Review by David Brynen
Similar to its predecessor, Rulers of Nations, Eversim’s Masters of the World (Geopolitical Simulator 3) is an ambitious game that lets the player run a country—indeed, pretty much any country in the world today—however they want. Between the two games the premise and the bulk of the game is largely unchanged. In Masters of the World you play as the head of the government of a country and make a vast array of domestic and foreign policy choices. The game can be played in two major ways: in a sandbox mode, or in a series of scenarios that typically mirror real-world situations. The new version adds more policy and construction choices, allows players to simultaneously control more than one country (thus enabling coalition play), and significantly improves the graphics and player interface.
While the game’s attention to detail remains impressive, the game unfortunately falls flat in some areas. Indeed, in some regards it is a small step back from the earlier Rulers of Nations.
There is little doubt that once again the biggest bright spot of the game is the amount of freedom that is given to players. Your choices in the game can be as minor as determining percentage of the budget you spend on the country’s football program or can be as important as authorizing the use of nuclear weapons against another country. The degree of freedom in the game is also represented by the ability to once again play as either traditional powers or smaller nations. The ability to play with over 150 countries presents the player with a large amount of variety between games. As an example, in my first two playthroughs I began with two wealthy democratic nations: the Netherlands and Canada, where in both cases I made it my goal to fight growing debt while combating terrorism. In another game I then successfully applied Keynesian economics in an emerging Ghana, and in my last playtest I played as Qatar where I attempted to change the country’s restrictive social policies. Each game was very different as I was presented with a different variety of problems in each country, something that made each of my four games unique. The replay value is thus considerable.
From a domestic politics point of view the game is fairly accurate and realistic. Segments of society will generally react the way that one might expect in real life. In particular when crafting public policy Masters of the World nicely captures the notion of trade-offs. In real-world politics it is rare that a policy decision will be universally accepted. An example of this that I had encountered is that one of my first decisions as Prime Minister of Canada was attempting to raise the country’s retirement age. Unsurprisingly, my decision to change the age of retirement from 65 to 66 resulted in public protests and I saw a sharp decline in my popularity index. Another instance of the game’s embedded trade offs was as President of Ghana, when I tried to combat the alarmingly high crime rate in the country by allowing ID checks and installing security cameras. Although this made many people in my country feel safer, it also angered the country’s small yet loud libertarian voting block, who believed that I was infringing on their freedoms.
Although much of Masters of the World feels largely unchanged from Rulers of Nations, one improvement on the new version is that the popularity indicator seems to be a lot more predictable when compared to the one found in the earlier version of the game. In Rulers of Nations the popularity indicator was sometimes strangely volatile and would greatly fluctuate for little apparent reason. In my review of the earlier version of the game, I pointed out how starting World War III strangely improved my popularity while playing realistically (making small economic changes) often reduced my popularity. Masters of the World has seemingly fixed this problem.
While the domestic aspect of the game is strong, unfortunately the Masters of the World’s foreign policy model seemed weaker than its predecessor. While the game does once again present options like signing economic deals and creating military alliances, criticism can be leveled at how frequently interstate wars erupt. Adding to the problem is that when a war begins the player is given no reason as to why the war began, which makes it impossible to know the motives behind these all too frequent conflicts.
In one of my playthroughs within four years of game time I had eight wars break out. If I was playing as a nation near one of these conflicts, I imagine this would make the game virtually unplayable. While some of these wars were plausible (Georgia-Russia and Japan-North Korea), many of these wars were laughably unrealistic. For instance Venezuela and France have gone to war every time in each of my games which led me to believe that this bizarre conflict might be scripted. In addition Cuba and Mexico have also gone to war on numerous occasions and Japan and Russia once fought in a recreation of the Russo-Japanese War. The funniest, however, was one conflict I read about on the game’s community discussion board where a player recounted how the United Kingdom had attacked the Isle of Man.
While it should be noted Masters of the World was not designed to be a war simulator, the military aspect of the game is also seemingly broken. For example, in one of my games Georgia was able to successfully attack Russia for well over a year without Russia attacking back. The Georgian army even managed to completely decimate Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, without any repercussions from the Russian Army.
Although one can set the pre-game meter to “less warmongering”, this seems to do little to reduce the amount of wars in the game. A player could turn wars”off” altogether, but this would also be unrealistic.
The game supporters multiplayer online play, although I didn’t try this. It also allows substantial player customization, and there is a quite active modding community.
In fairness, part of my disappointment with Masters of the World may stem from my enjoyment of its predecessor, and my expectation that the new version would be a substantial improvement. Certainly Masters of the World remains a fun game to play. It nicely captures many of the dilemmas faced by politicians when determining public policy. Unfortunately, those who enjoy modelling of real-world politics will likely find that the weaknesses in the game’s foreign policy system hold it back from being truly great.