Realpolitiks II is Jujubee Games‘ second attempt at the grand strategy genre, and while I haven’t played the first game, it would seem that they have improved nearly every aspect of it. Unlike most grand strategy games, here you won’t build massive cities and micro-manage tons of resources but instead sit behind your mahogany desk, sign policies and make decrees to propel your nation into the future.
This game has so many different aspects that it’s difficult to explain in a nutshell what it’s all about. The game is so complicated that even after working through an hour-long tutorial and reading the 36-page manual sent to me by the developers, I still felt woefully unprepared to take on this challenge.
STORY – YOU ARE THE AUTHOR
As with most management games like this, there is no story to lead you into the fray. You pick a nation to rule from over 200 options and create the story as you see fit. Will you become a respected democratic ruler who cares for his people’s wellbeing above all else, or will you be the feared dictator who will do whatever it takes to gain the respect you deserve? Will you win through technological advancement or cultural dominance, or bend your foes to your will through military superiority? You have the might to write your own story.
GAMEPLAY – TAKE THE SEAT OF POWER
The first thing I noticed when starting the game is the unfathomably long load times. The game is still in early access, so the load times, along with any other bugs, might still be on the list of things to iron out. I will admit that I did not experience many bugs, and those I did find were minor.
I started my first game in South-Africa, my home country, as I’m a bit more familiar with the territory. This presented another game issue as the landscape isn’t anywhere near accurate. Your country is divided into provinces, and I had Pretoria and Johannesburg as separate provinces despite them being cities within the same province. Johannesburg replaced the Freestate province, and Uppington, another city, replaced the Northern Cape. This isn’t such a big issue, but given how serious this game aims to be, I’m surprised that the landscapes aren’t more accurate.
What was accurate of my country was the massive 30% unemployment rate I had to deal with from the start, which proved quite the challenge since, at first glance, the best way to deal with unemployment is to build power plants. However, I didn’t have any of the infrastructure technologies available to be able to build power plants and had to research them from scratch. Should you start with a more advanced country like the United Kingdom, you should already have those technologies researched. This means that every country should truly give you a vastly different experience.
Before getting started, you have to choose your right hand and ministers. For your second in command, there are several options, each with their own benefits like increased relations with countries not in your bloc, increased income, improved happiness, or buffs to your military. Your ministers are less varied, and you only have two options for each. However, they only stay in office for a term, at which point you’ll choose someone new to take their place.
Your goal in the game is also not as straightforward as there as six victory conditions to pursue.
- Diplomatic victory: Create the world’s first one-world government and unify the whole world under your leadership.
- Technological victory: Create a global network and control the flow of information across the globe.
- Cultural victory: Make your culture dominant in the most important places on earth or unify all cultures in a cultural globalization process.
- Economic victory: Control the most important trading points and have the highest GDP in the world.
- Domination victory: Win through war.
- Score victory: Win by having the highest score after 100 years.
An odd mechanic is that you can only have one building in each province. These range from barracks that allow you to train military units or universities, which increase your overall human development index (HDI), to power plants that increase your GDP growth and decrease unemployment but has an adverse effect on the environment.
Resources are actually fairly limited as you only work with action points, metals, fuels, rare earth elements, GDP growth, HDI, manpower, and missile count. Compare that to the technology tree, which is by far the most complex I’ve ever come across. There are over 20 different categories, some of which are unique to a culture or government, and each category can have dozens of technologies or projects to research. In total, there are over 700 available.
According to the developers, Realpolitiks II should be able to simulate real-world events like the current pandemic or even Brexit. With over 1000 random events occurring when you least expect it, I have no trouble believing that. The random events come with a series of responses to the situation, each with pros and cons. I once received a notification that the far-left groups gained popularity. My responses included being happy for them, which would increase my popularity with that group while lowering national unhappiness by 10%, use counter-propaganda so they don’t gain more followers at a financial cost, prohibit their activities, which would also cost funds but will improve my personal control, or ignore them completely and trust that balance will return. When the massive success of social media was announced, I was even given the option to restrict Internet access to the entire country, very much like real events then.
The combat mechanics are some of those that have been improved from the previous game. When a battle commences, you can zoom in on the assault and command your troops individually. The weather plays a role here, and your troops can even fire on each other if they’re not careful. There’s also an advanced espionage engine that allows you to perform numerous missions in enemy territories; of course, this could also ruin your relationships with your neighbors or give you the upper hand against a rival.
The AI is said to be greatly improved over the previous game, but I still found it rather erratic. One moment, I was at war with Zimbabwe and their bloc, a war that quickly ended after a single battle. One of their bloc members even gifted me 2 provinces in Europe even though I didn’t actually fight them directly. Soon after, I found myself at war with Angola, despite having no previous contact with them.
Finally, the game has an advanced modding engine that will allow you to create your own scenarios. If the game doesn’t come with enough choice already, then you should be able to add your own flavor.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO – SIMPLE BUT PLEASING
Visually, I found Realpolitiks II incredibly pleasing. The map layout works well, and there are plenty of cues to give you more information. The individual territories don’t have too many details, but personally, I think this was a good decision, or things would get too busy. I did have some slight issues with the colors of different nations as mine was sometimes very close to my neighbor’s, and I actually had trouble seeing which provinces belonged to who.
From an audio perspective, things are also positive; the soundtracks are really quite fantastic. The sound effects are limited to the occasional pings and pops from the UI, so there could have been a bit more included, but I wouldn’t say the game is lacking because of it.
However, the UI is a hot mess. At first glance, the UI seems well organized and informative, but I spent way too long looking for things that should have been clear from the off. First, there are the notifications that aren’t grouped in a way that makes logical sense to me, so I kept scanning through them to see what they were telling me.
Also, when you have a random event involving another country, the message doesn’t tell you which country you’re dealing with. You have to mouse over some of the icons in the fine print of the event to see this information. Since one of these events could very well lead to war with another nation, I would expect the nation in question to be prominently displayed. Finally, there doesn’t seem to be an easy way to locate your armies and spies. Instead, you have to look through the various territories to see where they are stationed and select them from there.
Most of these issues would be resolved with an easily accessible search function, but this was not present, and I felt completely lost in the UI.
Realpolitiks II was previewed on PC via Steam. We received an early access key from 1C Entertainment.