Gamecrastinate takes a look at Democracy 3 and the recently released Social Engineering DLC.
Assassins be damned, we’ve got a vision for our virtual nation.
Democracy 3, a political simulator game, was released in October of 2013 by Positech Games and just recently released a Social Engineering DLC on Steam. The Social Engineering DLC expands the core game in many ways and really allows the player to subtly alter the political landscape of their country. Unlike many DLC packs that get added on later this one integrates seamlessly with the core game. So much so that if you didn’t know what was added with the DLC you might think it wasn’t even working. Social Engineering’s new policies really help flesh out the core gameplay and allow the player to make decisions that can reshape the minds of voters and affect the population in more subtle ways. Offering free parenting classes or a needle exchange program might just give you the edge in votes and public perception that you need. Social Engineering really focuses on these tiny things that we often look past in our real life.
Democracy 3 at the basic level is mostly charts, graphs, and sliders; a game of numbers that all affect one another in more ways than you can imagine. Democracy 3 is a game all about UI, yet it manages to be an engaging and oftentimes completely unforgiving look at the way the world actually works.
Fans of the Democracy series might immediately notice that Democracy 3 is a far sharper and more visually appealing game compared to its predecessors. Positech obviously went to great lengths to improve the visual feel of the series. Democracy 3 uses bright colors throughout which works nicely with the light background. Democracy 2, by contrast, utilized a dark background with harsher colors. The overall feel of the game is really improved with the choice of color palette.
During many of the game’s more important events the game displays additional graphics. In the above image you can see my intelligence service warning of a plot against me. Each of the games various political factions have well drawn characters that are used in the various events, and really that’s all the game needs.
Simulators, especially numbers driven ones like Democracy 3, aren’t exactly known for top notch sound. In most cases the sound in Democracy 3 is just a functional part of the UI. Clicking buttons makes a click noise and a whoosh sound follows a window opening and closing. During certain important events you are treated to some well made sound effects though. Much like the graphics, the event based sound effects manage to find that great balance of being just enough of what the game needs.
What did stand out to us sound-wise was the excellent music throughout gameplay. Democracy 3’s music captures the gamesfeeling of importance in your decisions and the impending trouble that will soon follow behind them. While it’s not as memorable as pseudo-sims like Tropico or SimCity, the music in Democracy 3 is probably the best we’ve heard before in a hardcore simulator like this.
Democracy 3 asks the player to choose a country from a decent sized list and really throws you right into the action. The New Player Experience here is quite short, but simulation players are more than familiar with being tossed right into gameplay. As you navigate different screens you are given small tutorial windows explaining additional details, but overall Democracy 3 requires the player to pay attention and learn.
The gameplay in Democracy 3 could be described as challenging, especially depending on how you choose to rule your country. Each choice you make is clearly described and in most cases offers a liberal and conservative view on the subject, which can extremely helpful and thought provoking. While changes to policies take multiple turns to simulate fully, the player is shown the projected effects of their decision as they decide how to implement the changes.
As the game progresses through your term in office you’ll face a variety of events as well as challenging questions which you must decide on before the turn is over. These events really help make each playthrough a unique experience for the player and add a certain degree of difficulty to the game. The Social Engineering DLC adds many news events you’ll encounter. One such event where you must decide whether to feature your politicians on money is a fine example of Democracy 3’s ability to make the player really think about their stance on a subject both inside and outside the game.
The simulation is unforgiving. Throughout the hours of gameplay I lost count of how many times I was assassinated. Making extreme decisions on any end of the spectrum can have grave consequences (literally!), and in many ways it captures the real pressure involved in making such decisions. Democracy 3 shows the player how difficult it can be trying to please everyone. In game and real-life, Democracy 3 conveys the idea that it’s simply not possible to make everyone happy. Some will suffer at your hand while some will thrive. At the end of the day it’s really about managing the fallout and offering compromises to the groups that oppose you.
After dozens of playthroughs and subsequent assassinations I can say that it’s possible to play Democracy 3 almost any way you want, though oftentimes you’ll face swift death in the process. If you want to turn France into a police state you can do that. If you want to liberate Germany from all forms of law, you can do that too. One such policy that I was excited about forcing upon my people was a death penalty for almost all crime. Such a massively unpopular move requires political capital, so much so that in many circumstances I was unable to earn up enough to enact the law. That’s pretty much the way it works in real life too. If you’re going to do something crazy you really need to be on top of your game to try it. Otherwise, no one is going to vote for your insane laws.
Democracy 3 is one big UI. That might seem like a harsh statement, but it’s actually quite functional and makes a lot of sense. The game isn’t begging for fancy graphics, 3D modeled buildings, or anything crazy like that. Democracy 3 is an extremely complicated game that nails down a functional UI better than any simulator that comes to mind. In a game of numbers UI is king, and Democracy 3 is the ruler of that world.
What’s really impressive about the UI is that it shows you such massive amounts of data on the main screen. Sure you’re able to dive much deeper into the simulation, but much of what the player needs to understand the basics is right at their fingertips. If that doesn’t scream effective UI design I don’t know what does.
The thing that sticks out the most about Democracy 3 is its ability to teach the player about the world they live in. When dealing with such a touchy subject, it’s quite possible to inject personal politics into the equation. Thankfully, the developer explains the ideas presented in an totally unbiased fashion. Each player is tasked with making up their own mind. Through clever design and informative descriptions Democracy 3 transforms itself into a fantastic learning tool.
In many ways Democracy 3 is a triumph of design and simulation. If SimCity 2013 had even half this level of simulation it would have been the best city builder ever made. There’s not a lot of bad things to say about Democracy 3, we’re not about to call it perfect though. There’s lots of things we’d love to see expanded upon. Our destructive tendencies make us wish for a sci-fi DLC that gives us access to things like cyber implants, space mining, or human genetics testing.
At the end of the day we really enjoyed Democracy 3 and managed to learn a thing or two in the process. If you’re a simulation fan, Democracy 3 is a must buy. In fact, we’d support a law that forced students to play this game. Oh God, is that an assassi–
Democracy 3 + Social Engineering DLC
Summary: Democracy 3 and its Social Engineering DLC is an engaging and complex simulation. It’s a must buy for sim fans or anyone hoping to learn more about politics.