“Democracy is fantastic for anyone who loves strategy and has an interest in politics.”
What a time to play a game focussed around Democracy! No, really, what a fantastic time to do just that. Unhappy with the way the world is run right now? Then run it yourself! See if you genuinely can do better. Welcome to Democracy 4 everyone. Democracy is a fan-favourite indie strategy/management game come government simulation experience. Leading a political party in a scenario based on the state of one of a variety of nations around the world right now, your goal is essentially to make the people happy and stay in office as best you can.
The journey towards prosperity and peace for your nation comes with a variety of trials and tribulations. These make for a surprisingly enticing set of challenges to try and overcome, and despite a finite range of options set before you the game feels fresh with every attempt. Attempt is an important word here though, as the ultimate truth which Democracy delivers is that you can’t please everyone. Nevertheless, through an intuitive and user-friendly UI and pseudo-random scenarios, a game formed purely of static menus, graphs and bubbles manages to keep you playing for hours on end.
The main game screen in Democracy is formed of coloured circles (or bubbles, if you are a positive thinker and like bubbles), each of which indicate some part of your political position. Red circles are current emergencies, which in the UK include issues such as air pollution, poor health and an uncompetitive economy, or in the USA consist of obesity and organised crime. You start with some emergencies to solve, but your actions, if fleeting, can bring about further issues throughout the game. You are not left to figure out the problem entirely by yourself, though, as the game will show you the links between these emergencies and the other situations and policies in play. For example, an uncompetitive economy could be caused by an abundance of corporate taxes or anti-capitalist policies, which you then have to try and balance with the interests of other groups of voters (we will get to this point in a moment).
Blue circles on the screen indicate situations which are neither inherently good or bad. These simply help you to see how your policies are affecting key aspects of the running of the country. For example, immigration is neither inherently good or bad, but the immigration bubble can show you which policies are having a positive impact on immigration and which are having a negative impact. The third and final circles are grey, and these are your policies. Policies can be enacted, altered and cancelled in the battle to please the electorate and smoothly run the country. These can be anything from traditional taxes, public healthcare or policing to pseudo-futuristic concepts like drone control, full automation, or compulsory and constant surveillance. Every policy is on a sliding scale of cost vs effect, and keeping a good balance will help you maintain your political capital; the currency which allows you to make policy changes, as well as performing other actions in the game.
Navigating the various data, windows and bubbles which ultimately determine your progress looks scary to begin with but becomes incredibly natural and intuitive over time. A series of snappy tutorials for each screen you enter help you find your feet, and over time the UI becomes surprisingly swift to navigate and manipulate. Now that you know what you are looking at and how to get around it all, it is time to get to work. Setting your policies, making your promises, shuffling your cabinet and making key decisions such as whether to permit asylum to a sudden influx of immigrants or whom to employ as a new Judge all play a part in what the people think of you. Like it or not, this is the factor which determines your continued time in office and whether or not you will “win” the political game of Democracy.
Naturally, and the game tells you this as soon as you hit the word go, you will never please everyone in your country. Many policies which please liberals will upset conservatives. Actions which support the poor will cause an upset to the capitalists. Farmers and motorists love petrol, but environmentalists do not. Parents want to see support for their children in the public sector, but this will have an impact on private services and business owners. It is the perfect example of a balancing act in gaming, and it is surprisingly fun to watch and play. A big change from Democracy 3 to game number 4 is that the status of each group can now be seen as part of the main UI. This allows you to constantly watch the consequences of your actions month to month, and also see the connections between emergencies, situations and polices to different parts of the electorate. This makes Democracy 4’s gameplay faster and more efficient than its predecessor, and allows the game to move forward both more swiftly and more logically as a result.
Democracy is fantastic for anyone who loves strategy and has an interest in politics. It won’t be for everyone, of course, as in essence, it is simply a spreadsheet simulator with a colourful and intuitive UI. Balancing books is as fun as you make it, but you can take as right, left or centre an approach as you like to achieving your goals. Essentially, even in the limiting factors which make Democracy a game for a specific type of player, the cons of the experience are few to none. As an iteration in a series, Democracy 4 changes little from previous games, but makes the experience smoother and more navigable than ever. It is a game well worth going in on, as long as you don’t mind being sucked in for the long run.
Democracy 4 is only available on PC
Buy the game for £20.99 on Steam — https://store.steampowered.com/app/1410710/Democracy_4/
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