Democracy 3 from Positech Games is the latest in the series that places you as the leader of a country, free to rule however you wish. Players take on the role of a president or prime minister of a country’s government. It is up to the player to focus on certain aspects of their country, making long-term policy choices as well as dealing with short-term incidents and decisions. From tax reform and funding grants to military spending and international diplomacy, you are in control of everything. With that said, does this game offer players a breath of fresh air, or is it simply buried under too much red tape?
Let me start by saying that I’ve never really been one for sim games. The onslaught of menus with walls of text never really sparked my gamer’s interest. To top this off, I’ve been even more skeptical of sim games that put you behind the desk. From football managers to other bureaucratic systems, I could never have imagined that a game that deliberately places you behind a wall of interactivity would be any fun at all. Now there is a good chance I will miss many of the game’s finer points during this review. As someone who isn’t very experienced in the genre, there were times when I felt a little lost and confused, and it was not the game’s fault. With this in mind, let’s get into it.
The game greets you with an onslaught of tutorials. While I totally understand that this type of game typically bombards the player up-top for fear of losing them, I wish there was a more innovative way to teach the game’s mechanics. Maybe some sort of animation to go along with your actions? I don’t know, but we need something new. So, after the game tells you the basics, you are free to pick the country you would like to lead, a few basic settings (difficulty, general popular desires, etc) and away you go. It is in this early part that I actually first realized how much fun the game can be. While the game certainly offers plenty of graphs and stats out there for the hardcore to pour over, Positech did a great job of offering a very streamlined approach for those just getting into the genre. Menus are clear and easy to understand, as are the outcome of your actions. Options are split into thematic categories such as taxes, economics, national security, etc. From there you use your Political Capital in order to create new policies, or adjust funding amounts to current ones.
As you spend capital to hire new staffers, implement policies, and manage funding, the middle of the screen has an easy to understand chart laid out with your demographics. You can see how capitalists like your tax breaks or what environmentalists think of your protected-area policies. You can highlight any one of these groups to see what they care about, making it easier to switch policies on the fly if you are trying to please as many people as you can. Obviously you can’t please everyone, so you have to make some tough choices. Urgent matters pop up fairly regularly and usually have some importance. Should you ban animal testing for ethical reasons, or does it actually make sense for you to continue? Is doctor-assisted suicide illegal in your country or no? These sorts of questions will have a big effect on the sort of groups that will support you. Even your own staffers can get upset by the choices you make. The sort of immediate feedback offered by this game is one of the reasons I’ve been coming back to it time after time.
I have played three complete runs of the game and each time I had a different experience. My first game was me trying to run a government the way I think I would run one. Plenty of social programs and environmental policies backed by fair taxes and a great space and robot program. Because of my apparent lack of funding for religious groups as well as my support for policies like abortion and euthanasia, I was assassinated by a Catholic religious cult. Great move, game, great move. My second run was a bit more of a realistic take, and I was able to go for a few years before the economy tanked and everyone got mad at me. My current run is sort of a police state but with plenty of social activities to keep people busy while I monitor their every move. These playthroughs were all unique in their own way, and really opened the game up for me to play how I want.
Democracy 3 is a great political sim that feels really open and adds a lot of features to a genre that is generally seen as dry, dusty, and esoteric. While I think it certainly suffers from some of the typical tropes of other sim games, it does a lot of work to streamline the experience. The tutorials are certainly heavy right from the start, and many of the game’s deeper aspects are blocked behind walls of charts and graphs, but the overall experience of Democracy 3 gets 4 out of 5 stars. For those looking for a quality political sim with plenty of depth and for those looking to give the genre a try, this game is for you.