A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Frostpunk is a bleak, complex downloadable strategy and society simulation game for Windows. Gameplay is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the planet has completely frozen over, forcing survivors to scrape by with a meager existence. Some events and images refer to violent acts such as suicide and cannibalism, and one still image shows bound prisoners menaced by a guard with a bloodstained baseball bat. A handful of still images depict patients or corpses covered by bloodstained sheets. During the course of the game, a business can employ prostitutes and be turned into a "House of Pleasure" with the accompanying text: "Our hard-working people deserve all the relief we can provide, and some of them yearn for the pleasures of flesh." The word "f--k" appears in the text. Substance abuse and drinking are referred to in text only once you're able to build a pub, but nothing is shown during play.
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What's it about?
FROSTPUNK is a game of society survival. In a post-apocalyptic frozen world, you're cast as the ruler of the last city on Earth and tasked with the duty to manage both its citizens and its infrastructure. What decisions will you make to ensure society's survival? What will you do when pushed to the breaking point? Who will you become in the process? Players will have to manage resources to build structures, keep citizens warm and fed, and maintain their hope in this bleak world. Along with the challenges of keeping your citizens motivated and working, you've also got to venture out into the wilderness and see if there are any other survivors around. Will you be able to survive, or will your poor decisions lead to your exile in the frozen wastes?
Is it any good?
Although there have been lots of city building games in the past, the extreme, grim nature of the gameplay in this frozen land will truly test your mettle. Frostpunk is set in the 19th century of an alternate history timeline where the world has completely frozen over. As the leader of a small community of survivors, you must lead these people back from the brink of death into stability and sustenance. You're gambling with lives in real time as you get the handle of things, trying to minimize discontent while maximizing citizens' hope -- it's entirely possible that multiple people might not make it through the first cold night. It isn't enough to secure a steady supply of resources like wood, steel, and coal; you have to nourish people's lives and spirits so they don't get burned out on the drudgery of crushing, endless work. You'll also need to provide medical facilities and other essentials to help them survive.
Although these details consume much of your time, especially as you research more buildings and services, it's not as engaging as the philosophical fastballs Frostpunk pelts you with. Your citizens will come to you as emergencies arise, and you'll have to decide what to promise and how to deliver on it at a moment's notice: Do you extend working hours to ensure survival sooner, but risk burning your population out? Do you build a child's shelter, which creates tension in the adult workforce? Do you put sawdust in the food to help stretch resources? These questions are much more interesting to navigate and if made haphazardly, can destroy your society as mistakes pile up. Let's face it: This is a stressful game, with odds completely against you, and survival being impossible. Still, it's a heartbreaking thrill to see how far you can get, what you learn, what it cost you, and how you can better plan for next time. If you're comfortable with an exercise in futility to sharpen your survival instincts, Frostpunk's stark setting is well worth a look.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about violence in video games. Is the violence in Frostpunk acceptable because it's spoken of and shown in abstract terms, or is it a problem because it covers topics like cannibalism and suicide? Are these topics OK to deal with in a simulation, or should they not be included?
Talk about how leaders decide what's best for their people. Which sacrifices are OK to make, and which aren't? Why?
How does being exposed to so much loss make you desensitized to it? How can you pull yourself back from the brink of emotional overload, and why might it be in other people's best interests to help share that responsibility?
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