Ever found yourself reading the news and being flabbergasted at something your government has done. Did they cut funds for health care or introduce some bill you just can’t wrap your head around? Well, I don’t like getting political on this blog, but I sure love getting political in video games! Democracy 3 allows you to be the president you always wanted to be, make the decisions you feel are best for the country, and then smacks you across the face with the consequences.
In Democracy 3 you get to choose between becoming the leader of one of several countries, including America, the United Kingdom, and France. The country starts off with a preset situation, usually poorly, and it is your charge to resolve these situations while also making sure you are re-elected for your next term to continue the work.
The main way in which you influence your country is from the policy screen. Here you see all the policies, situations, and statistics active in your country represented as circular icons. When you hover over any of them, lines will appear showing how that component affects others. You can then click it open to see the exact data. For example: introducing the import tariffs policy will positively affect your GDP statistic and make capitalists happy, but has a negative impact on international relations.
If you introduce new policies or alter existing ones, you are also invited to move a slider that decides the severity of that policy. Often this goes accompanied by descriptions that explain the impact, so you can go into your military budgeting, move the slider, and see it change from lightly defended to overwhelming force. As you move the slider, all the statistics that are displayed also adapt automatically, allowing you to perfectly tune what results you want.
The challenge here comes in many shapes. You may find it ridiculous to have any sort of social benefits in your country and cancel them all, but your feeling on politics have no impact on their actual effect. Doing that will skyrocket poverty and cause all manner of problems. In fact, you may just end up being assassinated by a variety of different terror groups that will emerge as a result. Perhaps you want to do the opposite and introduce all the benefits and max them out. Well, you’ll make the poor happy, the capitalists very upset, and you’ll probably bankrupt the nation. I am not saying you can’t do it, by all means I invite you to try, it’s just that introducing policies is easy, it’s making them work that is actually hard.
Every person in your country belongs to several social groups, such as middle income, religious, ethnic minorities, and youth. As you meddle with policies your standing with these groups changes, so removing social benefits will, for example, put you in the red with the poor, while also improving your relations with the capitalists. These numbers, of course, come back to either support or bite you when the next election comes, but if you are particularly harsh against any group in specific, you may find them retaliating through certain sub-factions. You may end up assassinated by religious fanatics or taken out by a radical pro-equality group.
Policies also cost money and some of them really put into perspective how expensive a country can be. You might come to the conclusion that investing in education will eventually pay off through a higher-educated populace, but funding state schools cost several billion that you won’t be earning back for a long time. Yet another hurdle is your cabinet, which houses a number of people who represent specific social groups and have preferred roles within your cabinet. These are the people that give you political power each turn that you then spend on policies, but if their people are upset the ministers will generate less of it. Eventually, they might even resign entirely and you need to spend political power on replacing them.
It’s a game that throws many hurdles your way, but overcoming them and getting a country to work is a great deal of fun. Finally fixing a problem like a drought or riots gives a strong sense of satisfaction, and it was especially cool when I did all that and managed to turn a profit with my nation as well. With that said, the game has a distinct lack of content. There only so many policies available and it often feels like some problems can only be resolved with one solution. As a result of this, many of my games ended up very samey, as I recycled the same solutions over and over again.
The name Democracy also implies that this is a political simulator, which it really isn’t. Regardless of how I played the game, I never really lost an election and always kept a high approval rating. There are also only ever two parties competing and outside of a DLC pack, there is no real way to influence the election process beyond just doing your job. It may seem like an unimportant feature, but the game could really have done with some more factors to consider.
As an educational game, it does its job in a way that is at least engaging. Altering policies and seeing their effect on your people, budget, and various statistics is intriguing and a fun way to learn. Still, I would have liked it if there were more explanations for why certain policies play out the way they do, and again, the game has a lack of content that means repetition will set in quick.
Gameplay score: 6/10
I won’t linger on the game’s visuals too much as it’s mostly just interfaces and those work fine, but there are a number of extras to talk about. The game features a list of achievements, for example, which challenge you to work towards a number of interesting goals with your country. One of my favorite achievements inspired me to turn England into an isolated, religious state, and another one gave me the idea to tackle America’s notoriously high debt. Once you have your fill of running countries the way you would, these achievements can offer additional replay value.
There are also a number of DLC packs that add additional policies with a specific theme. Drones & Clones adds a number of high-tech policies that task you with considering the future of the world, Extremism allows you to implement a number of extreme policies like mandatory church attendance, and social engineering lets you run campaigns to influence your people. The only pack I didn’t like was Electioneering, which adds more mechanics to the re-election process. It’s fun to make promises you can optionally break later to swing the vote in your favor, but the whole deal with gaining funding doesn’t require the player to actually do much and speeches just crash the game entirely for me.
Presentation & Extras score: 7/10
Democracy 3 is a merely a good game that had the potential to be great. It’s an educational game done right, one that makes you want to experiment with politics and shows you the results of your choices. It’s a bit hard to get into, but absorbing for a few hours when you do. It’s just that lack of policies to use and a number of shortcomings like the messy interface and lack of proper explanation end up lessening the experience.