After quite some time without updates, here comes new stuff. This time I’m going to review a bunch of “country simulator” games. All of these are free to play through your browser.
In NationStates, you take charge of an entire country as it’s benevolent (or psychotic) dictator for life. The core of the gameplay revolves around addressing randomly-generated “issues” (up to two daily). Each faces the “government” of your country with a particular social or economic problem such as an increase of youth crime or some social minority demanding their civil rights.
Save from dismissing an issue (which has no effect on your nation) you can adopt one of several proposed positions, usually very extremist but also frequently very humorous. In addition to resolving the issue, which usually has a positive influence on the state, each option frequently has likewise a negative (and exaggerated) effect, which reveals itself only after the policy has been implemented.
Each nation’s style of government is rated on a three-dimensional scale: Civil Rights, Economy and Political Freedoms. The most prominent effect of implementing issue resolutions is that they move the the nation around in these dimensions. As a result, the country falls at any time into one of 27 Government Categories such as “Corrupt Dictatorship”, “Left-wing Utopia” or “Capitalist Paradise”.
Your nation does not live alone in the world. On top of extensive meta-gaming on the official forums, nations may voluntarily join the World Assembly (a United Nations equivalent) and vote on global resolutions, which, if implemented, affect all member countries. On the other hand, there is no way to affect other nations directly (e.g. through trade or war), which is a smart choice, because it elliminates the problem of power players griefing on others.
Overall rating: 4.5/5 – A higher rating would be in order if you could influence your country’s economy in more ways, or interact with other nations, but NationStates remains a fun and gratifying game nonetheless.
Next come Cyber Nations, where things get serious. Serious as in numbers come to play in large quantities. Again you are apppointed leader of an entire country, but this time you can influence your nation’s economy to a far greater extent.
The primary driving force for the economy is infrastructure and most of the nation’s income (powered in turn by adjustable taxes) should be reinvested into it. “Infra” (in the game’s jargon) influences the size of the working population (and workers pay taxes!) but they also need to live somewhere, thus land must be purchased gradually so that your subjects stay happy with the population density. Finally, some of the country’s inhabitants may be drafted into the military, which in fact serves also as the police force, keeping people content and in order.
On top of that, for every one thousand working citizens you may purchase an “Improvement”, that is a building which bestows a certain bonus upon your nation; for example, factories decreases infrastructure cost, banks increase population income and stadiums increase general happiness. Beyond improvements, there are national wonders, which can be thought of as extremely expensive improvements which also confer better bonuses.
Interaction with other nations is not trivial either, taking place in three main aspects:
- Trade – each nation produces two (randomized when a nation is created) indigenous resources (such as coal, rubber , lead or wheat). A country may also trade with up to 5 others, exchanging for their two resources. Those produced locally and those brought from abroad are collectively called “connected resources” (thus, you can have up to 12 of these). Certain combinations of base resources may even grant access to bonus ones (e.g. “Fast food” requires that cattle, sugar, spices, and pigs are connected) which, unsurprisingly, give further bonuses to the entire country.
- Foreign Aid – basically, one nation offers a gift to another, either money, technology or military assistance.
- War – if you have soldiers and military equipment, you can invade other countries. Don’t ask me for advice on this one, though – I prefer to stay quiet and develop my ecenomy in peace.
Overall rating: 4/5 – Good interaction with economy, interesting trade concepts (though it penalizes countries which “rolled” unremarkable native resources). Encourages powergaming (which some may dislike), but nowhere near the extent of Travian or Ogame, where you should practically attend your game 24/7. Cyber Nations is a challenging and interesting game, but nowhere near as playful as NationStates.
Last in this pack comes eRepublik, a somewhat different entry. Here, you start your career as an unremarkable citizen in a country of your choosing and whether you rise to a position of power depends entirely on your gameplay.
After picking a country and region to live in, you should probably start by getting yourself a job. With a meager salary for start, but that’s due to your likewise meager manufaturing skills (these improve over time as you work hard). Once you have a stable source of income, you should remember to keep a stock of food so that your character does not go about his business hungry. Finally, you may (and probably should) enlist in the military and train every day. This improves your combat strength.
One of the most important indicators of your character it’s his “wellness”, an equivalent of “hit points”. Wellness maxes out at 100 and is expended on work, training (1pt each) and combat (10pts). It increases when you consume your proverbial daily bread (1-5pts depending on food quality) or get yourself healed in a local hospital (10-50pts, depending on hospital quality; only if you have fought that day).
Countries may invade each other, creating opportunities for citizens to put their military training to good use and advance in ranks. After a region is conquered, it is possible to incite a resistance war and, if you regain control of the region, even become a “Resistance hero”.
All your daily activities give experience points to your characters. These in turn drive your progression through levels. On higher levels new features become available and your citizen may:
- become a General Manager of a company of his own (earning much greater profits),
- fight as a professional soldier (or mercenary),
- start his own newspaper,
- vote in national elections,
- join a political party,
- run for party presidency or create a party of his own,
- run for Congress membership,
- run for the President’s office.
As you can see, nations in eRepublic are ruled by miniature democratic-type goverments. The President, the “face of the nation”, may sign alliance treaties with other countries, declare wars and trading embargoes, among others. The Congress, in turn, may pass laws regarding economic aspects of the country, such as taxes (import and VAT), minimum wage, can issue money or impeach the President. Frequent (monthly) elections keep the pace of politics interesting.
Overall score: 3.5/5 – You could certainly ask for more features, but it should be noted that the game is still in development and has great potential. Much of the metagaming has to take place outside the game itself, there could be more aspects of the economy simulated, but eRepublik remains an item to keep tabs on.