The glorious revolution has succeeded. The former puppet ruler who sold our country to foreign interests is now cast down and we are free to choose our own political path. We are in the midst of reforging our system, rekindling our traditions and ascending to new heights. The way we shall do it is completely up to us. Will we choose joining with the international community and subject ourselves to their whims, or will we become…
Rogue State is described as a turn-based “dictatorship” simulator and it fits it pretty well. The player is thrust in the position of the president of a fictitious Middle Eastern country called Basenji, he is given an office from which he can conduct his business and even a personal aide to provide council and a sort of tutorial for a part of the game’s mechanics. From here, the real fun starts.
As it is turn-based, your significant actions are limited to 4 per day and as such you have to make them all count. These actions which we will describe later have different effects over a few important parameters. Firstly (and probably most crucially) you have your daily income and your budget, which is influenced by taxes, investments, spending, trade, research, etc. Money is power goes the old saying and it is valid here too.
Next, you have the military loyalty, without which you basically have no power over the people. Keeping the military happy in any circumstance is important, and none more so than a period of transition to a new governing system. Speaking of popularity, we now reach the masses. There are 4 dominant voting and politically important groups whose approval rates you are going to have to juggle with in order to keep relative order.
These 4 are: the capitalists, who prefer opening up to the global market, lower taxes and more free market policies; the patriots, who embody the nationalist spirit and will insist that everything you do will be first and foremost in the interest of the country; the liberals, who love social welfare and tons of government spending; the religious, who are hardcore traditionalists and will insist that government policy keep to the tenants of their faith as closely as possible.
From what I have witnessed, the people of Basenji may be suffering from mass ADD, as each day one faction is more prominent than the others (more people identify as patriots today, after being hardcore liberal yesterday). As such, you can form your own daily strategies to strike the perfect balance between receiving brownie points with the people and spending.
Moving on to the actions you can undertake, we have the following:
- Government programs and policies (everything from freedom of speech and death penalty to public transport and education)
- Infrastructure (energy, construction, transportation, etc.)
- Intelligence (R&D, spies, hacking, etc.)
- Taxes (modifying the unique flat tax)
- Trade (imports and exports with neighboring countries)
- Military (soldiers, vehicles, etc.)
- Parliment (to maintain their loyalty, from time to time you will have to pursue different policies which they dictate)
- Diplomatic relations (the red phone of compromise)
- The press (you can back certain publications, buy articles, etc.)
There are other actions, but I am going to let you find and experiment with them. At each day’s end, you are presented with an event alongside a few choices which you can take, choices which will provide you with gains and losses in various parameters. For example, a colony of an endangered animal is found near a construction project. Your choices are: to move them to another location (you gain points with just about anyone, however it costs quite a few bucks), to stop the construction altogether (you lose points with capitalists), you just ignore them (lose points with just about everyone).
Moving on to graphics, there is nothing special to report, except for the style, which is inspired by the French comic writer Jean “Moebius” Giraud. This is excusable, being an indie game with a limited budget. Dialogue is constantly present in this game, thousands of lines of it, so it’s not lacking by any means.
In conclusion, Rogue State is an interesting game concept which can be improved a lot towards a more realistic political simulator. It has potential, but is limited by the fact that it is an indie. However, for what it is, it’s an entertaining exercise in how you can bring a country to the highest plateau or completely sink it in the muck of corruption and oppression.