Playing a random game: Democracy 3

Democracy 3 Main Screen

Thanks to the various integrations available, GoG Galaxy shows me all the games I own on GoG,, Origin, Steam, Twitch, Epic and Uplay as well as Guild Wars 2. Altogether, I can now see that I own a ton of games – lots of them I got through bundles or for free (especially from Twitch and the Epic store). I decided to do some fun thing and explore games that I own, but hardly ever or never played. Since it’s impossible to make a conscious decision with 1000+ games, I decided to use a random number generator and see which game comes up that I’d give a try. However, 1st person shooters are out. As are games that I cannot play due to my chronic hand pain or that I know I would just not like at all (which came with bundles most likely).

I tried a few times, but it was tedious to count all the way only to find a game that’s ruled out. I decided to instead use a shortcut and roll for the row instead of the exact game. This way, I have seven games to choose from. One of these should surely fit, right?

The first try gave me: The Messenger (side-scrolling – nope), Metal Slug 2, Metal Slug 3, Metro 2033 (bookahnerk laughed when he saw that because it’s everything I DON’T want in a game), Midnight Outlaw: 6 Hours to Sun Up, The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot and Millennium: A New Hope. I played “The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot” for a bit – but as it turns out, the game is dead now and the servers have been turned off, apparently. The other games all really don’t interest me at all, so I tried again…

Row number 25: Defcon, Defiance, Democracy 3, Deponia, Deponia Doomsday, Deponia: The Complete Journey and The Descendant. I alreadyfinished playing the latter (loved it!), I played enough of Defiance (loved it, but too many bugs). Defcon looks like Risk and I really can’t stand that board game. I never cared for the Deponia games. That leaves Democracy 3, a game I did buy rather spontaneously a few years ago that I played for only a couple of hours. So, this is a perfect candidate! I even bought most of the DLCs and I remember having the 4th DLC, Electioneering, on my wishlist for the longest time.

I decided to play as Germany – not really a surprise there, right? There are some fun facts listed: 60lb/person/year of sausage consumption. 119 litres/person/year of beer consumption. That’s… wow. I’m more a wine person. There is one beer from a local brewery which I absolutely love. But “local” refers to my hometown and we can’t buy it in Hamburg. In general, I love beer, but if I have a choice, I usually choose wine. However, especially on a hot summer day, a cold beer in the evening is really refreshing! And alcohol-free beer is great, too… well, some brands are, at least. But back to the game before I start writing about sausages, too. I chose to adjust the settings as closely to Germany as I could: We vote for the federal parliament every 4 years. The chancellor can be reelected for all her/his life (Kohl era… Merkel era).

… And then this huge wall of icons hit me. This is the perfect moment to briefly explain what this game I’m rambling about actually is for all of you who have no idea. It is basically a political simulator where you indirectly control your country by enabling and disabling policies, laws and taxes. You can raise and lower each of them. You can also see what is influenced by what. For example, the amount of the alcohol tax negatively influences the alcohol consumption (because you drink less if you can’t buy as much), but it also increases poverty because if you do want to buy alcohol, you will have to pay more for it. The negative impact on alcohol consumption consequently raises your population’s health, though. Then you also need to pay attention to your voters because you want to be reelected in the next term. You can see how strong a voter group is, how much in favour they are with you and how they are positively or negatively influenced. Each turn you get a certain amount of capital. Every action costs something which limits what you can change each turn, of course. Most of the time, what I think benefits my population is more exensive. Also, there’s the income and the expanse you need to pay attention to because you need to keep a good credit rating.

I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that had a similar mechanism. It’s also fascinating and in a way, it reminds me of a memory with a game I played on the C64 as a kid. It was called “Airline” and you ran an airline – as the name probably suggests. My older brother introduced me to the game. We were managing the airline, we bought airplanes, we scheduled flights, we chose how many stewardesses there were, the quality of the food served during the flight etc. I asked my brother: “When do we get to fly the plane?” and he replied: “Never. This is not a game where you fly a plane, this is a game where you manage everything around it.” I was so disappointed… I was also 6 or 7 years old at the time. But I sticked with it. My brother showed me how to play the game and it didn’t take long for me to totally fall in love with Airplane! It was the game I played on Sunday mornings when the rest of my family was still asleep and I was not allowed to bother my parents until they had gotten up. So I quietly played. Of course, managing an airline is different from managing a country, even in theoretical gameplay terms. But you do manage a country, indirectly.

With Democracy 3, I am constantly at a point where I wish I could see more than just this management view, though. I don’t know what it is. I get frustrated with the game quite often, but at the same time, the complexity and how everything interacts with everything is intriguing and, of course, quite realistic! Although I still don’t understand why a higher GDP leads to higher unemployment.

Altogether, it’s not quite hitting the mark for me. It’s certainly enticing, but the game always feels to me as if it should do more, as if more should be happening. You have these buttons, you click on them, you pull a few switches and that’s it. A lot is actually happening, but it’s not quite clear. It’s also very annoying that the icons within a category seem to randomly switch positions.

I think it’s a fascinating game, but it… falls flat? Like a basketball thrown perfectly that drops to the floor about 30 cm before it reaches the basket.