Everyone’s said, “If I was president…” generally trailing off into fanciful ideas concerning government ice cream bonds and subsidized unicorns, depending on how much beer they’ve had beforehand. Positech’s Democracy 3 is the latest iteration in the series that lets you put those ambitions to the test.
My first foray into the world of politics was a relatively easy one. Democracy 3 let’s you choose a starting country, and then set the difficulty and level of your voter base and that of your rival. I tried playing at the default level initially, and though it proved to be a disaster, it certainly gave me a taste for the inherent difficulty of Democracy‘s baseline. There a tutorial that shows you the basics of the game, but it ends up being quite intuitive after a little while.
You start out in the beginning of your first term, and the goal is to keep your country afloat and gain enough voters over the course of your pre-established term length of 3 – 6 years to get re-elected. Well it touts itself as a game, it’s much more accurate to call this a political simulation. The screen you’ll spend most your time looking at shows you a nice broad overview. You know how much money you’re taking in, how much you’re spending and what’s going well based on whether or not a bubble is green, red, or blue. It also shows you a bar for every voter demographic. Green indicates happy farmers, yellow puts the religious vote in the middle and a red bar means the parents have begun burning your autobiography. With 21 groups to woo, you’re bound to piss off someone.
Drag your mouse over one of the bubbles and it shows you what effects it. Green arrows indicate a positive effect and red arrows indicate a negative effect. Now you may be wondering how to turn those nasty red bubbles into green ones. While the colored bubbles indicate the political climate, the grey bubbles indicate policies, and that’s where your discretion comes into play. You get an amount of points called political capital to spend on policy changes based on how loyal your office cabinet is. Each turn takes 3 months, so your total amount of points change depending on what you’ve done each turn, and whether it’s affected your cabinet positively or negatively.
I took an anti-establishment approach to my presidency. So when homelessness got high I increased property taxes on the rich and subsidies for the poor. I mean they call them the 1 percent for a reason, and that makes them one percent of my voter base, or so I thought. Adding taxes that specifically benefit one or more groups means others will begin to dislike you; conservatives, the wealthy, and the religious started calling me soft. Luckily I knew it was coming, when you adjust a tax or policy slider it shows you which voter factions care and how it will affect them. Raise your police presence and you’ll see beforehand roughly how many conservatives you’ll win and how many teens you’ll lose via sliding bars. Once you’re out of points, end your turn and watch the political machine go to work.
At the end of every turn some background calculations take place and you get presented with a quarterly report. It’ll tell you any major events that have occurred and often give you a decision to make regarding a law or urgent business from a member of your cabinet. They’re the last piece of the puzzle, and one that’s tough to manage. The longer you have them the on-board the more effective they become, but you’ve got to watch where their sympathies lay. If you’ve got a Libertarian Transport Minister who sympathizes with the farmers and teens, and you’re trying to build a religiously uniform police state, his dropping loyalties will cost you valuable political capital. You can always fire them, or shuffle the whole cabinet, but effectiveness will take a nose dive and it may shake the voters confidence in your administration.
As I entered my fourth quarter I found Democracy 3‘s version of a Simcity earthquake. Having skipped the latter fifth of the tutorial I never noticed the security briefing tag. There are a massive number of groups that have their eye on your presidency. They can help or hinder you, and well, remember those earlier decisions I made regarding free housing for the poor and extra taxes on Mcmansions? As it turns out the elite of the country weren’t having any part of it.
I barely survived my assassination attempt, and had I heeded my quarterly report warnings regarding the angering wealthy I may have avoided it altogether. When my first re-election finally rolled around I lost by landslide. It wasn’t until some setting tweaks and a change to Prime Minister of Canada that I won my first game, and victory was sweet. If I haven’t mentioned the sound until now, it’s because it will take you 5 minutes to turn off the sweeping digital orchestra that sounds like it came from the election scene finale of a Syfy Original called Monster President.
Though Democracy 3 isn’t for everyone, if you enjoy politically motivated gaming and intuitive GUI’s there a lot to like. Background calculations are an enigma though, and many times I found that even though it seemed like my policy changes should have resulted in a larger voter pull I ended up with less. This led to what may be my biggest problem with Democracy 3 and politics as a whole. A distinct lack of transparency. It’s difficult to know how to adjust your tactics when you don’t know what’s happening in-between turns to produce your quarterly summary, but even without that knowledge it’s a great choice for anyone who likes statistics and the weighing of consequences. Those who enjoy political games with more resource management and property building may find the singular resource pool and GUI to be a little too simple, though it’s a deception Democracy 3 doesn’t reveal until you’re already ballot box deep in the political machine.
Democracy 3 was reviewed using a GOG copy purchased by an OmniGamer associate