Review: Realpolitiks02 Aug 2017 1
Released 20 Jul 2017
World leaders are always building something, be it walls, intercontinental ballistic missiles, or, most commonly, rods for their own backs. Realpolitiks gives you the opportunity to prove that you could do a better job of rebuilding a nation of your choice. You might even meet a few familiar faces along the way.
You can take control of virtually any country in the world, but, much like Football Manager, your opportunities will be far greater if you choose the equivalent of Manchester United rather than Accrington Stanley. However, there is always the opportunity to use your diplomatic skills to develop a bloc of allies, which means that even small nations can have a huge influence. You will be required to handle a range of crises, which may be topical, such as the disintegration of the European Union and the expansion of the Islamic State, or hypothetical, like dealing with the aftermath of a third World War.
Realpolitiks models three political systems, namely, democracy, authoritarianism and totalitarianism. Your nation’s particular ideology will be determined by levels of intervention, personal control and military might. Political systems impact on your relationships with other countries and internal social unrest. You will soon have first-hand experience of tricky ethical issues that tempt you to act in cynical and underhand ways to reach your goals. Do you want to make migrants scapegoats for your problems? Is it best to stick your head in the sand when it comes to global warming? Ultimately, it is you that decides whether you want to be a trigger-happy warmonger or a peaceful nation that prefers to talk things over with a nice cup of tea and biscuits.
World leaders need to use their resources wisely in order to develop economic strength and military power. A high GDP and low unemployment will generate funding for a range of projects. Just as important is a healthy supply of action points, which are a reflection of a government’s effectiveness. Action points are essential for initiating diplomatic engagements, developing projects and carrying out military manoeuvres. Finally, don’t forget to ensure a steady supply of natural resources and to invest in your citizens by providing education and healthcare.
Although Realpolitiks describes itself as a ‘streamlined real-time grand strategy game’ there are still intimidating amounts of information to absorb. The extensive tutorials appear to do a good job of introducing you to the game. However, as soon as the handholding ceases, panic quickly sets in. Icons flash, windows pop-up and within minutes you are assailed by more menus and tables than the Bawabet Dimashq, which, Fact Fans, is the world’s largest restaurant. You realise that the tutorial doesn’t really explain much more than basic navigation, whilst the in game explanations are rudimentary. They provide an overview but do not really explain how each action relates to other aspects of the game. You could argue that this is for the player to discover, but since you are assailed by so much information it is really difficult to identify both cause and effect.
To modernise your nation, you will need to set up new projects. Initially, the sheer numbers of these projects are as diverse as they are overwhelming. You can, for example, introduce tax cuts to benefit artists and authors or crackdown and censor all content that may embarrass your government. Projects are based on technology trees. To illustrate the point, consider education; nations begin with a basic primary school education system, but, with the right technology, this can ultimately be developed to free universal remote education. You are restricted to researching two projects at any one time, which can take a considerable time to finish, even if you use the option to fast forward time. The development paths feel quite rigid and, once you make a commitment, there are few options to diversify.
Realpolitiks does not attempt to delve too deeply into diplomatic relations. Other countries tend to pretty much ignore you until you turn up on their doorstep bristling with guns. You can spend time and money buttering-up potential allies so that they will join your bloc. Conversely, you can use espionage to stir up tensions and weaken your enemies. It must be extremely difficult for a game to replicate a rich and varied diplomatic landscape. We humans are complex and irrational creatures; even something as superficial as The European Song Contest has its own grudges and biases. Yet, it would have been nice to have a few more diplomatic actions. You may get a vote in the United Nations, but their powers tend to be unrealistic and overly simplistic. How exactly is a policy to limit the military capacity of countries that adopt a certain political system going to be governed?
The war mechanics are not designed to appeal to hands-on Generals. There are no tactical manoeuvres - you just choose how many units to deploy and an overall strategy. Results are then calculated in a Risk-like fashion, with, what appears to be, a similar reliance on luck. Going to war is a perilous endeavour and can result in huge United Nations peacekeeping forces smashing your armies and wrecking your development plans.
Realpolitiks has three overarching scenarios. The first is an open-ended sandbox, the second has you rebuilding after a nuclear war and the final one is a free-for-all in which every nation starts on an equal footing. To win you must be top of the high score table before your time runs out. Each scenario has a focus on particular countries that, in turn, have a subset of three or four unique scenarios, such as fleeing the earth for a fresh start. Overall, having set targets and limited time gives a welcome sense of direction and urgency.
The user interface, although obviously a legacy of the PC version, works quite well, although scrolling around the map feels a little choppy. I did get fed up of being instructed to click the left mouse button. With so many icons and reams of text, I wouldn’t want to play on a small screen.
There are not that many games that attempt to tackle the subject of contemporary politics in both an educational and entertaining way. It certainly helps if you have at least a passing interest in world affairs, and it is quite compelling to experiment with different political systems. The scenarios offer up some interesting challenges and the random events add variety. Unfortunately, it feels like the game is attempting to achieve too much without any aspect being truly satisfying. Realpolitiks has plenty of surface complexity, but also a lack of long term depth, which could end up deterring both newcomers and seasoned gamers alike.
PSA: Please note that Realpolitiks will only run on newer devices with at least 2GB of RAM