Geo-political Simulator (PC) review
"Getting things back into the green through changing the budget is like playing Operation with shaky hands – doable, but difficult and pointless. All this makes for an experience that is essentially unfriendly to the causal player or warmonger, as you have to be really secure in your power (usually only possible after investing a considerable amount of time into balancing your affairs) before even thinking about launching a mission to 'blow shit up'. Its accurate to real life, but will really deter people who simply don't have the opportunity to play a game for that long in order to get to the juicy part. "
Clunky! Inefficient! Out-dated! These are the words often used to describe global politics.
Fortunately, these adjectives also happen to be the antithesis of what Geo-Political Simulator is. The game is a smooth, sublime experience about running a nation in the present era. The player focuses on getting their character into power and staying there without destroying the world in the meantime.
Geo-Politcial Simulator works a lot like you may expect: The player uses a simplified 2 dimensional (although if you zoom in enough in some areas elements become 3D) interface, where everything from the flow of time to your meeting schedule can be fiddled with. Sure, managing a strategy game like this is nothing new and initially you may believe that the unoriginality is going to be reprised throughout. 'Scott!' I hear you cry, 'What's the big deal!? You panned Galactic Civilisations II and that had easy-to-use controls! What's the difference!?' True, but GCII didn't really have much to cram into its main overlay anyway. With GPS, the player can raise the retirement age, invade a country, call a cabinet meeting and much more in just a few clicks from the central map. The depth of the game is no less than fantastic – you can tweak all sorts of variables – from public spending to your government's views on contraception. Every action taken has a consequence; even on the lowest of difficulty settings doing something drastic (like attempting to annex Ireland as the British) will be met with anger from the international community. This is not a Civilisation game; a leader can't just invade anywhere he or she likes without risking their own impeachment.
Instead, the player must carefully balance their karma; if you intend to launch an attack on an otherwise peaceful country, then bribe the Secret Service into releasing a report about how dangerous your potential target is. This means you'll spend half your time in meetings with ministry leaders, forcing them to drink champagne and giving them national medals so they speak highly of you in the newspapers and brush over invasion plans. This may appear mundane for many, but its Geo-Political Simulator, after all; the experience allows us to really appreciate the amount of red tape world leaders have to cut through in order to accomplish even the smallest changes to policy. The game isn't restrictive, though. If you manage your mates correctly and rub the media the right way, you can practically do whatever the Hell you want and still minimise public outcry.
There's always something to do, too. Initially, the player will be condemned to fighting with their Parliament and trade unions, constantly attempting to mediate a truce. This is repeated throughout the first few scenarios you'll experience – managing the bureaucrats and atrociously outspoken wives will take up the majority of gameplay. However, providing you successfully stick it out, new situations will open up – each providing opportunities to focus more on foreign policy, eventually leading to planetary takeover. Expect to invest weeks of your life to get to this level of scale, though; the passage of time is a lot slower than what usual strategy gamers will be used to and it will take quite a while before you can launch a campaign for global domination.
Let's talk about the AI: It is nothing less than awesome and characters fit snugly into their expected roles: Fellow heads of state constant playing the age-old game of 'Who can be the most stubborn arsehole?!' (just like real life) and government department leads or politically-orientated celebrities will do their best to suck up to you. Dialogue takes place in scheduled meetings, which usually involve giving your guest coffee and encouraging the vote in your favour. This is also where the game falters, offering no voice acting and only a limited amount of topics to talk about each time. A bigger focus should have been put onto varying characters during development, especially since 50% of the time in-game is spent dealing with fellow public figures.
This also brings us to the second of the game's major flaws: The difficulty. Or rather, how every game begins with a budget deficit no matter if you play as Israel or the United States. This makes the opening stages of the majority of rounds begin the same way: With the player trying to manipulate finances and get back into positive figures. Unfortunately, if you cut spending in anything but the military, then be assured that the organisations involved won't hesitate to throw strikes and condemn your party. I never realised how big the Air Mail Union was until they initiated a hissy fit and marched on my capital in protest of job cuts. Since most games begin in the same vain the average player will quickly get bored of having to repeat the steps every time, as well as growing weary just how pedantic the populace can be. Getting things back into the green through changing the budget is like playing Operation with shaky hands – doable, but difficult and pointless. All this makes for an experience that is essentially unfriendly to the causal player or warmonger, as you have to be really secure in your power (usually only possible after investing a considerable amount of time into balancing your affairs) before even thinking about launching a mission to 'blow shit up'. Its accurate to real life, but will really deter people who simply don't have the opportunity to play a game for that long in order to get to the juicy part.
Geo-Political Simulator has so, so much potential that was suppressed by being needlessly pressurising the player. I mean, getting rid of my character while approval rating is still on 20%? It definitely does offer some semblance of a grand experience with a lot of richness if you explore its depth, but will definitely not be something your average Civilisation fan will look that far into.
Freelance review by Freelance Writer (October 14, 2008)
A bio for this contributor is currently unavailable, but check back soon to see if that changes. If you are the author of this review, you can update your bio from the Settings page.
If you enjoyed this Geo-political Simulator review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!