Power. A true leader has it. A good leader can use it to help others. A bad leader can use it to further his or her own agenda. Democracy 3 puts you in charge of one of six countries. Will you be a great leader or a bad leader? Can you lead your countries into prosperity and be re-elected in your Democracy? Read on Mr./Ms. President.
Democracy 3 is a cause and effect simulation. Each decision you make as leader of your chosen country causes a ripple effect of reactions (decreasing army funding causes an increase in unemployment). As such each scenario you play will turn out differently; there isn’t a set story for any country. At its most basic, Democracy 3 is the story of a leader, you, who has been elected the leader of one of six countries: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the United States, Canada, or Australia. A story based on your stewardship of the country. The goal of your story is to be re-elected at the end of your term.
Controls and Gameplay
Democracy 3 isn’t played like most games. Think of it as the ultimate communication and control menu interface. The main play screen is filled with icons that represent policies that have been enacted (white icons), political and economic aspects of your country (blue), and crisis (red). When you hover your mouse over any icon it shows how each is interconnected by green (positive effects) and red (negative effects) lines. These lines have also have arrows moving at various speeds on them; the faster the arrows are moving the stronger the influence of the item you are hovering over. For example let’s take a look at the policy Rail Subsidies. Rail Subsidies affect Rail Usage, Middle Earnings, Poor Earnings, and Unemployment, both political and economic aspects. The Rail Subsidies also affects the commuters and motorists voter/focus groups. Hovering over any of those groups will show everything that effects them. Rail Usage is not only affected by Rail Subsidies, but by Car Usage, Bus Usage, Air Travel, Oil Demand, and the GDP. Moving from policy to political/economic aspect to crisis can be something of a never-ending rabbit hole, but that is what politics are all about.
At the center of the main screen is your Voter/Focus Groups. Each voter will have one leaning in each of the three main categories. These three main categories include everything from political leanings (liberal, socialist, capitalists, patriots) to the aforementioned motorists, and commuters as well as their income level (wealthy, poor, middle income, etc.); with a total of twenty one groups overall. Your voters may begin inone group but can shift over time to another group depending on the policies you choose.
Policies are the only icons that you have direct control over anything. Manipulating these by increasing or decreasing funding, canceling, or even enacting new policies will cause effects over time to everything else. Clicking on any icon will open a dialog window that shows what it is affecting and how it is being effected (good or bad).
Now you can’t willy-nilly change these things. You earn political capital to spend, which is based on how well you are doing your job according to your cabinet. The happier your cabinet ministers are, the more capital you have to spend. This is not an easy task when you consider each minister has their own political sympathies which are not always in line with the other ministers much less you. So, like real world politics, it becomes a game of give and take to get things done.
I was lucky enough to be provided with the first downloadable content for Democracy 3; Social Engineering. Social Engineering adds 26 polices and 8 crises that allow you perform more “subtle” changes. Things like promoting healthy eating, free parenting classes, and even in-city farms, giving you ways of pleasing, and potentially influencing, the voters to your side. Again, these new policies can work against you if you have other underlying problems.
Graphics and Sound
Because a majority of the game is played from windows, menus, and spreadsheets there isn’t much in the way of graphics. Icon pictures of voters and your ministers are nice illustrations that could have come from any voter pamphlet; slightly exaggerated to show what they represent. For example Farmers are represented by a man wearing knee-high rubber boots, an untucked shirt with the sleeves rolled up, and holding a pitchfork.
A majority of the audio is theme music that changes depending on the “mood” of the country. There are some vocal bits, but again they are cued by actions that you enact. If you fire a minister, you’ll hear a bunch of voices talking like gossips behind your back.
Democracy 3 was a much different game than I thought it would be. I thought it would be something like a city or world building simulation. This was far from that. If I was to hazard a guess this game pretty much reflects what a real politician faces every day; minus the handshakes, baby kissing, and chasing of interns around the desk. Your every decision affecting many people, good or bad, which in turn affects how they think about and react towards you. If you don’t plan your moves out, the outcomes can have dire consequences.
I played through a few scenarios. As President of the United States I tried to guide the country towards becoming technology heavy. Enacting tech scholarships, tax breaks for tech companies, hybrid cars, cleaner oil, etc. I tried to do most of it without raising taxes or cutting any current policies but I was losing political capital and racking up a massive deficit. So then I started cutting budgets in military, then education. Some good results were coming in; crime and unemployment went down, education went up. The good could only last for so long though. A nation of smart people did not make capitalists happy and a splinter group of them tried to assassinate me. When I started slashing budgets unemployment started going up. In the end I was not re-elected.
On the plus side I survived that scenario. When I was the Prime Minister of Canada somewhere along the way I made the religious groups very unhappy and they did assassinate me. In Australia I feel I fared better. I had a prosperous economy, the government was taking in more money than it was spending, and I had a surplus of money while the rest of the world was in an economic depression. I even started cutting taxes, but somewhere I made the capitalists angry enough to assassinate me.
I found the game an interesting look at the political system, but not a game to play for any great length of time unless you are really into stats and numbers. It is a lot of figuring out what people want and how to give it to them without ticking off everyone else. I give Democracy 3 a 4 out of 5.
Demacracy 3 is available now for PC, Mac, and Linux. For more information see the Democracy 3 web site.