by Christopher Coke, reviewed on
Welcome to Your First Term...
The United States had a drug problem. It also had a budget problem, too-high taxes, and a stable of ministers rapidly growing disloyal, but it was the drugs and alcohol that caught my eye. Only halfway through my term as president, the country was in shambles. America was running out of money and I soft-heartedly held onto my social reform programs and extra school funding. I raised taxes on corporations and cut back valuable research spending. Then it hit me, I could legalize marijuana and tax the hell out of it. Oh what a conundrum I caused. This was Democracy 3; nothing is ever as simple as it seems.
Before long, drug and alcohol abuse became a serious problem. Turn after turn, alerts were popping up on my screen, asking me to ban booze advertisements and address the declining health of the nation. I restricted sales as much as I could. The marijuana had to stay though. It was a tax benefit. Oil, on the other hand, was a massive drain that needed to go. But how was I to break America of its thirst for black gold? By cutting spending on roadways and reinvesting it into alternative fuels and railways. I was still hundreds of millions in the red and most of the country still hated me but I ended my turn, eager to see how my decisions would impact the nation.
Minimalist Turn-Based Strategy
Democracy 3 is a turn-based strategy game stripped down to its barest elements. Think Civilization V but without the world map. Democracy eschews almost all visual flare in favor of numbers, charts, and graphs. As a government simulator, it makes sense that most of your time is spent pouring over facts and figures, even if that seems to fly in the face of video game logic. It also makes sense that you never actually see the people you are governing. They are problems to be solved: approval ratings, social malfunctions, tax revenue. You never see the drunk or the homeless but know they exist because they’re no good for the bottom line.
Assessing your nation -- France, Germany, U.S., Australia, or the UK -- takes place on one of the most convoluted user interfaces I have ever seen. More than five dozen bubbles litter the screen, broken up into different colors and key sections such as Tax, Economy, Law & Order, and so on. White bubbles represent policies, blue bubbles provide data on the impact of those policies, and red bubbles are situations requiring your attention. Hovering over any one item causes all but those related to it to fade away and flowing red and green arrows reveal the positive or negative relationship. For example, if you hover over the Lynch Mob situation, you might find the understaffed police force, ineffective judicial system, and alcohol abuse to blame.
Changing a policy requires political capital which is refreshed at the start of every turn. Making a big decision requires more capital, so you won’t be legalizing abortion and removing the cigarette tax in a single turn. Political capital is used to institute new policies in the same way. Adjusting those you start out with is interesting, adding more of your own is even more fun.
Experimenting with policies creates a ripple effect on your constituency. More than twenty groups of voters dynamically react to your decisions, raising and lowering your approval rating. Members of your cabinet might also become disloyal and need to be replaced. Radicals might even try to kill you.
Fun to see the ripple effects of policy decisions; deep, turn-based strategy with countless outcomes
Poor presentation makes the game needlessly complex