by Marko Susimetsä
reviewed on PC
Democracy is a turn-based political strategy game where you get to be the president (or, in some countries, the prime-minister) of one of 10 possible countries. The only catch to staying in power is that your support amongst the voting public stays over 50 per cent. As the name of the game suggests, you must work within the general rules of democracy and there's no chance to go for dictatorship (although it would make things so much easier). Your control of the country that you have selected consists of policy decisions that you can make every quarter of every year of the presidential term. The length of your term varies from country to country.
This review concerns the version 1.3 of the game that was released only recently and offers several improvements over the original release from last year. Check out our interview session with Cliff Harris from Positech to learn more!
Workings of democracy
The voting public consists of different groups such as motorists, capitalists, trade unionists, unemployed, poor, wealthy, farmers, parents, drinkers and so on. One voter can belong to one or more of these groups, so you cannot necessarily concentrate on pleasing some groups over the others. The player can influence the public opinion and happiness by putting up policies, such as free health care, import tariffs, income tax, pollution tax and luxury tax. All these policies can be adjusted using sliders that increase or decrease the costs or income from these policies. There are also policies that cause no financial gain or spending, such as the decision to teach creationism or evolution theory at schools. If you believe in religious freedom, you can even teach both.
Many of the decisions also not only affect the public opinion directly, but alter the conditions in the country that, in turn, cause favorable or unfavorable outcomes. An example of such would be your decisions on various pollution controls that affect the air quality and the opinions of the industry and motorists. If you favor the industry and motorists, you may end up causing incidents, such as increase in asthma cases etc. Another example would be your decisions on police forces, secret agencies and military spending. On one hand, the patriots will love you when you spend money on these, but, on the other, liberals may end up hating you. What's more, if you end up pleasing the liberals too much, you may open up your country to terrorist attacks and scandals. So, the point is to find a balance between all these factors, while still trying to keep the budget in shape and yourself in office.
Responsibilities of a president
There are 12 countries to choose from, but the differences between the countries are modeled only partially from the real world. This includes the level of unemployment, the national debt and income, as well as population. These characteristics of the countries will not restrict the actions of the president (or prime minister) in any way, however. The player is free to legalize submachine guns to all citizens in UK, or to turn the US into a social democracy. Obviously in real life, the opposite would be far likelier.
The game structures the president's career into terms and quarters. When the game starts, you have already won one election and got into the office. Your long-term goal is to survive the next election to continue onto a second term, but, before that, there are many decisions that must be made. Every year of the term is divided into quarters and at the start of every quarter, you get a quarterly report that tells you how different aspects of your country are progressing and how your support has changed in various voter groups. You are also notified of special events that may benefit or penalize you, such as a successful medical operation or a terrorist attack. You may increase and decrease the chances of these events with your policy decisions, but you will be facing a new event at the start of almost every quarter.
Another thing that you must do every quarter is to form an opinion in a policy dilemma that is presented to you, such as whether to put up a corporate manslaughter bill or not, or whether to accept a corporate merger or airport extension or not. These decisions will also affect the public opinion of you.
In addition to the events and dilemmas, one term allows you to introduce new policies (elderly care, luxury tax, pollution control, public transport subsidies) or alter the spending on those that are already in effect. After you are done with these decisions, you advance to the next term to face new events and dilemmas and policy decisions.
The end of a term is, of course, the most nerve-wracking period of time in a president's career. It is then that you have to make promises to the public and, in this game, you cannot talk your way out of it later on if you don't manage to hold onto your promises. These promises also force you to think ahead: you should make sure not to improve, for example, the air quality to maximum before the end of your first term, since that would take out one of the important promises that you could make, namely, to improve the air quality by 20 per cent. If, by then end of term, you still hold over 50 % of the votes, you may continue onto a next term.
No Pros and Cons at this time