- 0:50 - Gameplay
- 2:42 - Pros
- 6:09 - Cons
- 9:24 - Final Thoughts
I have spent about eight hours with the Steam version of a game called Democracy 3 -- a simulation game where you are prime minister of a country and need to negotiate the pitfalls of politics while simultaneously monitoring your electorate to make sure you don't lose the next election.
I thought Democracy 3 was a well thought out and fairly well executed simulation game that was a lot of fun and perfect for people who enjoy politics and want to see what it's like to battle the multi-headed monster that his republican governance.
But is it right for you? Well let's find out.
What is it?
To begin, Democracy 3 is basically a massive database with a graphical user interface over the top of it. Your job is to manipulate various sliders and choose from available policies to push your economy and government in a positive direction -- keeping in mind that market crashes and random events could tank your popularity at any time.
This game was developed by Positech -- the house responsible for Gratuitous Space Battles. It is, without question, a game for those who fancy themselves future politicians or simply have strong feelings on legalized creationism.
In my five playthroughs, I won re-election twice and was murdered by the Catholic Church for openly supporting prostitutes once -- thus becoming the first Australian Prime Minister to ever meet foul play and the first of the same since Harold Holt -- the idiot who went swimming with a bad arm -- to die while in office.
This game is a bit overwhelming when you first look at it, but once you digest the tons of icons they throw at you, you'll figure out that you can mostly avoid those and focus on the menu bar at the top of the screen.
This game has no victory condition; you can't win. The object of the game is to keep going in your position for as long as possible before you are unelected or assassinated by zealots.
You can pick up a copy of this game on GOG.com, Steam, or buy it direct from their Web site. They also have announced that the game is going to be significantly moddable -- which made me happy because you can only play as one of six different Anglo-Saxon countries and I was really hoping to try to survive a fortnight as Chief Warlord of Somalia. Hopefully with modding, that will be possible.
- Despite the barrage of icons on the main screen, I enjoyed the menu bar at the top and all of the subsequent windows that pop up along the way. They were very well done and really helped me keep track of those areas in my government that required attention. Again, when I played the game, I pretty much ignored the shotgun blast of icons and just focused on using the menus.
- There's no plot or scripted gameplay or anything like that; this is basically a database game and as such you have to use your imagination. I did, however, enjoy the few times where a random event would occur and come illustrated with a photo and funny sound effect to help sell it. For instance, when you get the "stress epidemic" event, there's a photo of a guy lying on a floor in an office screaming. It's pretty funny.
- The game is all about manipulating numbers by accumulating political capital via your loyal cabinet ministers and then spending that capital on new laws, tweaks to existing laws, or removing laws -- all to make one or more of your constituents happy. The crux of the game is all about the balancing act required to make everyone happy simultaneously while learning that just because something is right doesn't mean the Catholic Church won't kill you for it.
- The game is -- to a point -- based on real world countries. They did a fairly good job (with one or two exceptions) of staying true to (for instance) Australian themes despite the fact that the actual political machine was hardly represented.
- Short of a few misspellings and missing headshots, I found no game-breaking bugs. Given how often this year I've had to wait for a patch to do a review, we're going to call that a huge plus.
- The music is just very generic patriotic fare, however the sound effects add a little bit of humor to the game. So I thought that was nice.
- In terms of replayability, I couldn't see playing each nation more than six or seven times. I would assume that it would get boring after a while. With that being said, with five nations to choose from and the promise of possible mods in the future, this title could have some staying power. Also, getting every one of the policies in place would take a master statesman and some serious luck to avoid a horrific career-ending tragedy like a horny elder statesman. So if you were a perfectionist, you'll have days and days of this one ahead of you.
- At the start of each term, you get a huge amount of political capital. This is very realistic and really makes you acutely aware of how poor you are in the future once people are tired of you.
- All of the policies and laws that I enacted -- with the exception of legalizing drugs -- were almost perfect in their realistic effects on the various constituencies that I had to balance. I think they did an excellent job with the civics buried under the numbers.
- Even though I wish they were larger in scale, I thought the random events were a nice break to the monotony and a good way to prevent the game from becoming formulaic.
- Successfully solving the problems facing your country can force you to adopt some very complex strategies. For instance, I appeased my capitalists in one game by raising the minimum drinking age to 21. What can I tell you, it worked?
- Some of the iconography in the game is sketchy. When you look at the pictures on the icons, you're not always sure what's going on and when you roll over the button, it transforms the screen which can be distracting. I find it best to avoid the dozens of icons on the main screen like the plague.
- The settings menu is basically a glorified audio panel. They could have done a little better at, for instance, offering ways to manipulate the user interface and such.
- There is no back button in key places, which forces you to exit out of a window that's three deep in an interface tree and then try to find what you were just looking at again by starting over. That's the only really annoying part of the game that found myself complaining about regularly.
- The illustrations in the focus group area don't match the data you're reading. I found multiple instances where a male 60-year-old shrimp-boat captain named "Caitlyn" told me I was doing a good job. And old man named Caitlyn: not that there's anything wrong with that; it's just a little surprising is all.
- In my first game, I was assassinated eight turns in because I backed legalized prostitution. That's a little too convenient. I understand they were trying to make a point about extremists, but it's a little too easy for the 55 members of a radical convenient store cabal to end the life of the Prime Minister of Australia.
- Even in the most repressive of dictatorships, mandatory voting only nets about 93% of the voting public. In this game, every human soul shows up at the polls without fail if you have that law enacted.
- Your cabinet is worthless. They offer you only the raw political points you need to get things done and nothing more. They do have some sort of nebulous effect on certain constituencies, but they offer you no feedback, help, advice, or sway. You can't send them to do anything and they only seem to sit around taking a paycheck while slowing learning to hate you despite your 82% approval rating. This is the one part of the game that is 100% unrealistic.
- When you first start a game, the statistics windows are filled with empty stats, so it's as if you just started the country yesterday. That's immersion breaking. Also, your popularity rating (even though you were theoretically just elected) is zero and you have to climb from there. So too is your political base completely devoid of people even if you use the real-life political party names that the game suggests.
- Finally, your political party makes no demands of you, they simply follow your whims without question. You can make the Labour Party of Australia embrace prostitution without question or ship the girls off to an island somewhere. They support you regardless and frankly I think I should get some feedback either way.
In my second game, I was one click away from my second election with a 73% approval rating and a 100% approval from the environmental lobby. In my next turn (not term -- turn), a small fishing boat was sunk by Somali pirates killing five on board and my approval rating fell to 19% and I lost in a landslide that would make even Alf Landon feel sorry for me. The environmentalists came in at 53% -- the only constituent group that I carried.
Even so, I loaded up my next game within seconds because I love politics, I love finding ways to get my platform accepted by the masses, and I loved what Positech did in building this game.
If, like me, you have a secret, dark, nerdy spot in your heart for numbers or a hankering to demand justice for hookers and stoners, this game is absolutely for you.