Political simulation games have always carried a good amount of intrigue for me – it started with Democracy 2 and has since manifested into Political Machine playthroughs. Although I loved Democracy 2, I didn’t give much time to third entry, Democracy 3. Now that there’s a new entry in the series, albeit a stand-alone expansion, how has the series grown and how does it fair after more time to progress?
• Developer: Positech Games
• Publisher: Positech Games
• Reviewed on: Windows
• Also Available On: Mac
• Release Date: Available Now
Democracy 3: Africa is a standalone “expansion” to the original, simply titled Democracy 3. The focus, as you could have guessed, is on African countries. In theory, this should mean that more policies would be available, and the landscape of countries status would be dramatically different. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case and I’m not entirely sure why.
When starting a new game, you have the option to customise a couple of options such as term length, term limit and political apathy. These are quite helpful and allow for a slightly different experience based on what type of experience you want to have. Having these options is good and all, but it doesn’t solve the issues that already exist, and that’s a lack of variety. Even though I was jumping from country to country, nothing set them apart from each other, outside of the few critical issues. Even introducing new policies only saw a slight variation in the acceptance percentage.
The theme of the game does not do anything to assist with getting away from this either. The background and the music do not differ much and there is no consideration for country specific information, at least that I can tell anyway.
One way that this game does do well is that it is moddable. Games which embrace the community always get a boost in my eyes, mainly because the thought of future replayability is a little safer.
As a Democracy game, it controls as you’d expect but there seems to be a much higher learning curve. Democracy 3: Africa is very unforgiving. Several runs in a row ended very prematurely. I came into office with a 1% approval rating (which isn’t exactly realistic) and made what the game stated would be popular decisions. I also targeted the problem areas while trying to maintain the budget. Regardless of what changes I was making, not only was my approval rating not moving, but I was being targeted by radicals. There would be a warning one turn about a potential threat, only for me to be assassinated the next turn. From what I’ve read online, this is quite common – with the only real option to do the same policy changes regardless of country and to also change the pre-game settings. Not being able to progress with a game because of the ruthless nature can be seen as a positive for some who see it is a challenge, but when you’re trying to combat different issues and situations it’s very difficult to not get frustrated as you continuously lose.
It’s a very jarring experience to be assassinated in the 8th or so turn, without much of a chance to make sweeping changes before that. Having this happen four tries in a row with slightly different settings and different country makes you want to quit the game, not encourage you to keep trying. You can turn these off which is good, but eliminates some of the inherent challenges that exist. It is a difficult balance, I don’t want the challenge to be removed entirely, but some leeway would have been greatly appreciated.
My main question is my biggest gripe. Why is this a standalone title and not just as an add-on to the base game? When the standard Democracy 3 exists in the gaming space, how can I recommend this to anyone? Sure it is good that you do not have to buy into the entirety of Democracy 3, but with a lack of additional content or options, this really is a tough sell. Comparing the two versions is a tough task, as there aren’t many new policies or massively different options for managing your country.
Overall, Democracy 3: Africa exists when it doesn’t really need to. When the base game exists, I can’t see anyone deciding to pick this up over it, unless the country base is such a pull. It’s a standalone experience which doesn’t offer much in the way of either changing the standard experience or offering new and exciting ways to play. It’s difficult to recommend because of this alone, let alone the high base difficulty.