It's the run-up to the election. Democrats and Republicans square up against each other, looking to win the senate, the presidency, the hearts and minds of the populace. Pick a side, and lead your party to victory. There are campaigns to run, funds to raise. Can you help your party gain influence over America? This is your chance to find out.
Partisan Nation is a political simulator, starting with the 2012 race for the presidency between Obama and Romney and continuing for as long as you wish, with new governors and candidates being randomly generated. You start out by choosing whether to play as the Democrats (in blue) or the Republicans (in red), and run a political campaign to secure seats, win elections and turn that map of the United States steadily more blue/red.
I'm at a clear disadvantage with this game, being based in the UK (where politics is a much less exciting affair), though even I couldn't escape the media coverage on the Obama/Romney campaigns. Most of the rest of my knowledge of US politics comes from watching several series of "The West Wing", in which the majority of American politics seems to consist of the opposition not letting the incumbent party actually do anything. And witty speeches, though I think those have been fictionalised. As such, I can't really say how faithful Partisan Nation is to reality, but the level of detail seems to suggest it makes a very good stab at it.
You control your campaign through a series of tabs, such as your HQ, the map, current house and senate resolutions and other useful data. You also have a set of controls to speed up time - normal (a day every ten seconds or so), fast and very fast (a day a second) - as well as a pause button to let you sort things out. All political data is worked out per day, and elections and polls are given set dates.
Your main areas of control are grass roots (used to boost funding), organisation (long-term political sway) and campaigning (short-term election bids). All three are operated on a per-state basis, and clearly you'll have a better shot if you focus on the states most in tune with your ideology. You have a generous amount of money to start you off, but everything costs money in politics and boosting your funding should be a big priority. You also have a team of up to six leaders, and you can use their skills to support any of these tasks - or to assist in the support or opposition of bills.
Partisan Nation is generally well presented, but I did find the controls a little difficult to get the hang of. The drop down menus used to select your states have very thin rows and the text is often small, making this a tricky game for the nearsighted. It also doesn't help that states are often referred to by their two-letter codes - this is probably fine for most Americans but a foreigner like me is sometimes left baffled by which is which!
This is possibly the first game I have ever reviewed for Bytten with no sound. Not a peep. Not even a click sound for buttons.
This is not an easy game to get to grips with at first - politics is itself a game of obfuscation, and this carries across here rather well. You would be well advised to read the playing guide on the developer's website - without this, I had no idea what I was doing! I'm still not entirely clear even now whether I am winning, however. My funding is much improved, but there isn't really a "winning" condition. It's not like you can wipe out the opposing party or have to defend your headquarters from attack. No matter how well (or badly) I do, there will always be two parties.
If you like political games, this is one that can last you a long time. It never actually ends. You can try to dominate the elections. You can try different strategies. You can try more specific goals ("can I get a democrat elected in Alabama?"). As politicians come and go, new ones are constantly being generated. All that said, there isn't really any progression here. You're playing the same "level" throughout, so once you've got your house in order there's little else to be done. Maybe it's just me, but with no clear objective I started to tire of campaigning fairly quickly. Then again, perhaps that's the idea - to demonstrate just how repetitive and pointless it is being a political campaigner!
An unusual and detailed offering, Partisan Nation is not so much a game as a political simulation. It does this rather too well for my liking, but budding presidents should definitely take a look.
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