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Dan Griliopoulos

Apr 21, 2011

Fate of the World

Fate of the World is a Serious Game that puts you in charge of an organisation trying to solve all the world's problems. It's a bit like the global map of X-Com, but the enemies are of our own creation: global warming, energy shortages, starvation and nuclear proliferation.

You establish agents in each of 12 regions to implement policies in the form of cards, each of which takes money from your budget (drawn from the countries' economies). Each turn takes five years and your ultimate aim is to keep the planet alive for as long as possible.

The cards are how you play out your Illuminati-tastic secret plans.

Amazingly, there are only four missions. Though each has different objectives, the challenge is mostly to keep the world alive. 'This should be quick', I thought. 'Economic sims are my speciality. The world'll be saved by teatime!' I twirled my moustache with arrogant delight as my internal narrator belatedly discovered foreshadowing… Three days later, I was still standing in front of my computer, tugging the frayed ends of my ragged 'tache in frustration. The beautifully designed, delightfully detailed world had starved twice, thrown me out for incompetence once, and hanged me for genocide twice. I even failed the first mission once, where you have to raise Africa's Human Development Index, due to a poor tutorial.

Worldly woes

This difficulty comes from several strands. Keeping the 12 regions happy is tough, especially since they all have different starting conditions, but a sim boffin should love that challenge. More tricky are the global problems. Global warming is just one, world starvation is another, and the most important is energy shortages. If you don't solve it, the world economy will collapse.

The GDP chart. No idea what it\'s saying.

There are several routes to success: political, technological, social – a good solution will take advantage of them all. However, it's too easy to get into a downwards spiral, with a depressed economy reducing your income, or to lose a country totally. The information necessary for justified decision-making isn't easily available. It is there, in charts and flow diagrams, but it's obfuscated. There's no way of seeing feedback on your actions except crudely, through a headlines section in each region. Information is presented in an inconvenient way: when a card says “Local ban on first-gen biofuels”, it would be nice to know if there's somewhere to look to see what effect that will have and if there are secondor third-gen biofuels available yet.

At root, Fate of the World may be well-intentioned and beautiful, but it's small, hard and depressing. While it draws attention to burgeoning world problems, it leaves you more dispirited than inspired, and the lack of accessible information to make decisions means you're often behaving randomly. Morally, it's a must-play, but for entertainment and the sake of your moustaches, it's a tough one to recommend.

Fate of the World

It’s a worthy and handsome effort, but frustratingly badly explained, making it hard to play.

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