|Min OS X: 10.4|
All Politics is Local (and Loco!)You'd think at the tail end of a year filled to bursting with politics, I'd have had my fill. Well, I'm sorry to say that like any long-time abuser of dangerous substances, my tolerance has only gotten greater and my addiction only stronger. On the other hand, thanks to Red Marble Games' Democracy 2, I've gone from being a mere sheep-like consumer of political news to becoming a newsmaker myself--within the confines of my Mac's processor, however.
Democracy 2 puts you in the driver's seat, so to speak, of any one of a collection of countries with wildly differing economic, demographic and political situations whose only shared characteristic is that they are all one-person, one-vote democracies. Your goal is to deal with crises, implement new policies, and in general improve or maintain the quality of life for your constituents. OK, really, the point is to get them to re-elect you. But you knew that already. Anyway, depending on what options you choose, you have two to five terms of office to potentially get through (should you be re-elected), and the clock goes by in quarterly turns. In each turn you assess the political situation and implement or modify policies to deal with it.
So how do you do it? What follows is my attempt to describe in a few paragraphs the outline of this very complex game. First of all, I should make it clear that this is no way a militarily-focused strategy game. The "playing field," such as it is, is nothing as straightforward as a map or first-person perspective camera. In fact, the ways in which information is made available to you as the leader of your nation is one of Democracy 2's strengths and also, perhaps, one of its weaknesses.
I say "strength" first of all, because there is SO MUCH information. The depth of this game is really quite astonishing.
Gameplay: Divided We StandThe main screen of the game is divided into seven wedges, each representing a particular area of governance or what I'll call a ministerial portfolio: Law & Order, Foreign Affairs, Public Services, Taxes, etc. Within each wedge are little icons representing different issues or policies. The blue icons are informational only, and if you click on one it will pull up a screen giving you a report on the particular crisis or issue it represents. Black icons represent policies in place or that you have initiated, and clicking on them allows you to move a slider bar to add or subtract funding, or reduce or increase the range of the law; for example, if you have implemented car emissions limits, moving the bar to the right increases penalties for violators. What's also helpful is that if you hover your mouse over an icon, "line's of influence" appear showing how this issue or policy affects other issues as well as particular voting blocs. "Flaming" icons indicate issues that have reached crisis levels, such as "organized crime," "homelessness." etc. And, finally, green icons indicate things that are going particularly well, like a booming technology sector or a highly productive economy (I'll be honest, I didn't get to see too many of these).