Review – Suzerain
After the politics-and-pandemic-filled 2020 that we’ve all gone through, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Suzerain – a text-based political adventure game, set in fictional country Sordland, where you take on the role of newly elected President Rayne.
And while yes, this IS another dip into politics to end out 2020, Suzerain wound up winning me over with a combination of a ridiculously deep well of lore and solid writing that not only fleshed out the country and people, but also humanized the difficult decisions that needed to be made.
It’s easy enough to give a player options and tell them to decide. In Suzerain, those options are given life not by a wealth of information – though that’s also available to the players via in-game briefings, news clippings, and the codex that collates them all for later perusal – but by actual interaction. In one encounter I visited a school for a ceremony and, after seeing how they were being taught, had to make decisions about the education system. It’s one thing to have made election promises on a stage, it’s another to have to follow through – or not – with those promises after seeing the actual conditions and meeting those involved.
You’ll have to make tough and sometimes uncomfortable decisions in Suzerain, and it’s interesting to see how quickly turning your back on election promises can seem justified for a ‘bigger purpose’ goal. You’ll have to make – or deny – backroom deals if you want to accomplish change for Sordland, and exactly what kind of President you’ll be gets tested quickly and often. How many of your promises are you willing to break to keep others? Will you put country above all else, or do you support your wife and family when they need you?
Pulling Sordland out of an economic recession and recover from an oppressive government that still has its supporters – both civilian and elected – isn’t an easy task, and there are many routes to what you could call victory. The strategic side of Suzerain isn’t played out on a battlefield, but in backroom deals and public speeches as you play sides against one another long enough to enact real change.
Suzerain allows you to play the way you want, though going extreme in any political direction is going to make things harder on yourself. In one playthrough I fixed the economy but wound up murdered in a military coup that I probably should have seen coming. In another, I had the economy recovering nicely and had pushed through the bulk of my campaign promises to reform the country into a true democracy with a top-flight education system…and then didn’t get re-elected.
Maybe they went with the former reality star instead…
If you want action, look elsewhere, but if you want a heavy helping of Machiavellian political dealings, Suzerain is exactly what you’re looking for.
What I Loved:
- Stellar background lore cements Sordland as a real place
- Great supporting cast of characters
- Forced me to make some tough decisions
- Top-notch storytelling
What I Liked:
- Moves along quickly – a ton of text, but doesn’t overstay its welcome
- Replayability is high thanks to sheer number of decisions needed
What I Disliked:
- Hit by progress-stopping bugs (no new missions showed up) twice – the issue has now patched
What I Hated:
- Sleazy backroom politics. It’s so much like real life…
Suzerain is available now on PC and Mac for $13.99 CAD. Reviewed on PC using code provided for review.