Review: Head of State08 Oct 2016 0
Review: Head of State
Released 08 Sep 2016
Political sims are few and far between and always have been. The Democracy series on PC and MAC is the one outlier that managed to garner some attention from mainstream games media but outside of that you have to wade through a lot of tall grass before encountering much else.
However with politics becoming a hot topic all over the world, especially the US elections, there have been numerous games coming out as of recent that are trying to ride this wave of renewed interest. Sadly most of these have been half baked efforts filled with lazy satire and “meme humour”, whatever that is. While I can tell you right now that Head of State is by no means the worst offender of this lot, it is still guilty.
Red flags went off in my mind not long after startup when following a brief intro my fox adviser (don’t ask) sent me on my way and told me to “Make Concordia great again”. Putting my qualms to one side I immediately began gaining influence, which you do by tapping the screen when the blue influence icon appears, and passing laws. Laws come in three trees; liberal, conservative and patriotic. Different acts gain you support from the people to help you win elections. Random events also appear sometimes, they give you two choices like gaining more influence or support and things like that. There are also control measures that help you gain control (big surprise there) which you will need later for the glorious revolution down the road.
Concordia, the nation over which you’re vying for dominance is split up into six states with each having different political leanings so it’s impossible to have a ‘catch-all’ legal solution, forcing you to mix and match. Lastly the objective of Head of State is to gain momentum. This is done by gaining the support of the people and winning elections so you have more seats than the opposition. As your momentum builds protests will start in various places and they sap you influence in that state if you don’t deal with them quickly. When you’ve got enough control and momentum you may spark the fires of revolution and well....win. Sadly you coup d'etat is simply numbers on a screen calculating whether you failed or succeeded. A continuation of gameplay where you have to hold the nation together and silence any doubters or counter revolutionaries would have been a nice way to extend Head of State’s rather short list of features.
While the gameplay loop of Head of State is fairly simple its main weakness lies is in the fact that what I just described to you is the entire game. It’s nice to see domestic policy get the limelight over its bigger foreign cousin for once, but Head of State is sorely lacking in variety and replayability as a result. Random events like foreign intervention or diplomatic incidents would’ve definitely helped to keep things fresh. As it is now Head of State feels less like a bad game and more like an unfinished one. The core gameplay concepts are fairly strong but without any nuance to back them up the entire experience is shallow and commits the cardinal gaming sin of being boring.
It’s very apparent that Concordia is meant to be a miniaturized version of the US with the six states each representing areas/demographics. Beltway capital district is obviously DC, and supports more corporate centrist laws. Palm coast is Palm Beach and the US’ more liberal areas and support liberal laws such as gay marriage and The Stacks is the rust belt states like Michigan and support laws connected to improving blue collar work conditions. This is a nice touch and much like in real life you can see the battle lines being drawn when elections approach but since the opposition party in the game are just abstract numbers that never do anything to stop you or pass their own laws it’s a largely wasted effort.
I damn near deafened myself taking a screenshot as I’d cranked my volume up to full assuming the music and sound effects were simply quiet. They are in fact nonexistent as far as I can tell, throwing yet more ammo into my argument that Head of State is unfinished. On a visual level the game is pleasing to look at if a bit bland. I’ve no idea why everyone is an animal. If it was for the purpose of being funny then perhaps my humour glands need a replacement as Head of State’s humour as a whole passed me by.
Head of State does run well despite being worked on by a small team. I suffered no slow down, crashes or stutters during my time with it and it loads damn near instantly which is not always the case when it comes to Android versions of games from the Play Store.
I always thought my first one star review at PT would be something so offensively bad that it would leave me frothing at the mouth. Head of State disappoints rather than angers as seeing a good idea done badly is always worse than witnessing something that was a failure from the get go. Were it a cake Head of State would be a solid, if slightly underdone base missing all of its top layers, icing and decorations.