Rogue State is an interesting take on the strategy genre. You are the new ruler of a broken state just recently taken from the grasp of a vicious dictator and you must decide the future of this state by passing only the best legislation as fast as your tiny, politician hands can. Scramble with factions, oil hungry American ambassadors, and disloyal cabinet members as you try to keep your country afloat for as long as humanly possible, or die trying!
Story, Sound & GraphicsWhile the game is very strong in gameplay, it lacks a sense of urgency when telling the story. It starts off strong with an interview concerning your character's part in the revolution and mentioning how your brother was expected to lead instead of you, setting up a plot about your reign of power and your jealous brother's attempt to overthrow you. However, the game only truly integrates the story through stylized text screens accompanied by art describing the scene. While this is interesting to look at, it makes the story feel rather detached from the game.
The the graphics are another interesting point, as the game switches between artistic text screens too a cell shaded-like style of in game graphics. Well these may not meet the standards of current generation graphics, for an indie game such as this the visuals suffice. The sound design was also handled rather well and I am happy to report that there are no sound or visual glitches that I encountered.
GameplayThe gameplay of Rogue State is split up into turns, each term representing an in-game month. A turn allows for 4 features to be accessed and used, the features are as follows:
- Changing policies
- Raising/Lowering tax rates
- Building infrastructure
- Checking the loyalty of cabinet members
- Checking the regional map
- Phoning other countries in the region
- Asking your political adviser for help
- Invading a country
- Starting a clandestine operation
- Recruiting soldiers and war machines
Changing policies: This allows one to edit the amount of money spent on certain policies within the country, e.g. The quality of education, the minimum wage amount, how much money is stored for natural disasters, etc. This can have different effects depending how much one decides to invest. Investing heavily in casinos, for example, may improve the GDP of the country and one's standing with capitalists, but religious fundamentalists will disapprove.
Raising/lowering tax rates: This allows one to increase or decrease the tax rate of the country. Raising the tax rate will provide more money per month, or "turn", whereas lowering the tax rate will increase the support citizens give you. Ministers may require you to lower the tax rate to a certain percentage within a certain amount of "turns", but one can change the tax rate back immediately after the deadline is met.
Building infrastructure: This feature allows one to buy services essential to the running of a nation, such as electricity and foreign trade. However, later in the game, the player can choose to invest in economic,health and education, or military infrastructure. There are several choices when purchasing certain infrastructure items, such as having your education bill include religious teachings in school. These can have different effects, such as allowing the previous example may improve the player's standing with the country's religious fundamentalists.
Checking the loyalty of cabinet member: Cabinet members can be a decisive factor in your games, as they often have tasks for you to complete as Glorious Leader. This feature allows you to see how loyal your parliament is, as well as allowing you to read your minister's demands in more depth. While minister loyalty mainly plays into the late game, having disloyal ministers can spark revolutions and other events of that magnetism. These are not game breaking events, and can be recovered from, but doing so is very difficult and there is simply no benefit to not having loyal cabinet members.
Checking the regional map: The regional map allows for several benefits, such as making your borders open in order to increase your tourism revenue. While this is the first available benefit, many options open up if one has improved their friendship with the surrounding nations. These benefit requires the player to have a very loyal foreign minister however, and can be used for more than simply acquiring more revenue. If your country suddenly contracts a severe disease or possibly a terrorist cell, you can close all of your border in order to contain the threat. Doing so will pause all current trade agreements however and cost you greatly. Another option is to host peace talks with a friendly neighboring country, which can increase one's standing with that country as well as the UN.
Phoning other countries in the region: This feature will mostly be used to trade with the aforementioned other countries, however there are other things one can do with this feature. One example is discussing a general list of issues in order to increase one's standing with that country. While that may have been the original intention, most of the countries will agree on exactly the same points, so it is a safe bet to keep choosing those points throughout every playthrough. Another feature of the phone is to call an American ambassador, which will allow you to speak to said ambassador in the next turn. Doing so can help you improve your standing with America, gain military support from America, get the authorized use of an American assassin, increase the support for your regime, invite the American President to your country or get intelligence on other leaders in the region.
Asking your political adviser for help: This function exists to allow the player to check the status of the country at large. While this is not an incredibly interesting or important feature, it can be very useful when planning your next move as Leader. However, you cannot check any military status here, for that there is a military advisor available in the situation room, who provides the same benefits.
Invading a country: Invading can be done from a regional map in the situation room, which also happens to show existing trade routes between each country and you, to show you how attacking a certain country may affect your friendship with another. While invading is not the entirety of the use of this feature, it is the most prominent use for it and includes the use of several other features. One such other feature is that of information gathering, an incredibly useful feature even outside the situation room, as it can allow for better trade and blackmailing ambassadors. However, it's most useful function is showing you the military strength of the country you are planning on invading. This can be a make or break moment within your playthrough, as losing an invasion means that you may have to pay a tax of sorts to that country, but winning means that you could gain a large amount of money as well. This feature is also subjected to missions from ministers, which can yield useful rewards.
Starting a clandestine operation: This allows the player to begin a single clandestine operation, such as a space program or research into nuclear weapons. A clandestine operation requires both a starting cost as well as continuous investment, and will almost always cause a problem with a surrounding nation or possibly even the UN. However, the rewards of completing a clandestine operation are large and could completely turn the game around.
Recruiting soldiers and war machines: This is an incredibly essential feature to any player, regardless of how aggressive you want your playthrough to be. You can recruit soldiers and war machines in the situation room as well, and like clandestine operations, they have an initial cost as well as an ongoing cost. The use of these is not only to attack your enemies, but they can be used to defend your country as well, which becomes incredibly important if you institute martial law during a catastrophe or are being attacked. This feature also centers in minster requests, however not as greatly as others.