Unrest

 

Learning(i)

Choices come with consequences in pensive, story-driven RPG.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The narrative digs into myriad difficult issues, from arranged marriage and poverty to the abuse of religion for personal gain and cultural differences that lead to suffering and violence. The main takeaway is that clear-cut notions of right and wrong are shaky at best in a world filled with people whose interests and survival are in direct opposition to most others. 

Positive role models

The primary playable characters -- including a young royal forced to live in the slums, a conflicted priest trying to feed his family, and a teen girl forced to marry someone she detests, among others -- face difficult moral questions, the answers to which are often unclear. As these people, players may be forced to steal or worse simply to survive. Knowing where to draw the line can be extremely difficult, much as it would be in similar circumstances in the real world.

Ease of play

The mechanics are simple: Just point and click to move, talk to characters, and select dialogue options. But navigating conversations to your characters' benefit is far from easy. It's difficult to tell how non-player characters will react to your responses, and simply choosing what might be considered the moral option is no guarantee of a favorable outcome. Expect some of your characters to die.

Violence

The player's characters may be killed, permanently, as a result of choices made in conversations. Text describes violence and suffering, including assassinations, death by starvation and disease, and executions, though these aren't shown in much detail. Corpses are seen on the street, and characters can occasionally interact with them by clicking on them to learn more.

Sex

No nudity or sex, but text dialogue explores the idea of teens forced into marriage.

Language

Occasional mild profanity, including the words "ass" and "bastard."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Infrequent discussion of drinking and "brew." One woman is shown puffing on a hookah. 

Privacy & safety

No privacy or safety concerns.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Unrest is a downloadable story-driven role-playing game played out mostly through dialogue. Players steer their way through conversations that delve into some extremely thorny issues, including arranged marriage, poverty and starvation, religious faith, and problems arising from cultural differences. The game is set in a mythological version of ancient India, but many problems that arise are familiar to our world and may strike a chord with some players. Violence -- including assassinations and executions -- is described via text but can still be affecting given the emotional attachment players may feel toward certain characters. Foul language is limited to mild, infrequent profanity, including the words "ass" and "bastard."

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • citizenship
  • cultural understanding
  • power structures

Skills

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • perspective taking

Responsibility & Ethics

  • integrity
  • learning from consequences
  • respect for others

Engagement, Approach, Support

Engagement

The text-focused play, rough-hewn design, and simple presentation could make this game hard for some kids to get into, but these issues may become less problematic as kids grow attached to the compelling story's sympathetic characters.

Learning Approach

Players will contemplate familiar societal problems, as well as the struggles of various player and non-player characters. They'll imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes, wrestling with hard, realistic issues that determine their survival. This includes the fight for food, freedom, and safety -- issues that people deal with on a daily basis.

Support

Players are largely left to their own devices, and the developer's website doesn't offer any forums or tips. Kids will generally learn to play better from the consequences of previous decisions.

What kids can learn

Subjects

Social Studies

  • citizenship
  • cultural understanding
  • power structures

Skills

Emotional Development

  • empathy
  • perspective taking

Responsibility & Ethics

  • integrity
  • learning from consequences
  • respect for others

Kids can learn about cultural understanding and will take the perspectives of several people in this thought-provoking role-playing game. With no easy answers to most of the problems posed within the story, players will feel empathy for the cast: a diverse bunch with varying ages, genders, cultures, and races. Unlike most role-playing games, choosing what might appear to be a moral course of action without considering the dangers and consequences could result in your character's death. Players must be prudent, balanced, and conscious of the protagonist's well-being while making decisions, realizing that there may be no conventional "winning" in some situations. Though set in a fantastical version of ancient India, Unrest teaches players some hard lessons about the real world.   

This Learning Rating review was written by Chad Sapieha

What's it about?

Set in a fantastical ancient India in which an impoverished human society rubs up against a powerful race of anthropomorphic snakes, UNREST puts players in the shoes of multiple protagonists struggling to balance the welfare of others with their own survival. Experienced almost entirely through lengthy stretches of text dialogue, it's a game of hard choices. As a priest, should you give medicine to those in dire need of it or sell it on the black market to hire military protection for your endangered family? As a 15-year-old girl, should you acquiesce to a marriage arranged by your parents to improve your caste standing or make preparations to abandon your family and follow your dreams? As a princess in hiding after the assassination of your parents, do you put your own well-being first, or do you continue to serve the people the king and queen tried their best to help before being killed? There are no clear answers to these questions. Doing what seems morally right could well get your characters killed, leaving the story to continue without them. Players need to judge the dangers of each situation and envision the consequences of each decision, keeping in mind all the while that their characters won't be any good to anyone if they don't stay alive.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Unrest isn't your average role-playing game. It's not filled with swashbuckling heroes, enchanting rogues, and a series of black-and-white moral choices. Instead, it dives into some very hard social, diplomatic, and personal questions that force players to put themselves in their characters' shoes and contemplate the outcomes of their decisions, which can result in the deaths of not only non-player characters but also the protagonists. Players may just learn something about themselves in the process.

But the game also is plagued by design and technical problems. Going from one lengthy text conversation to another repeatedly can be mentally draining. It would be nice to have a little more variety in activities. Plus, navigating the world by pointing and clicking is often a chore, since characters frequently get stuck on objects and simply stop moving. There's plenty to admire about this daring, story-driven RPG experience, but it's not quite as accessible or polished as one might have hoped.  

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about arranged marriage. This custom is still practiced in some cultures, and some people who participate see it as a normal and exciting part of their personal lives. Why do you think some people living in the West have an aversion to it?       

  • Talk about the sort of hard decisions that people living in impoverished societies need to make on a daily basis, such as those in Unrest. Would you steal to feed yourself? Hoard medicine for your family in case they became sick when someone else was suffering right now? Take a job with a company with principles you detest to support your children? 

Game details

Platforms:Mac, Windows
Price:$14.99
Pricing structure:Paid
Available online?Available online
Developer:Pyrodactyl
Release date:July 22, 2014
Genre:Role Playing
ESRB rating:NR for No rating (Mac, Windows)

This review of Unrest was written by

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Quality

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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