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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Surviving Mars is a downloadable strategy/management game in which players build and manage resources for a colony on Mars. Players mine resources (e.g., fuel, rare metals, water), build dome structures, and manage inhabitants' needs along the way. Characters may die of malnutrition or commit suicide if their "sanity" levels fall too low; this is conveyed mostly through text, as inhabitants are simply shown collapsing and lying on the ground after death. Players can also construct turrets to defend their bases from rival corporations' attacks; missiles and explosions accompany these brief attack sequences. Colonists have a variety of character traits that affect their productivity, including alcoholism; text briefly references alcohol addiction (e.g., "We all find our own ways to cope with this pressure. Tsvetan Hasanov finds it in the bottle."). The word "hell" appears in text.
What's it about?
SURVIVING MARS is a sci-fi city builder all about colonizing Mars and surviving the process. As a player, you choose a space agency for resources and financial support before determining a location for your colony. Over time, you'll build domes and infrastructure, research new possibilities, and utilize drones to unlock more elaborate ways to shape and expand your settlement. You'll also have to cultivate your own food, mine minerals, or just relax by the bar after a hard day's work. Most important of all, though, is keeping your colonists alive -- not an easy task on a strange new planet. There will be challenges to overcome. If you can execute your strategy, you improve your colony's chances of survival while unlocking the mysteries of this alien world. Are you ready? Mars is waiting for you.
Is it any good?
With an overwhelming learning curve and vigilant attention to detail required, this simulation is best for the most determined players who aren't easily frustrated. Surviving Mars sorely needs a tutorial or some intuitive way to guide players through its logic, as you can wind up constantly putting out fires (sometimes literally) in the process of establishing an infrastructure for survival on Mars. For instance, you can discover the cables you laid between power supplies and critical structures will fail at random, and every hiccup is an emergency because you don't want rolling blackouts in a city constructed in a place without oxygen. Through patience, research, and talking with others in the community, you'll learn to ride this bicycle -- just don't expect to do that in your first sitting or even in your first week or two of play.
It isn't all punishing research and city planning, though. Mixed in with the formal city management tasks are random "mystery" events directly inspired by famous science fiction stories, meaning you'll be visited by mysterious sentient black cubes or other surprises that are better left not spoiled. This is probably closer to the game's tone overall: Although it seems like it might be somewhat educational, this is all really one big hypothetical situation for people who want to give the nature of the problems posed by colonizing Mars a shot. It's unlikely NASA will recruit you depending on your performance, but it no doubt flexes certain mental muscles most other games will not. It's too hard to be an easy recommendation, but if you have a kid who sleeps in a space shuttle bed or wants to, he or she may have the eagerness to hang with the brutal challenge here.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why the dream of living on Mars has captivated so many people on Earth. Could the resources for living on another planet go toward issues like poverty and inequality here?
Due to the considerable amount of trial and error required here, how can you protect your identity and privacy when and if you participate in Surviving Mars' online community to learn from your peers?
Even if this game is a fictionalized -- but trying to be realistic -- simulator, what can you learn from it about real-life and other goals you might have down here on Earth?
- Platforms: Linux, Mac, Windows
- Pricing structure: Paid (39.99)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Paradox Interactive
- Release date: March 15, 2018
- Genre: Simulation
- Topics: Adventures, Robots, Science and Nature, Space and Aliens
- ESRB rating: E10+ for Alcohol Reference, Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.