If you’ve spent years toiling away at sims like Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris, you know full well the joy of running a nations’ military machine. But for those who want more depth on the political side, there are precious few options. The concept of directing a nation through political turmoil will often appeal to a very specific type of gamer, but there’s very little in the way of depth to games in this vein. The genre could use some new blood. That’s where Power & Revolution 2021 Edition wants to change things, or at least pretends to.
Power & Revolution 2021 Edition seems like such a treat for the modern fan of this genre. This is the latest game in the Geopolitical Simulator franchise, one that has been going for about a decade now. Over the years developer Eversim has added a lot of depth and changes to the formula. But we really need to talk about that, because there are some major problems.
The idea of taking control of all the domestic and international policy seems daunting, but the game is here to help. There’s a lot of information thrown at the player, but there’s just enough guidance via tutorials and prompts to make it less frustrating. Other new features include a more robust political simulation that takes into account the political persuasion of the country and your citizenry. Making policies too far outside this particular trend will tank your support.
The core concept goes a bit beyond the humdrum politics to include a lot of real-world events. From the COVID-19 pandemic to medical misinformation impacts, to real military conflict, there’s a lot of heavy subjects here. That alone would be fertile ground for building a game off of, if done right.
Politics is the name of the game here. You need to pick cabinet members, appease internal party personalities and win over voter support. You will find yourself staring at that percentage rating in the top-right a lot during your time with this sim. But really, it’s all about a numbers game. You need to keep your support above a certain level to stay in power, and that means keeping a close eye on the impacts of your policy, endlessly scrolling by in the top-right. This is where the first signs of trouble start, as the player is basically stuck in a loop of trying to carefully plan each policy to not upset too many people, all why trying to balance the budget. If this game was more refined, systems would be in place to automate some level of the minutiae. But sadly, you get stuck with all the smallest choices. And that’s the biggest problem here, this game needs a core rethink about its design. But setting that complex idea aside, how does it actually play?
The idea of running your own country amid various political and military challenges is extremely intriguing. And the inclusion of the new campaigns this year does help sell the realism and fear that idea engenders in the players. There are a lot of levers to pull, but there’s a core problem with the entire experience. Because of the way the core gameplay loop is designed, you’re stuck micromanaging a million different needless details.
There are some redeeming qualities in the humor of it all. The new challenges, like Tom Baden’s Challenge riffing on Joe Biden, offer a fair amount of humorous light-heartedness to the seriousness of real-world politics. Much like any other politics-heavy sim game, Power & Revolution 2021 Edition tries pretty hard to keep the real-world implications of your decisions from weighing too heavily on the player. The very absurd nature of some of the decisions you’re making helps to sell this idea, but the game can’t keep brevity going forever. You can only make so much fun out of housing budgets and legislation concerning cleaning up dog poo.
The aforementioned lack of core innovation isn’t total though, the devs have put some refinements in place. UI redesigns can also help pull in players from previous years, as things have been given some noticeable reworks. A new redone debt system offers a bit better clarity of information. This is very welcome, as the UI clutter and confusion have been a source of player complaints for some time. On the surface level, the game looks and feels a lot more polished, but the gameplay is largely the same if you played the last couple of games. And that’s where the frustration really creeps in.
The expanded military and police systems from the last couple of games make a return. The simple territory control game to put down internal riots and military conflict is back. Also returning is the newspaper updates at the end of each week, recapping the changes in the world. You’re supposed to use this to plan future policy and military decisions, but in practice, most players lose the current events in the shuffle. There’s just too much going on at one time.
And this is the part where my personal rant against Eversim begins. Charging $50 USD for this game is a cruel joke. That’s the same price point many other games in the series have had, and they’ve all had issues with bugs, crashes and lack of innovation. Fans have complained about these elements for years, and no one at the studio cares. But not content to spit in the face of buyers, Eversim takes it a step further by charging $16 USD for just the modding tools. Modding scenes in video games are a vital part of the ecosystem, and survive on passionate and honest developers. Neither of these would describe Eversim.
But what if you really enjoy these kinds of sims, should you buy it? The short answer to that question, is no. This game is completely unplayable in any state. The developers have shown over the years that they have no interest in actually fixing bugs or adding polish, but only in gouging their shrinking fanbase for profit. The reality is that the game will never be in a playable state, the engine behind it is just too crude and badly in need of a replacement. And despite constant complaints from fans, nothing has changed in more than 7 years. The game is unfinished, unpolished, and riddled with bugs. Do not buy it.
It’s so sad that Eversim has thoroughly destroyed any potential their idea had. Despite the potential, the hours of frustration you will feel from bugs and endless tedium aren’t worth it.
Verdict: Awful, no one should give this developer money again.