Positech Games is a one-man studio based in the United Kingdom that was created by game designer and programmer, Cliff Harris, a self-professed “gaming geek.” Cliff had an ingenious premise for a unique political game—since people always admonish politicians for doing so poorly at their posts, he’d challenge the public to do a better job. And the first title, Democracy, was born in 2005.
Three additional games in the franchise have been created, with Positech’s latest effort, Democracy 4, debuting most recently. But does it stand apart from its processors or does it fizzy out like a failed bid for public office?
Since the strategy and simulation (or combinations of both) genres are among my favorites, Democracy 4 seemed very intriguing. And besides many of Paradox Interactive’s grand strategy games, no other titles out there have really come close to scratching my political strategy and simulation itch.
In Democracy 4, you pick up the all-too weighty reigns of either a president or prime minister who is in control of your chosen country, such as the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and a few others. Whereas in other similar simulators I’ve played, in Democracy 4 you, as a leader, control everything in a much more indirect way—making big decisions, setting policies, acquiring voting power—all the while struggling to stay in power. The last thing you want to do is fall out of favor with your voting base and get your butt booted out of office.
Democracy 4 takes most of what worked in its predecessor, Democracy 3, while getting rid of what didn’t. For instance, they’ve transferred much of what was fun about the Democracy 3: Africa standalone expansion, into this iteration.
However, Democracy 3: Africa was released back in 2016 and anyone with even a vague awareness of modern politics can tell you that a ton of things have changed in the world since then. Most of these recent changes are represented well in Democracy 4, such as “electioneering,” social engineering, and political extremism which sadly, is so rampant these days. Oh, and you’ll even see some fake news here and there (or utilize it yourself).
Gameplay-wise, Democracy 4 is a turn-based affair. You’ll use your political clout to manipulate all sorts of different policies that ripple across your country’s society. These can include such things as taxes, fuel policies, etc. and are spread out among many different voting demographics. You’ll find the latter almost overwhelming—just about every facet of modern-day populaces are represented, from age groups (elderly, millennials, etc.), socio-economic levels (middle-class, poor, etc.) and of course, political persuasions (Republican, Democrat, etc.).
This may seem like a lot to take in, but thankfully there’s a handy tutorial to help you come to grips with all of these variables and their implications. Democracy 4’s updated user interface is also a welcome sight, as you can access just about everything through it just by clicking on its many different elements with your mouse (or hovering over them). There are also all sorts of colorful graphs and scales for you to extrapolate data from (or at least inspect possible projections of that data).
As a whole, Democracy 4 is an intriguing political simulator that lets you indulge in all of your dreamt-about power fantasies. But as things change more rapidly and the modern world propels everything forward at a faster and faster pace, this game probably will be more of a historical title within even two to three years. I can already see Democracy 5 on the horizon, but for now, this version is pretty fun.
Democracy 4 has some pretty good looking graphics that make its simulation gameplay truly shine. However, you want to have a pretty beefy gaming PC or gaming laptop in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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