I was the President of the United States. I was working hard to end homelessness, stop vigilante mobs from taking the law into their own hands, and reduce our out-of-control deficit. And then a black power movement assassinated me. And that’s how my first game of Democracy 3 ended.
Democracy 3 is Positech Games’ extraordinarily deep political simulation. On the face of it, it’s exceedingly simple. You play the chief executive of a nation (America, Canada, the UK, France, Germany and possibly a sixth who I’ve forgotten). You expend political capital to address crises, appease voters, and pursue your own policy goals.
Of course, it’s far more complex than all that. Take the vigilante mobs, for instance. Of the two games I played, both America and Germany had vigilantes applying justice due to high crime rates. Crime in Democracy 3 is affected by a number of different variables just like in real life. The difference is that in real life, you don’t necessarily know what those variable are. But say you realize that poverty is one of biggest factors. Well, poverty is being effected by a number of other issues and policies; such as GDP and unemployment and well, there’s a global economic crisis happening. Often, in your quest to solve a single crisis, you end up working on a number of other issues in the hope that you can reduce that as well.
The solutions are varied. In my far more successful game as Germany, I managed to address the nationwide problem of alcohol abuse by both raising the drinking age to 21 and by legalizing cannabis. Those weren’t the only policy solutions, but they were the most direct (it also allowed me to tax cannabis to help me expand my budget surplus). That was after I’d subdued crime by pumping money into the police force and intelligence service and by creating a generous welfare state on top of that. I eventually ended poverty and crime altogether.
As far as interface goes, Democracy 3 is a charthound’s wet dream. There are more graphs and flowcharts here than you’d expect to find in an Excel spreadsheet, and virtually everything that’s clickable leads to another graph of some sort. However, that means you don’t get a map like in Rome III or Crusader Kings 2. Or even a character sprite. You, your opponents, the country and the voters exist in the abstract (although you can focus group voters and see how your political rivals are doing).
Everything is done with political capital, which you accumulate each turn based on the skills of your cabinet ministers. Ministers have their own desires for positions on your cabinet, vary in their loyalty to you, and also have different levels of effectiveness. Fail to keep your ministers happy and you could find yourself with a resignation on your hands, causing a massive decrease in your popularity. This will also be bad because it’s likely to have reduced the amount of political capital you have, making you less able to deal with a crisis.
I wouldn’t call Democracy 3 an “accurate” political simulator. But it is an enjoyable one. At the very least, it pushes the player to shunt aside their idealistic views to solve the problems of the here and now. Once those problems are solved, you can set about pursuing your own policy goals. Of course, a crisis can bubble up without you noticing (racial tensions exploded into race riots in my Germany because immigration had increased dramatically as the country’s economic situation improved). Then it becomes a question about whether you want to spend the money to fix it the way you believe in, or whether you’ll take the cheapest option out.
Who knows, maybe you’ll get re-elected with 90% of the vote.
Democracy 3 is available at 50% off for the next three days on Steam.