Suzerain review for Nintendo Switch, PC

Platform: Nintendo Switch
Also on: PC
Publisher: Fellow Traveller
Developer: Torpor Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Speaking as someone who?s been way too into politics for my entire life, it?s kind of surprising to me there aren?t more explicitly political video games. I mean, if we have resource management simulators built around farming, buses, trains, and pretty much everything else you can imagine, politics seems like the logical next step. As anyone who?s ever worked inside a political office could tell you, it?s pretty much the ultimate in resource management ? you have a finite number of resources, strict time limits, and tonnes of competing interests, and on top of that you get random external events (global pandemic, anyone?) that upend your agenda and require you to change plans on the fly. True, a game can?t quite imitate the fact that millions of people?s lives are impacted by every decision you make, but as settings go, the political world seems like a pretty untapped market (especially given how terrible the few available offerings are).

All that is a long-winded way of saying that Suzerain occupies a somewhat unique niche. It?s a game about politics that really gets into the nitty-gritty of decision-making, and it does so in a fairly realistic way. At every turn, you need to navigate through minefields of competing interests. You?re forced to decide not just about surface-level issues like tax rates and international alliances, but the things that actually matter: keeping different factions in your cabinet and the legislature happy (or at least on-side), figuring out how to placate business interests and the media, and balancing the different regional interests.

Making things even more interesting, you?re doing it all against the backdrop of a fictional 1950s country emerging from decades of dictatorship. This adds into the complexity, since you have hard-left and hard-right advocates offering the easy path towards communism or fascism, not to mention an entrenched old guard who liked things the way they were and who are more than willing to dangle emergency powers in front of you if it means they get to stay in their comfortable positions.

Further, Suzerain also remembers that politicians are people, and it gives the game?s main character, President Anton Rayne, a life and a backstory. In addition to the political decisions, he?s also faced with responding to family and friends. It adds an interesting layer, and gives the story a lot more weight that it would?ve had if it were simply choosing policy after policy.

As much as I like Suzerain, however, I should note that it?s very much a niche game ? not only in terms of subject matter, but also presentation. It?s basically a denser, text-heavy version of a Choose Your Own Adventure-style visual novel, so it requires a lot of reading. It looks nice, it?s got an appropriately moody score, and it feels more at home on the Switch than pretty much any other PC simulation game port I?ve come across, but unless you feel like reading page after page of reports and debates, it may not click with you.

Needless to say, it clicked with me. Suzerain is an outstanding political game that?s perfect for anyone who?s ever dreamed of drawing up their own budget or getting into no-win situations, and I loved every minute of it.

Fellow Traveller provided us with a Suzerain Switch code for review purposes.

Grade: A-