Everyone's heard the term "playing politics" before, and this series has let players do that for more than fifteen years now with its government simulation games. Democracy 4 is the biggest, most complex entry in the series to date, boasting new features such as a three party system, options to join and govern as part of a coalition, and the use of emergency powers to bypass the democratic process. There's also a whole host of new and modern policies to track and manage, including racial and transgender rights, legalization of drugs, police use of tasers and body cameras, and more. Underneath it all is a custom-built neural network that's meant to mimic the beliefs and biases of an entire country's worth of individual opinions. There's a lot that goes into trying to manage a democratic nation, and that's the biggest issue facing the game. Simply put, it's information overload.
Democracy 4 isn't a flashy game with CGI cutscenes, a huge story arc filled with character development, or fast-paced action to keep you on the edge of your seat. The bulk of it reads like a massive flowchart, with every available policy and law showing just how any change would affect multiple other categories. It's information overload on a grand scale, challenging players to find some kind of balance among the chaos. What's harder still is that in its drive to be a bias free simulation, it risks becoming morally ambiguous at times. For example, a player needing to raise their popularity with religious conservatives might heavily restrict the rights of the LGBTQ+ community to cull favor. Democracy 4 is a cold, calculated look at the political machine that operates behind the curtain of civility. It feels less like a game and more like what you'd get if you took a masters course in Civics and World Government taught with a Choose Your Own Adventure textbook.