Democracy 3 is the kind of game which appeals to a small niche, and as the name suggests, will task you with running a country of your choice. It is the sequel to Positech’s Democracy 2, but is it an improvement over it’s predecessor?
Democracy 3 is a complex simulator of politics. You become Prime Minister or President of your chosen nation, however there are only six nations to choose from at the start of the game (United Kingdom, France, Germany, United States, Canada and Australia). From here, you must choose your party name. This can be something you have just come up with, or you can select from a dropdown of familiar party names. You also have to do the same for your opposition, the guys who will do what they can to expose your government and oust you out of office.
Many may find the user interface overwhelming and confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it is a great way of presenting data without needing to scroll through various menu’s to get to what you need. Your main hub is covered by colour coded circles, each with a symbol giving you a rough idea of what it represents. If your unsure, simply hover over the circle to see what area it covers. By hovering over the circle, it will grey out the other circles and leave only the circles in colour for which have an effect on that particular area or policy. An arrow is drawn to each contributing factor, with the speed that it moves indicting the severity of that factor. The arrows are also colour coded, with red arrows being bad and green arrows being good. It’s an easy way to identify what factors are having a negative impact and what needs looking at to change things for the better. By clicking one, it will take you to that policy’s screen, where you can adjust funding accordingly, lower or raise taxes or select the leniency or strictness of your government on the issue.
In office, each turn simulates 3 months in-game. You are presented with a brief overview as to how your country is doing, the world economy and your approval rating. Depending on how many years you selected for each term, it can take up to 20 turns between each election. The main aim of any government has to be balancing the books, but that is easier said than done. Unfortunately in Democracy 3, each country begins the game with a surplus, (with the exception of Germany who’s deficit is so small it can easily be overcome) which makes it easy for you to increase spending to win votes and popularity, without jeopardizing your countries finances. Of course, your country will have debt, but from all the time I was playing not once did I even notice it was there. Keeping your income higher than your expenditure will see you alright though.
In Democracy 3, every policy your add or remove, every tax adjustment and every funding cut or increase has a knock-on affect for your country. For example, by increasing job seekers allowance, you may make unemployment worse and productivity will be down as the population will be more than happy to live off the state for as long as possible. While decreasing the allowance may in turn decrease unemployment as they will more likely take any jobs on offer, but will make many people unhappy at the same time. Increasing military spending may offer more jobs and make your country less vulnerable to attack, but it will decrease your support with the liberals. How many votes do they give you? If you are completely unsure about the changes you wish to make, you will see displayed the popularity it will have with voters. The higher their approval, the less of an impact it will have on your overall rating, and if anything will increase it.
Despite Democracy 3’s level of detail, the game can be played with ease and quickness, handy for those particular short on a lot of time to invest in such a title. Having said that, big changes to your country can not be made in a turn or two. You require political power to introduce every policy and to adjust taxation, funding etc. The more extreme the policy or the bigger the effect it has, the more political power is required. The game requires you to take small steps at a time, and to think carefully about each decision you make.
If however you are one of the people who crave detail and information, then Democracy 3 easily caters to you as well. Each policy screen provides further information about what exactly the policy is and people’s opinions. By clicking on your Finances, you will be shown an extensive list of every income and expenditure for your country. A good place to start to see what is costing your government the most money. Sometimes however it is just out of your hands. If the world economy dips back into recession, it’s not a result of your actions, just the world you live in. In turn it has a knock on affect on your GDP, which increases unemployment. Your vision for a better country can be halted in its tracks. If the price of oil increases due to a crisis in the middle east, that will also affect your industries and economy. After all, they still need the oil so they are forced to pay a higher price for it.
Democracy 3 is a game of endless possibilities, allowing you to turn your country into a religion hating state if you so choose to, or a state which has a technological superiority. There are a number of unconventional policies which you will be asked to approve or reject during your time in office, such as allowing Stem Cell Research. Making extreme and unconventional changes in Democracy 3 isn’t easy however, with Political Power often holding you back. It may take several terms in office for your vision of the country to fully become a reality.
It’s a balancing act, where you must ensure your political survival, but at the same time change your country for the better. Everything has a consequence, and I often found myself pondering for at least a minute or two whether or not to go ahead and make that change to policy. Laid in front of you are the consequences, both good and bad. In the long run, will it be worth suffering a slight dip in popularity for you to come out on top a year or two down the line?
Democracy 3 is all about decisions. An easy to follow tutorial walks through each step of the game, making it incredibly easy to pick up and play. As for how long you stay in power however, that’s anyone’s guess.
If your fan of political simulators or enjoyed Democracy 2, then Democracy 3 will certainly appeal to you.