A political simulator that allows the player to find whole new ways to mess up their country.
Fun is a strange thing. It means something different to everyone. There are some things that are obviously fun to the vast majority of people, such as a good joke, jumping on a sofa/bed/trampoline, and watching someone walk into a glass door. Then there are other things that most people would never consider to be fun, such as politics. But there are people out there who find this kind of thing to be great fun, and for those people we have Rulers of Nations.
Developed by Eversim Studios, Rulers of Nations is a political simulator that gives the player a chance to experience just how difficult it is to run a country, as the head of state. So far as simulator games go, this is possibly one of the more interesting ones. I think we have all, at one point or another, felt that we could do a better job of running the country. It’s not the first or only game to try and simulate this, but striking that balance between ease of play and depth is a tough goal to reach.
On first starting up the game, the player is treated to a “punchy” intro sequence featuring real-life video footage of major events from around the world. It does a good job of inspiring the gamer and promises exciting things to come.
From the main menu, the player has a number of options available. The two main options are Global Competition and World Simulation mode. The Global Competition mode basically places the player in control of one of 16 countries in a basic battle for the highest score. This can be played against AI opponents or other, real-life players across the Internet. Gameplay continues until a pre-determined score is reached, with the score being calculated according to the players popularity, economic power, military power and diplomatic power.
But the meat of the game is contained within the World Simulation mode. Gamers can choose to play through one of the available scenarios or just take control of one of the 170 available countries and run with it. There are 19 scenarios that the player can indulge in, although at the beginning of the game only a few are available, with the others becoming playable once the player has proven their skill and reached the required level. These scenarios offer different date ranges, playable countries and objectives, such as dealing with the current financial crisis or pulling the troops out of Afghanistan.
Rulers of Nations is a highly complex game and not really one for the casual gamer. Through the course of a game, the player will be making decisions that will affect their country, if not the whole world. Players will have the chance to set taxes, propose policies, negotiate trade policies with other countries, even go to war if needs be. It seems as if every possible decision that would be needed to be made by a leader can be found within this game. The aim is quite simply to remain popular enough to actually fulfill any objectives that you might have. But with so many decisions to make and so many ways to mess up, something as simple as being popular will quite often be out of the players’ reach.
Which is a lot for a gamer to get their head around, especially those that have not played a game of this style before. For that reason it is advisable to take a quick trip through the tutorial first. But it is here that we come across the first of a few problems that I had with the game, besides the very niche interest and difficulty level. Through the tutorial, the player is advised by and on-screen tutor who, for want of a better description, had the world’s most annoying voice. Seriously, this guy’s voice was just irritating, which actually made it slightly difficult to follow what he was talking about.
This seems to be a theme that has followed throughout the rest of the game. It is almost as if the developers put so much work into the game engine and making sure it was all up-to-date and relevant, that they were too tired to put much effort into the presentation. Throughout the game there will be people popping up on screen and talking to you, such as members of your government, foreign leaders or the press. Most of them seem quite adequately voiced, but the accents were not what I would expect and the repetition did nothing to help me immerse in the game.
Then there are the visuals. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it was definitely not what I found. The game is played over a big map of the world, with all of the countries marked off quite clearly. However, the map has very little detail to it and is not exactly pleasing to the eye, looking like a cross between teh map from the movie WarGames and something that has been coloured in using MS Paint. In fact, when you take into account the scrawl like font used in the dialogue boxes and then very basic features that are added to the map, it becomes apparent that the visual presentation of the game was not high on the list of importance.
I would imagine that gamers who are interested in the day to day running of a country are very much in the minority. Combined with a very high learning curve, Rulers of Nations seems to have a very small target audience. This is a great shame as the actual engine works very well and does provide a very deep and rewarding experience, despite the games ugliness. Fans of the original Geo-Political Simulator will find plenty to love here, as there appears to have not been many changes made. If you fancy running a country, can overlook the unimpressive visual and audio work, and are up for a challenge, Rulers of Nations may be the game for you.