Article by contributor Quinn Sullivan.
One thing that has become increasingly clear during my playthrough of Democracy 3 is that I’m not going to make everybody happy, and if you go into a match with that as your main goal, you will fail. I can only assume the same could be said for our own politics: I can imagine congressmen looking at charts like the ones featured in this game, I can imagine presidents looking at domestic and international issues as a line on a graph, and I can see all world leaders following the numbers. It’s something that Democracy 3 does very well – sparking the imagination of what one perceives governing to entail.
Democracy 3 is, at its core, a game about graphs, numbers, and charts. Everything that surrounds the game is represented on a white screen, with blurbs of ongoing acts, grants, issues, and taxes separated into sections such as Economy, and Law and Order. White blurbs represent policies that have either been implemented into the system by the previous administration or by yourself. The blue blurbs represent ongoing issues that are the easiest to solve at the time, and the red blurbs are crises that need to be dealt with. Put those off for too long, and you’ll have a global meltdown on your hands, or worse, somebody will get the bright idea to put a bullet in your head.
How do you solve these issues in Democracy 3? By implementing policies that help combat the issue. Duh! The policies that can help you do that are represented in arrowed lines that will direct you in what course of action you should take, and the color will determine whether or not the policy is a good or bad approach to said issue. However, if you want to enact that policy, you’ll need Political Capital points in order to do that. You have a Political Capital of +24 after legalizing the recreational use of cannabis, but you need +25 in order to raise the income tax or cut technology grants. You’re sh*t out of luck, end your turn and try again during the next.
You’ll spend most of your time staring at the screen, looking at the popularity polls to make sure you get reelected for a second term. If you haven’t figured it out by now, everything in Democracy 3 is connected to something. Upping the Corporate Tax didn’t win me favors amongst the Capitalists, Wealthy, or Corporations, but they never liked me to begin with. You’ll constantly be sticking with the parties and affiliations that got you elected in the first place, as long as you want to get reelected. It’s something I’m sure every president has dealt with since democracy has been implemented, and makes you wonder if politicians during any time period were ever noble.
Where most people would see the lack of narrative as a bad thing, I have to think that it adds to the overall storytelling experience. Much like X-Com and the relationship you develop with your team, you’ll develop your own cabinet of experts that will advise you in the course of action to take during every turn of Democracy 3. These characters are deprived of a backstory or any form of dialogue, letting your imagination run rampant as to what they’re doing when you’re not consulting with them. Loyalty will be effected when you create policies that go against their beliefs, which later results in a decrease in the Political Capital you gain per turn. Firing them and hiring someone who is more willing to go along with the direction you’re going is the best solution to that particular problem, and when you sack your expert on said department, a hushed discussion goes on in the background as to what could’ve sparked on this sudden change in your heart.
I’m a little disappointed in the lack of “running the campaign trail” mode that has always been absent in past Democracy games. Making promises that will be extremely hard to keep, and then having a press window pop-up stating you’re a failure at sticking to your guns would have been a great, stress-inducing addition into Democracy 3’s player-created narrative. Instead, the closest thing you get is looking at the popularity polls at the end of every turn, and a ballot count when you’ve run out of turns.
Of course, you couldn’t have a political simulator like Democracy 3 without the creators making a few keen political points themselves. Gay marriage isn’t even an issue on the white board. Instead, it shows up as a letter-box bill that just needs your signature in order to make it legal. Simply hit approve, and – boom! – everyone is equal. It would actually work against you if you didn’t make it legal. It would lower the amount of income you gather from the Marriage Tax, and you’re going to need that Marriage Tax raised if you want generate any sort of revenue, as its one of the few taxes that doesn’t affect any parties or groups at all (at all!). Yes, you’ll lose points with the Creationists, Republicans, and Christian groups, but they’re so few that it doesn’t even affect the majority of your votes. Remember: stick with your party. It’s the best policy.
Democracy 3 isn’t game that appeals to everybody, but it does a great job of appealing to people who aren’t the slightest bit interested in politics like myself. The trailer does a great job previewing what the game is, and describing the stresses that come along with it. If you want to know how heavy the head that wears the crown can be, this is the best game to simulate that.