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Scott Alsworth's Video Games Monitor An apolitical game about politics, asking all the right questions

Suzerain
Torpor Games UG

THERE are very few games about politics. Let alone good ones. But Suzerain, designed Berlin-based Torpor Games UG — a new indie video game company, really is one that achieves something special.

Set in an alternate 1954, you take on the role of the newly elected president of Sordland, a fictitious country emerging from a civil war and 20-year dictatorship.

Ethnic tensions are about to explode, foreign powers are preparing to invade and, on top of all that, your predecessor has left the economy in shambles.

All in all, it’s chaos that feels disturbingly familiar.  

Part text-based RPG and part grand strategy, Suzerain deliberately eschews an ambitious scope, instead focusing on the consequences of decision-making. Although resource management is a feature, it is very obvious that this is a game about choices.

The graphics and gameplay, as well as the writing and story, are, in themselves, fairly unremarkable — however, every public statement, cabinet meeting, and decree, signed or vetoed, has an impact.

Suzerain is an experience unlike any other. It pulls no punches and unapologetically tramples over ideologies. The art of political compromise and pragmatism are sacrosanct.

For those promoting a radical agenda for change, the deck can feel stacked against you from the start. But this experience is a multivalent one. Doing the “right thing” is rarely rewarded and occasionally, feels like a creative statement.

Honestly, it seems as though the developers are articulating the plight of top-down, contemporary statecraft. One can opt for assimilation or annihilation, and not much in-between.

After several disastrous playthroughs, I began to wonder; perhaps I’m not really in control at all. Suzerain then, raises important questions and provides no answers — which, arguably, is part of its charm.

Regardless of your views, it’s a game that provides a safe space for political exploration.

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