What's the Fate of the World?

Graham Smith at

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Well, we're boned.

Fate of the World puts you in control of the GEO, a fictional organisation with a remit to tackle the world's environmental problems, and the political, economic and social issues that spawn from them. It uses accurate scientific data to simulate the world, and via a series of turns you decide policy - a little nuclear power over here, a switch to electric cars over there - and watch the results. It's like Football Manager for carbon footprints. I got my hands on the beta, and the one mission currently available challenges you to address the Oil Crisis.

They should never have entrusted this task to a guy called President Doom.

I'm thirty years in to the mission and already changing temperature levels are causing drought and food shortages across the developing world. Meanwhile, dwindling oil supplies have prompted a global recession; rapidly altering habitats have led to mass extinctions; wars have broken out in Latin America, North Africa and the Middle East; Europe and South Asia have just thrown out the GEO entirely for our unpopular policies; And our agents in Russia keep disappearing due to "troubles."

My problems started immediately. Your first step in Fate of the World is to hire agents in the world regions you want to influence. I went for a couple in North America, Europe and Japan, as I guessed those would be the three worst polluters and the most important to make changes within. Each agent employed in a region gave me a slot in which to deploy a card.

The cards are how you set policy, and they vary in type, duration, popularity and cost. You could select to establish a Technology Office, say, which costs $25, takes 5 years (the length of a single turn), and which increases your popularity in any region it's deployed. Other cards let you do everything from boost renewable energy sources, to protect forests, to put a cap on business carbon emissions. In later stages of the game when time and technology have progressed, your options differ. By 2090 I'm using artificial intelligence to regulate North American markets and Smart Grids to more efficiently use power.

In my first turn I chose caps on carbon emissions across all three regions, and switched it up between funding renewable energy, nuclear energy, and trying to protect land, soil and forests. At the end of the turn, the game updated my status. Emissions had increased more than expected over the time period, population had grown by hundreds of millions, and by 2120 - the date I have to reach to win this mission - current projections suggest Earth will be inhabited solely by smouldering piles of ash.

Worse, the emissions caps have driven investors out of those regions and in to North Africa, South Africa and India; areas I'd previously ignored. All three are thrilled by the new jobs those dirty businesses are creating, and I was far less popular in those regions to begin with. On the next turn, when I try to impose the same emissions caps, they throw me out the country.

I never make it to 2120 successfully. Regions that kick me out occasionally let me in again - each time prompting a message like "North Africa opens door to Doom" - but only for a turn or two before they evict me again. By the time it's game over, polar bears and grey whales are extinct, roughly 2 billion of earth's population has died, and the southern hemisphere is in a near constant state of war. Whatever I do, the world seems screwed, and it's a little hard to work out how my decisions relate to the planet's increasing rubbishness.

My hope is that in the full game, Fate of the World's developers embrace not only the seriousness of their subject - and they're obviously going to great lengths to make it scientifically accurate - but its potential for extreme and ridiculous solutions. I want to limit the whole world to only one child per family. I want to introduce a radical program of space exploration and attempt to establish off-world colonies. I want to drop a giant ice cube into the ocean in an attempt to cool the entire planet.

It bodes well that one of the six planned missions is called "Dr. Apocolypse" and inverts the premise: your aim is to instead destroy the world, making it as uninhabitable as possible. But I want similarly radical choices in the ordinary missions, letting me explore the accurate statistical models by being an insane dictator.

Mostly, in playing it, I'm struck by how potentially powerful Fate of the World is. Simulations, even those that endeavour for accuracy and realism, aren't objective. In its currently unbalanced state, Fate of the World is probably too hard, and the consequence is that I come away thinking that our planet's very real problems might be insurmountable. In the coming months the game will be balanced to make it easier, but the eventual simulation will still cause players to come away with their own ideas: about the viability of nuclear power, the problems of population growth, and a dozen other topics.

In other words, players are going to come away thinking about the fate of the world.

You can pre-order Fate of the World now at the official site for £9.99 + VAT and gain access to the beta immediately. It's due for full release early next year.