suddenly finds himself gifted with invulnerability at the last minute. You see, to survive the Darwin Project, you don't just have to be good, you've got to be entertaining, as well.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in media. What's the appeal of reality show-type content in which people argue, fight, etc.? How can watching this behavior affect the behavior of younger kids, and what can be done to fix it?
Talk about nature and surviving in the wild. What are some skills that could help if someone was stranded and alone in the woods? How can people adapt to their environment?
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