Pull The Lever: Democracy 3 Is Out Now

It'll almost make you sympathise with other human beings. Almost.

If you live in the UK, you already know democracy is a roguelike: a meatgrinder for the human soul where flawed characters venture into the dark in pursuit of great treasure, subsisting only on potions before eventually being paralysed and eaten by a newspaper. Luckily, I love roguelikes, and that’s part of the reason why I’ve enjoyed the three hours or so I’ve spent with Positech’s Democracy 3, which is out now.

The Democracy games cast you as the Prime Minister or President of a chosen country. Your job is to balance the budget with the needs of the people, and to garner enough support to be re-elected at the end of your term. In screenshots, its interface appears intimidating, but half an hour with it and Democracy 3’s infographic-like web of linked data and interesting decisions becomes fascinating to poke and prod at.

In other words, if pollution is high and your country is suffering from ill health, then lay greater taxes upon polluting corporations and attempt to twist the graph in another direction. Now lover’s of nature like you. Unfortunately, motorists and capitalists hate you, and they’re more likely to vote come election day. Also, you’ve lost influence with your own cabinet, which means you’re less effective on your next turn. Also, the higher taxes means that industry has shrunk, providing fewer jobs, and young graduates are leaving the country causing a brain drain within your nation, and the resultant increase in your country’s average age is putting greater pressure on your social services, meaning you’re going to up taxes even further to keep your coffers full. Shit.

Despite the inevitability of the end of your reign, I find the Democracy games optimistic. They suggest that with enough data and good decision-making, we can lead our way out of our problems. They also exist in this perfect world where voters make decisions based solely on facts, as there’s no simulation of media or advertising and the way it shape opinion. It’s just a set of pure, interesting decisions between you and the perfect society.

You can read Alec’s more detailed impressions from earlier in the year. Democracy 3 is available to buy via Steam, and a DRM-free version is available to buy direct from the Positech website.

Here’s the latest trailer:


  1. killias2 says:

    I haven’t played the previous ones, but I’m sorely tempted to give this a try. I loves me some political games and some strategy games.

    • Hunchback says:

      Came here to say that…


      • Danny252 says:

        Surely to be a 9gag comment, it ought to be followed by a stream of people arguing in broken English?

  2. Terragot says:

    If you buy direct from Cliffski’s website, not only will you get a DRM-free copy for PC, Mac & Linux, but you will also get a Steam Key.

    Do this, it’s proven to be good for your health and the local economy.

    • deadfolk says:

      At €24.56 direct vs $24.99 from GOG.com, I know where I would be disposed to place my order.

      …er, that is if I was actually planning on picking this up yet.

  3. crowleyhammer says:

    Is it worth getting if you already have 2? cant really see much difference to be honest.

  4. MuscleHorse says:

    A game like this would really benefit from a demo – I’ll probably cave after a rally or two.

  5. acheron says:

    “It’s like… what’s that strange game you British play?”

    “Er, cricket? Self-loathing?”

    “No, parliamentary democracy.”

    — Douglas Adams (RIP)

  6. frightlever says:

    “It’s just a set of pure, interesting decisions between you and the perfect society.”

    If it was perfect you wouldn’t need to change anything.

    • Mitthrawn says:

      It is perfect in the economic sense, as it will always make a rational decision based on all available facts.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      I meant that your interesting decisions could lead to the perfect society, should you make the right ones. The pure, interesting decisions are stepping stones towards that goal. Sorry for being unclear!

  7. quietone says:

    Already? Damn, I guess I will have to set aside the Goat Petting Simulator for a while now. At least until the DLC comes out.

  8. Hypnotron says:

    “It’s just a set of pure, interesting decisions between you and the perfect society.”

    So no corruption either? Seems like the game would be rather easy then. Become a populist. You don’t have to worry about being shot by the plutocrats.

    Sim City has to engage in a similar type of utopian reality where the user (as a city administrator) gets to genuinely manage for the welfare of his city and the sims within it, without having to cater to powerful special interests.

  9. aliksy says:

    It won’t be quite believable without a tea party saying I’m a muslim (with the assumption that that’s bad).

    • rusty5pork says:

      I actually kind of had that happen. But, I had virtually wiped out all religion in my country, so it didn’t matter that much at the time.

  10. bills6693 says:

    Well… I was very much looking forward to this.

    After several hours of playtime, I’ve discovered that this game seems to be far too easy. On my first playthrough, I seem to have created the ‘perfect’ society, with no unemployment, no crime, a clean environment, extraordinary GDP, no more national debt, on the cutting edge of the world in terms of technology and productivity, amazing health, education, everything. Oh and no extremist activities and a 98% approval rating.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      You need to move the difficulty sliders a bit. Make the population a bit more conservative and suddenly it’s really hard to get reellected.

  11. TaylanK says:

    Played three rounds of this yesterday. I got assassinated by the ultra-right Lord’s Crusaders group every single time. Hmm. Makes me think either the game might be a tad too deterministic, or I’m an irredeemable godless technocrat.

  12. luieburger says:

    They released it on Linux on DAY ONE!!! I bought it the moment I saw it on Steam. I love it. They’ve made several improvements as well.

    I can’t wait to play this with the Steam Controller from the comfort of my bed or couch. Exciting times!

  13. Chris says:

    I don’t think the guy has the intellectual chops to design a convincing economic simulation.

    • cliffski says:

      I studied a degree in pure economics at the london school of economics, then worked on the stock market, but i defer to your greater intellectual chops.

  14. SAM-site says:

    Played one game so far but haven’t finished as I’m pretty sure I can be Prime Minister for life should I choose. Religion is all but gone, crime is gone, health service and education are at maximum, the national monorail is all good, we have a budget surplus even during major world recessions and we’ve a good few billion in the bank. I win every election with 80+% of the vote and due to my secret police force there are few problems with extremists wanting my noggin on a pike.

    Much like previous Democracy games this is a challenge of tipping points, it’s very easy to set something in motion that doesn’t come off and leads you to doom, but with a few steps in the right direction you can quickly take control of the situation.

    I’d recommend it to anyone who has an interest in politics; it’s not the kind of game you’ll play for months on end, but you’ll have a thoroughly enjoyable time with it nonetheless.