What parents need to know
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
- cultural understanding
- power structures
- perspective taking
Responsibility & Ethics
- learning from consequences
- respect for others
Engagement, Approach, Support
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.
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.
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'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?
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?