by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Graphics and user interface
The game offers little on the side of visual pleasures. All the graphics that you see is the main interface and the cut screens. Both of these are presented against a background which is simply the flag of the country that you are in charge of. The interface screen consists of different policy areas, such as Tax, Welfare, Transport, Foreign Affairs etc. In each of these areas, the enacted policies appear as small buttons that you can click on in order to adjust them. You may also hover your mouse pointer over a button to see the issues and voter groups that it immediately affects. The cut-screens are simply famous or infamous quotes from real-life political figures.
The graphics are very utilitarian and consist mainly of various tables that help you along in your career. In a game that introduces so many conflicting and inter-related policies and areas of government, this is a big plus. You would not want to see anything on the screen that is not useful to you - the interface already seems to get cluttered enough when you introduce many new policies.
As a single negative point, I must say that I was confused at the beginning of my first couple of games about the visual cues that the game provides when some of the events take place. There are two kinds of visual cues to tell you whether issues, such as unemployment, air quality etc. are getting up or down. If they are going down, the event announcement shows angry red faces and when they are going up, you see happy green faces. This is all well and good with air quality, but when you see angry red faces telling you that unemployment is going down, you may get a bit confused.
Also, although it is good to have utilitarian graphics and not too much clutter on the screen, I missed something that would have made the game a little more immersive. One example that came to my mind was the chance to see your country on the map with some general visual cues about how the air quality is coming along or how strong the national defenses are. Seeing even one of those angry parents holding their asthmatic child in their arms would make it feel that your decisions have real repercussions. Looking at simple bars and percentages separates the politicians from the reality and you begin to see everything as numbers, instead of people.
Modders running amok
The game attempts to model the running of a democratic state in all its varieties. Naturally, this is an aim that cannot succeed completely, but Democracy makes a very good attempt at it. Playing this kind of a game you cannot help but compare it to the reality and start thinking what should still be added to it to make it more realistic. Luckily, the game has been designed with modding in mind, and there are instructions on how to add, for example, more policies into the game. So, this makes it possible for me to add those sliders signifying the time and money you, as a president, invest in visiting local towns and schools, or how much you spend on international visits, concentrate in international politics or work as the marketer of your national companies in other countries etc.
Make me a president already!
Overall, I think this game fun to take a round at now and then, but it is not something that I'd play all the time, every day. It is not a game for a casual gamer, looking for a quick fix, but a thought-provoking management game with a relatively steep learning curve that requires time to learn to handle. As an admitted beginner in politics, some of the things that turned me off the game were the random events that can be very devastating to your popularity. I have seen drops of 70 per cent with some groups after making a decision they obviously didn't agree with. This hits especially hard when there is no way to fix the situation very quickly even if you know what you should do. When you endure three such events in the last three quarters of your first term, you are very much doomed, even if in the beginning of the game it seemed like everything was going very well. Perhaps the president should have some advisers around, telling him if he had missed something serious?
The game also crashed on my ultra-modern laptop rather frequently, so the autosaves came really handy. It may be that the game runs better in traditional single-core systems and the hiccups were caused by my core duo, but I had no chance to test this theory to make sure.
So, is the game worth it for someone who plans to become a president someday? I'd say that almost definitely! At least it gives you some insight into how in politics all decisions can have multiple effects and how democracy forces you to consider all groups of people and all their ideologies when you make decisions. You cannot please everyone if you want to get something done, but you'd better please the majority!
No Pros and Cons at this time