james debate
james debate

Friday 20 February 2009

Developed by Eversim
Genre Real Time Strategy
Platform PC
Release date(s) 20th January 2009

geopolitical simulator 2009

The mania surrounding President Obama has yielded much paraphernalia on which one would not ordinarily expect to see a President depicted; from designer fashion wear to Spiderman comicbooks (which now go on ebay for hundreds of dollars). Thus it was only to be expected that our 44th President would eventually become the inspiration for videogames, and that is pretty much what has happened here.

Last year Eversim released their first version of Geopolitical Simulator, towards which the critical response was something along the lines of 'well its the thought that counts...' and went largely unnoticed. Now they have come out with a new version, released on the day of Obama's inauguration, clearly hoping that his incredible popularity, and the unprecedented interest young people are now taking in politics as a result, would inspire people to buy this game. Indeed one of the game modes in single player even has you playing as a newly elected african american President promising change for a left-centre country, clearly based off of our current situation.

So what exactly is this game then? Well really it is just the most in depth political simulator you will ever see. If you have ever wanted to run a country right down to the smallest detail then this game is for you, the level of detail and the tiny minutiae you can control in this game is quite amazing.

You can take control of any country in the world, each one clearly having it's own economy, military, government structure and technology, and then you can guide them towards your vision of the utopian society. You can control the economy, agriculture, industry, energy, healthcare, education, labor, science and technology, military, espionage and intelligence, culture, sports, religion and much more. You can tweak the budget to suit your exact details, for example putting funding into specific lines of research like energy or computer technology, placing priority on different types of culture (film, literature, musical comedy), different facets of healthcare, even different sports to concentrate in and how much budget the organizations get, and that's just a small sample.

Clearly with the wealth of options here the possibility exists to really do whatever you want. Indeed when you play this game you ultimately go through three phases, first there's the overwhelming variety of things you need/want to take care of, then there's the sheer joy of realizing just how much you can shape the country to be everything you've always wanted it to be, then there's the realization of whether or not it all actually works.

So let me just tell you briefly about how things went for me in this game. First and foremost, the priority was to fix up the economy, as in real life. Now the tools for this are about as good a simulation of economic growth as i've yet seen in a videogame, so if you know anything about the economy, as I do, then you can sort out a system meddling with interest rates and controlling inflation in order to get it all back to normal within a year or so, though doing that whilst keeping unemployment levels low is a harder challenge. So far so good. However it's once the economy was under control that things started to go a bit haywire.

First of all, the people in this game that you preside over are the whiniest little pricks i have ever known, and i've known a few. They will protest in the hundreds of thousands if you do anything too drastic, I had mass riots in the streets over my proposed tax cuts for example... which is odd, I think i'd be quite happy if I found out i didn't have to pay so much in taxes. The secret in practice, however is just not to make any sudden movements, do it a little bit at a time and you SHOULD be fine.

Then things just went nuts. 2010 and the dems just made even bigger gains in congress, so I start putting in my energy bills (alternative energy) and social reforms (no religion in politics, tax breaks for real estate investment), culture reforms (reduced censorship, more funding), increased investment in infrastructure and making science and healthcare a priority. To top this off, I had successfully removed troops from Iraq and placated Iran enough to have both countries as my allies. The world was fast becoming a utopia...

Then suddenly, and without warning, Russia decided to invade America... soon they brought their friends China, North Korea and... err... Jamaica... with them to fight against me, and a third world war broke out for no particular reason. At this point it becomes painfully obvious that diplomacy does fuck all in this game as there are simply too few options and no country will ever accept anything you offer them from the options provided, this part of the game is simply broken. So war were declared, and my economy suffered due to extra expenditure on the military, but eventually peace broke out as suddenly and for no reason as it had been ended before.

Then as soon as I thought I could get back to making my utopia, the unemployment rate shot up to around 52% from the low 4% it had been for over a year... and again with no obvious cause as to why it happened. And so one short military coup later I was out of office, still with a 100% approval rating and having just won re-election oddly enough.

I'm only touching the tip of the ice berg here, there is a lot lot more that can be done with this game, but sadly little of that matters just because very little of it actually works well together, and like its predecessor, this basically becomes a game of good intentions that simply collapses under the weight of its own ambition. There's genius here, but there's also some really really dodgy simulation models, making the game nigh on unplayable at times since it's so prone to randomly implode without warning (and without an autosave, or even a multisave feature). It's hard to recommend this game unless you have too much money and too much free time, wait until they refine the game to the perfect version, and when that happens i'll tell you all about it.

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