Let me start of by saying I have literally no interest in real world politics. I don't vote in elections, I don't attend protests or rallies, you will never find me in a discussion about one party's policies in comparison with another, or whether or not the government in power is making the right or wrong decision about a particular national crisis.
With that said, I do find the political SYSTEM fascinating, and I am often interested in how game developers portray politics and the leaders of political parties in their games, so when I got an opportunity to check out Suzerain, I was excited to see their take on the subject... and I was a little surprised.
All politically themed games have an element of decision making that leads to changes in the country or area you are presiding over, some focus on the election race and pre-election campaign (e.g. The Political Machine 2020), some focus on the consequences of decisions made while in office (e.g. Democracy 1,2,3 & 4), Suzerain takes a slightly different approach.
From the Developer
As President Rayne, lead Sordland into ruin or repair in your first term in this text-based role-playing game. Navigate a political drama driven by conversations with your cabinet members and other significant figures. Beware or embrace corruption; shirk or uphold ideals. How will you lead?
What is Suzerain?
At it's heart, Suzerain puts you in control of Sordland, a fictional nation emerging from an oppressive dictatorship. You play the role of Anton Rayne, the newly elected president, and must manage your nation in areas including economy, foreign policy, infrastructure, internal politics and constitutional reform.
Unlike many political games, Suzerain is very story-driven, and your role as President places you in control, not only of your nation, but also your interactions with your wife and children; the vice president, who is a childhood friend; the supreme court officials; leaders of other nations; leaders of splinter factions both in opposition to your party, and within it; and even the CEO of the leading media outlet, who could sway the press either in your favour or against you.
Without giving away any spoilers, the story has a number of twists and turns that you will have to navigate, and the decisions you make right at the start, and throughout, will have implications later in the game, such as which nations are willing to improve trade relations, or whether or not you can push a particular policy through the supreme court.
Should I Play it?
If you're a fan of old school "Choose Your Own Adventure" books and story role playing, then this is a visual novel you will enjoy. If you're not much of a reader, or find yourself quickly clicking past the dialogue sections of story-driven games, maybe you should give this one a miss.
With that said, personally I'm not a big reader, and I do skip over dialogue in a lot of games, but this one still managed to hook me. I did, for example, enjoy the "Sorcery" visual novel game series (at least the first 2 instalments that I've played), and Suzerain has a very similar feel to it, mixing the text-based adventure genre with an interactive map.
Right from the start you are provided engaging back-story about Anton Rayne, and are asked to choose how he responded to certain situations. The decisions you make at this early point in the game WILL affect what options are available to you later in the game, and how certain members of your cabinet, the court and other nations view you and the decisions you make... and that's just the character creation section, which also serves (quite effectively) to bring you up to speed with the history of Sordland and the people and surrounding nations you will be dealing with.
As with all games of this nature, you have certain resource limitations, which may affect certain decisions you make during your campaign. Do you build a new rail link between your two most productive cities in the hope that it will boost the economy, or do you save the funds for a more worthwhile cause? Do you award the contract to build the new rail link to the, admittedly less efficient, state controlled construction company, saving you precious funds, or support private enterprise an give them an opportunity to prove themselves and provide new work for your citizens? Rest assured, which ever option you choose, someone will not be happy with it.
Some interesting "flavour" content comes from the interaction with your family. From very early in the game you get to establish the kind of relationship you have with your wife and children. Are you an authoritative disciplinarian, keeping your family in line to demonstrate your strength to the nation, or are you sympathetic and emotional, drawing your family close to you at the risk of showing unfair favour to personal matters over matters of state.