Gather round my friends, for I have fixed South Africa. That’s right, with the correct combination of high police enforcement, adult education subsidies, childcare and huge education boost, South Africa became Utopia. Well, once I survived a few assassination attempts from religious groups and raging feminists. Now I just need to go fix the rest of Africa.
Democracy 3 is a pure turn-based strategy game. No pretty cut scenes, no predetermined storyline. Players load up the game as a country of their choice where there are a range of problems that need solving. With policies and careful management, you get to steer your country in the right direction.
Democracy 3 stole far too much of my time, so when I heard about a new African edition of the game, I was excited to get my hands on it. I was worried it might just be a reskinning or the original game, though, making the game look African but without changing any of the policies or situations in the various countries. I was so very wrong.
At first glance, Democracy 3 Africa looks much like the original game – there are issues in your country and you need to use policies to overcome them. However, much has changed.
First of all, the types of problems in the various countries are pretty different from those faced in Canada or the UK. As the new leader, you’ll need to solve typically Western issues like obesity and pollution, while also combatting poor infrastructure, border conflicts and rampant female genital mutilation. That last one definitely drove home the point that we were in Africa.
However, you can also benefit from some perks of the continent. Tourism is high thanks to the wildlife, even during instability, and my rich mineral resources helped keep my economy afloat in difficult times. So yes, my South Africa was fairly realistic – my ministers even had typically South African names (and can be fired, hired and reshuffled at whim) and a bunch of policies were already in place that were locally applicable like gated communities and issues with HIV/AIDS.
Unfortunately, the game doesn’t get the whole picture right. When elected into office, I only had 3% popularity, meaning that my reelection probability was low unless I fixed the country. Also, no matter what I did, the gender inequality in the country sky rocketed early on simply because there were so many conservatives in the country. Plus, the economic situation wasn’t quite right, with labor laws favoring employers and minimal power of the unions. So, while certain aspects felt very true to the local situation, other elements pulled me out of that immersion. That said, I had no issues with immersion when playing with different African countries because I had no idea which policies maybe weren’t 100% accurate.
In the original Democracy 3, I usually dressed all countries the same way – improve education and health care to boost the economy in the long run, add a telecommuting initiative to lower car usage and help the environment, and then tweak a bunch of other policies as needed. This time, that simply didn’t work – the first few times (okay, ten times) I played the African version, I ended up assassinated in the first ten turns. No matter what I did, I seemed to anger the women. And the religious groups. And the patriots. Their extremist groups would grow like weeds and I’d end up dying in some horrible way.
Africa definitely requires some different policies, and that was great to see in Democracy 3. After trying to channel my inner Idi Amin and failing, I found that the best route to success was a high police presence and community policing, along with some social policies to combat poverty and inequality. Somehow, I managed to survive the early assassination plots and create a utopia in the end.
That’s where Democracy 3 Africa shows some weakness as a game. The starting point is incredibly difficult and I was wondering if there was any way to play and not get assassinated. But once I overcame that hurdle, my country became easy to run, eradicating all problems and just waiting for me to click next turn until I won. It seems the end game is lacking the same strategic issues that were found in the early turns.