Have you ever wondered what was it like to be a president of a third-world country at a time when the Cold War was at its peak? Judging by our blog’s analytics page, most of you reading this weren’t anywhere near being born during the time these events took place. However, here we are decades after, and the Cold War is still as much a compelling narrative in entertainment as it is in history. Or so the fellows at Torpor Games would like us to believe. Their new game, Suzerain, puts you in the shoes of the president of a neutral state, while the world around you sinks into the depths of global power struggle.
Each new story carries high expectations
The game is set in the fictional republic of Sordland and you play the character of the newly elected President Anton Rayne. Just as your presidency starts, you are already facing your first major crisis. Namely, already at your inauguration, a murder pushes your poor country into political turmoil.
Throughout the game, you will have to balance your politics to the interest of several political groups – one that wants to reform the country, another one that wants to maintain the status quo, and a third that wants power for its own interests.
Here we can experience one of the highlights of the game. In the fictional world of Suzerain, you will have to make decisions and balance your politics as surely as you would have to in real world politics. You will have to reconcile conflicting interest of armed groups of leftists and rightists and you will have meeting with lobbyists of the the rich and powerful. You will have to deal with groups who sometimes eerily resemble certain groups in the real world. Various lobbyists, corporations and even the media will give you headaches, and in the meantime you will try to fulfill your election promises and change the constitution to try to move Sordland in a bright new future.
Suzerain is a turn-based game in which your decisions affect the course of the game. Whether you build a highway in this province or open hospitals in rural areas, you will feel the aftereffects later in the game. You do this in the game by clicking on an exclamation mark that hovers over the cities and provinces, informing you that a meeting is waiting for you there.
The developer, Torpor Games, should be commended for the skillfully written dialogues that truly made me feel like the President of Sordland. Furthermore, almost every organization, minister or interlocutor has its own biography and history. It is visible for players in the sidebar on the right side of the screen.
On the visual side, you will spend most of the time looking at a geographical map, divided into the provinces and cities of Sordland and other countries in the region. Every neighbor of Suzerain has their own political system, something you must try to balance with your own system.
I did enjoy my time in Suzerain, for the most part
As a person who likes these types of strategies, I had fun with Suzerain. On the other hand, I can see how others might not like the linear story or the limited game mechanics. Also, if you are not at least intrigued by the world of politics and the Cold War, Suzerain won’t draw you in. The graphics is simple: a map and (well-made) portraits of various people. The music follows the developments in the game quite well. However, the gameplay is somewhat dragged down due to the many dialogues and decisions you have to make as the president of Sordland. But then, that IS the game. You only have to ask yourself if that and the Cold War background is something you might have fun with. I did.
A few words about the development team
Torpor Games is located in Berlin (which kind of puts the Cold War narrative in perspective) and Suzerain is their first game. As they say on their official portal, they are “a new indie video game company that focuses on creating thought-provoking entertainment”. They surely did in Suzerain.
Interesting setting and historical context
Cold War atmosphere seeping through
You must be into politics and Cold War to fully appreciate it
You REALLY must be into dialogs to fully appreciate it
Simple visuals and sound (not that I personally needed something more, just don’t expect much)