Eying up the sleek gun barrel pointed at him by a flak-vest wearing, flag wielding patriot assassin, Prime Minister Greg Wild couldn’t help but reflect on his years in office. He’d turned the militaristic constitutional monarchy of Mexilando into a techno-liberal utopia; rich in technology with a massive space program and prosperous with a financial reserve of £200bn without the expense of the environment, it seemed that for all this prosperity, he couldn’t keep everyone happy. Those damned patriots. Repeated assassination attempts in response to his almost complete dissolution of the Mexilandon armed force to a token ceremonial guard finally paid off, and the staunch patriots broke through into his offices. Time to face the music: You can’t keep everyone happy. Even if personal jet-packs are literally months away.
Democracy 2 puts you in the position of a newly elected head of state assigned the executive powers needed to keep a state going, and solving the many problems that plague it from the outset. You control taxes, implement public services and fund various initiatives in order to balance out three main demands: The happiness of the electorate; state income versus expenditure; and the various socio-economic situations that plague or progress your state. It’s all handled through a sleek array of icons, each representing a policy, tax or issue (such as crime, poverty, diseases etc). Place your cursor over one of these and it draws lines out to the other aspects of government and state it influences. Click on it and you can view more detailed statistics, and in the case of policies or taxes change the amount invested or taxed. In order to do this, each turn you expend “Political Control”, the abstraction of the ability of your ministerial cabinet to push through legislation which is determined at the start of each turn. That’s Democracy 2 in a nutshell.
What it’s really about though, is seeing how all the aspects of society interplay to create the statistics we see on the news, or read about online or in newspapers. The world around us is composed of many conflicting groups, and trying to appease them all, and balance out your own view of what is right and wrong in society, and Democracy 2 really asks you to put your money where your mouth is, and try to put into place all those drunken ramblings you’ve had down your local over the years. Interestingly, Democracy 2 basically did what I thought it would when my Techno-Liberal wonderland was put into place. It had a pot-bellied patriot waltz into my offices and throw me out of office in spectacular fashion. Sure, everyone else can be happy, but drive one group over the edge and they’re always going to stir up the pot; no matter how marginal they might be.
And it’s horribly addictive stuff! You’re only given a few terms in office – perhaps an hours play – before your run ends (a summary screen would be nice, actually.) But you find yourself asking if you can squeeze that little bit more out of the budget the next time, or get rid of a just one more social issue. It’s also nice to have a go at attempting radical reform in some of the countries; can you turn a staunchly religious nation into a technocratic home of stem cell research in just 2 or three terms of office? Or how about making an eco-obsessed hippy culture into a consumer society? I do wonder if it’s perhaps a little too easy to turn a country around perhaps. Assassinations aside, my radical changes to Mexilando were I feel a little to easy to deal with; once the major issues plaguing society were out the way, investment into science and green technology could be achieved with very little political fallout; and as we know from our own world, this isn’t really the case. Things only really went down hill when I’d already stabilised the country and decided to eliminate the armed forces to squeeze more money into the space program. So it could do with a little more unpredictability when trying to push through radical reform, which I approach below the verdict. Regardless of these quibbles, Democracy 2 is a reasonably priced and intriguing title that deserves all the praise it has recieved since its release in 2007. If you’ve got any interest in the way your country is run, it’s a fascinating environment in which you can test your own philosophies.
It’s really quite a lot of fun, reasonably priced and damned intelligent at that. So for a Verdict, Democracy 2 is a Headshot!
Thoughts on the Future!
Despite Democracy 2 being great, there’s a lot I’d like to see Democracy “3″ adding. For a start, Democracy 2 is primarily a simulator of the executive arm of government. Besides having a limited amount of “Political Control”, it’s really quite easy to implement radical change in a couple of years if you save up enough. Now, parliament may well be quite useless in the face of a constitution which basically gives the incumbent government huge powers once majority is attained, but it’s still there. Certain legislation just couldn’t get passed as easily as you can in Democracy 2; there’s no level really detailing the legislative aspects of constitutional government. It’s perhaps less noticeable in Democracy 2 based on its simulation of two party government, but I think it would add a lot to the game. I’d certainly like to see a hypothetical Democracy 3 incorporating constitutionalism to a greater degree, with various other forms of government represented, such as Representative Democracies (forcing you to compromise with other parties in pushing through legislation – e.g. the Netherlands), Religious Democracies (where legislation has to be evaluated by a religious body before being passed – e.g. Iran) or maybe even direct Participatory Democracies (I suppose Switzerland is the best modern example) where the public has the ability to vote on legislation. This would certainly add a lot to re-playability as well, allowing you to not only try to run things according to the whims of the people in order to stay in government, but also doing so in the context of constitutional limitations. Furthermore, this could be augmented by allowing you to play the “opposition” government, attempting to influence parliamentary decisions, but not being able to proposition them in the same way.
It would perhaps be nice to see Democracy “3″ adding more foreign influence, and perhaps bodies like the UN or EU which can further aid or hinder your actions, and also turn up some interesting situations – reducing my military spending might not seem to favourable when the Joneses next door have cruise missiles pointed in my direction. I wouldn’t like to see a full on “war” simulation, mind, since there’s plenty of other games that do that. Foreign policy options are disappointingly limited in Democracy 2; it wold be great if aspects like narcotics or human trafficking could be solved (or worsened) by relations with the source countries.
Finally, sometimes it can be a bit easy to gain momentum in Democracy 2. Once you reach critical mass, there’s not much stopping you. Besides those damned patriots. I imagine the previous two aspects I discussed would greatly improve this; with the twin influence of foreign powers and internal political opposition even the most buoyant economy, and most efficient politics can fluctuate a state’s stability. I’ve not yet looked into the modding of Democracy 2, but I imagine this could be balanced out by adding some more random events with more volatile effects.
All in all though, Democracy 2 is a great experience. I recommend it to anyone who hasn’t yet played it to at least try the demo!