Game Reviews

Democracy 3

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| Democracy 3
Democracy 3
| Democracy 3

Modern economists believe you can model an entire nation using mathematics. Democracy 3 is your chance to see how well you'd do if you were in control of the numbers.

You might imagine that a game that tries to create politics and economics numerically would be fearsomely complicated.

And that's where Democracy 3 scores its biggest triumph. It features a brilliantly designed user interface that makes understanding all the interrelating factors a snap.

Each policy, situation, or event is represented by a circular icon. Touch it, and all the other circles that affect it will show a connecting line.

Adjust it, and all these things will be shown in more detail through tidy, efficient graphs. You can drill down deeper into these too, making it a cinch to micromanage your digital domain.

Tangled webs

Although it's easy to set your policies, the challenge of the game comes from doing it without destroying other essential parts of the economy. Or alienating important voter groups.

You might want to raise taxes on the rich for a big splurge on healthcare and social housing. But then businesses will become uncompetitive, sections of the elite will emigrate, and right-wing voters will campaign against you.

Whatever you try and achieve you'll be caught in the game's vast but fascinating web of cause and effect. Your job is to try and balance everything while still achieving your policy goals.

What those goals are is entirely up to you. Unless you chose to stand down, or impose a term limit at the start of your reign, there's no end to Democracy 3.

You can lose, by being voted out by the general public, but you determine the win condition.

Intricate details

It's rare to find a game that's so open, and while I found it intensely interesting, others may be disappointed by the lack of direction. It often feels more like an experimental toy than a video game.

It's also disappointing that the game doesn't offer Retina display support, so its huge network is distinctly pixellated. But let's face it, you're not picking up a game like this for the graphical wow factor.

If you are sucked down the political rabbit hole, there's an astonishing amount of detail under the hood.

In addition to all those interrelated numbers, you'll be petitioned by interest groups, broadsided by unexpected dilemmas, and occasionally even personally threatened by terrorist groups.

Your ministers have their own skills and personalities which will sometimes clash with yours. Voters can be polled, explored via focus groups, and turn out to be a surprisingly canny lot who will easily smell a rat if you slash income tax three months before an election.

Voter apathy

Ultimately though, the job of re-creating a whole nation on your iPad proves too tall an order.

Once you understand the right levers to pull, it becomes surprisingly easy to run your own micro-utopia. It might not be all things to all voters, but it comes pretty close.

You're offered a choice of nations to begin with, but they all turn out to be surprisingly similar, differing only in small details like population and GDP.

The game makes no attempt to explore the varied mechanics of democracy that you'd find in politically distinct countries like the US, the UK, and France.

In spite of these shortcomings, there's an awful lot of intriguing material to explore here.

And the game offers a surprising insight into the modern business of politics, with its endless cycle of small, dirty compromises.

How the academics of the future write about your turn at the helm of the nation is entirely up to you. It's time to go back to your iPads, and prepare for government.

Democracy 3

An overambitious but fascinatingly detailed exploration of modern politics that suffers a little from a lack of direction