Democracy 3

7 Overall Score
Graphics: 5/10
Gameplay: 6/10
Poly Sim Stuff: 10/10

Incredibly dense simulation.

Not a lot of explanation for the depth

Written by on November 13, 2013 in [, , , , ]

I’m not a very good leader. As you may have noticed in recent months, leading requires pacifying idiots, and I simply don’t have the patience to do so. But I like to pretend that I do. Don’t we all? Haven’t we always looked at dumb decisions in office and said “I can do better?” Well, I hope so, because Democracy 3 only does one thing really well, and it’s giving the player a chance to test that “what if.”

 Democracy 3 is kind of difficult to review, because it’s more simulation or teaching tool than it is game. The gameplay consists of moving various sliders up and down to govern everything from how heavily your administration taxes capital gains to how heavily armed the police are to women’s reproductive rights. Each decision will affect one of three critical pieces; the loyalty of your cabinet (who effectively generate longer turns for you), your approval rating (every four years that election’s coming…), and the all-important budget. Any one of the three can doom you, and managing them well can be nightmarish when combined with the game’s series of special interest groups.

There's a lot of charts in this game

There’s a lot of charts in this game

It’s the special interest groups and smaller initiatives that can make Democracy 3 kind of terrifying. The game shows connections between groups, policies, and statistics which creates an insane spiderweb of bonuses and penalties; trying to navigate them all can be paralyzing. That the game can end early (via assassination) should you happen to irritate any one group too much causes its own set of stresses.

A simulation like Democracy 3 lives on its apparent fairness; without the ability to effect meaningful change on the statistics thrown my way, the game would be little more than Progress Quest. Unfortunately, Democracy 3 can fall short there. Often menu concepts are poorly explained, and many commands simply have to be discovered through trial and error. In a game as thick with menus as this is, that can make it a difficult sell. Finally, in many respects I felt as if I were playing to an expectation of an outcome rather than something simulated. In my first fake presidency I managed to balance the budget, reduce taxes, lower violent crime, and even legalize marijuana. I lost my re-election bid by a landslide. In a second term, that was aimed at pandering to each quarter’s needs and running the country into the ground financially, I won my re-election bid with eighty percent of the popular vote. It takes a lot away from Democracy when I feel like a peek under the hood would reveal not a set of moving parts, but a single lever.



Overall Democracy 3 is a fun, darkly humorous, dense simulation that lets a player try to do better than those schmucks in office. If you can get around the hiccups of the simulations and enjoy the satire of our political process, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. If it isn’t technically a game, it’s still probably one of the single strongest political teaching tools available on the PC.


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Author: Zach Snell View all posts by
Hi there. If you're reading this you've probably read some material of mine. If you want more go here and read my stories about a guy who punches wizards.

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