Version Reviewed: 1.14
App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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The first time I was assassinated, it was at the hands of a religious extremist group called the Crusaders of the Lord. The next FOUR times I was assassinated, the responsible party was an enraged capitalist splinter group called the Battenburg Group. Only two of those four attempts went through on the first try, with the third being successful on their next try the following quarter. The final coup on the part of the Battenburgs took something on the order of nine attempts - over two years of game time - to finally succeed. Every three months, like clockwork, I would dodge the proverbial (and literal) bullet. Then, following two re-elections, a pile of inept failed assassins, and only a couple of months away from what would likely be my fourth term in office, their sniper finally found the mark.
Such is the world of Democracy 3, an iOS port of Positech Games’ 2013 PC release. Politics is a complex, messy, and quite frequently brutally unpleasant thing and Democracy 3 provides an excellent object lesson on the subject. Cast as the newly elected leader of one of six ostensibly democratic countries, players use political influence to enact policies and laws, maintain a balanced budget, and keep the disparate demographics happy enough to eventually secure re-election. Oh, and avoiding assassination is good too. Did I mention the lunatic fringe plotting your demise for any perceived slight? I’m pretty sure my graveyard of martyred leaders can attest to how serious they can be.
Democracy 3 is a dense, almost impenetrable experience for those used to modern hand-holding tutorials. It pretends to have a tutorial of sorts, but it’s pretty close to worthless as it stands. Instead, make sure to read the manual (remember those?) found on the title screen and you’ll come away with a pretty firm understanding of how the system operates. Without it, figuring out the menu-driven interface and spider-webbing arrays of colored arrows can be quite daunting, but after a couple of passes the intimidation falls away and it really becomes rather intuitive to navigate. And this game is pretty much entirely composed of menus - there’s no real visual flash here, save for celebratory re-election fireworks.
Calling Democracy 3 “fun” is a bit of a stretch - it’s more of an interactive thought exercise than any sort of game one plays for recreation and enjoyment. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worth checking out. Really, if nothing else it’s a fascinating look into how fragile and interconnected our socioeconomic and political ecosystem is. Admittedly it’s a vastly simplified version, but if nothing else that makes the real thing all the more awe-inspiring.
If you ever wondered why Presidents tend to leave office looking much older than when they entered, wonder no longer. And that loudmouthed relative who does nothing but complain that a farm animal could do a better job than your current head of state? Plop an iPad with Democracy 3 in their lap, sit back, and watch the show.