Developer: Red Redemption
Publisher: Red Redemption
Back when I was at school (almost a decade ago, a grim thought indeed) the RM Nimbus machines that powered our IT lessons had an educational tool on them in the guise of a game; a programme called Slick. The premise was that you were to clean up an oil slick, using limited funds and resources, and generally make the world a better place in the process. It was pretty simple fun, although I always ended up plotting the boat into the coastline or something. However, nearly a decade on we now have an educational simulator that deals with modern issues and ups the stakes by a little bit.
And by a little bit, I mean the entire planet. No pressure then.
Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a turn-based strategy game that takes the unique approach of taking on environmental issues, developed using scientific data from the University of Oxford. It puts players in the near future where our lack of attention to environmental matters has ended up placing the world on the precipice of disaster. As head of the Global Environment Organisation you are given the power to bring about the changes needed to ensure humanity and all the other living species on the planet survive. However, it’s not as simple as saying “lower carbon emissions” and “let’s all drive electric cars”, no sir. There are consequences to every decision you make and political landmines to navigate as you attempt to ensure humanity thrives whilst giving our planet a bit of a breather. I’ll tell you this much though; you can also be sure that no matter what you do you’re going to end up causing the extinction of an animal, and it’s going to make you feel horrible.
But don’t let the pessimistic overview dissuade your interest because, as you’ll see from reading this review, trying save the planet can be rather entertaining as well as challenging.
There are several scenarios to pick as you start the game. These vary from getting through the game for a set amount of turns without being run out of office, to ensuring a set amount of the world’s population survive the invertible storm. However, ensuring you get through the game without getting lynched by a mob does not necessarily equal success (as I found out) as there are conditions for failure, such as having a low Human Development Index for any given region, losing control of a region that you designate as your HQ, or allowing global warming to rise above a certain level.
If you still think this all seems a little daunting I wouldn’t blame you. At times it can seem like FOTW is bombarding you with information, especially when you attempt your first playthrough, but explanations as to what each statistic means and the actions you must do to achieve your goals are readily available for those that look for them, although you are given helpful tooltips during the first scenario on the list, ‘The Rise of Africa.’ In comparison to the other levels on offer, this one acts like a tutorial for the game by giving you only two regions to look after, North and South Africa, instead of the full set of twelve.
When in-game, there is a feeling of Civilization-meets-Risk to FOTW, which is due to the design of the world map which is split up into different regions, the turn-based mechanics, and the card system which is the heart of the game. Using the limited funds at your disposal, you must unlock slots in a region (otherwise known as “hiring agents”) which give you the ability to use action cards, each of which having a varying financial costs and differ in how long they stay in play for. Initially most of the cards at your disposal will unlock additional decks of cards, for instance the setting up of a Welfare Office unlocks cards for the next turn which allow you to initiate health and education programmes for the populace, while opening an Environment Protection Office unlocks cards that can help you combat the on-going battle with mother nature’s wrath.
While the use of some cards come only with a monetary cost, others come with side effects that could potentially ruin your plans as a global savour. For instance, using the ‘Wild-life Conservation’ card will help protect the varying wild species in an area, but in doing so reduces food levels. Likewise, using the ‘Commit To Nuclear Energy’ card may well solve your current energy woes, but comes with the risk of running out of plutonium. With limited coffers, you won’t be able to play everything at once and will have to pick and choose which to card to go with depending on the current needs of the region.
To help you with this, news flashes on the current situation are available after each turn, allowing you to access what is desperately needed. High stress on the local water supply? Select the card to improve the facilities. High risk of droughts or wildfires? Play the appropriate card. Incoming storms or floods? Prepare defences by choosing the right card for the job. Once you are happy with your choices, you can end the turn which moves the game ahead by five years to see the results of your choices. Of course, if I haven’t made it abundantly clear already, it’s never really that straight forward as you need to deal with growing population levels and civil unrest, but this is where the game starts to get interesting, entertaining, and perhaps a little dark.
By unlocking the ‘Political Office’ deck you gain the ability to not only provide security against angry protesters or militant uprisings, but it allows you to access to some highly questionable actions to control the population, or more specifically, help to control the numbers. Feel like the birth rate is out of control? Throw contraceptives in the water supply. Still not enough? Engineer a bio-weapon to take out a large portion of the population. Feeling like the current government is not helping your goals? Have them ‘replaced’ with someone more cooperative. Need a distraction from your dastardly deeds? Create a media sensation to keep the public enthralled. I found the options quite amusing, but what is scary is that they are all fairly ‘realistic’ courses of action. Of course, there is a risk of being caught giving these orders and as such you can be banished from the region completely if your approval rating falls low enough, but pulling it off means you can really put things in your favour.
Providing you’re cruel enough to do so. You monster.
At the end of each game, providing you make it that far, you are told how well you did, and if you met the requirements for success or failure. For instance, in one scenario I managed to reduce global emissions by a huge amount, but in doing so I distracted myself from the failure condition of keeping the global HDI above 0.7, causing me to ultimately lose. However, seeing the graphs of my progress was an interesting post-game read and allowed me to see exactly where I had gone wrong. As an educational tool it’s a great program to teach not only children but everybody of the problems of our little planet.
There are nine scenarios contained with the Tipping Point bundle, each with varying difficulties to overcome (or helping hands) and victory / failure conditions enforced with them. However, if you find yourself feeling incredibly evil you can attempt the final scenario which challenges you to make the planet virtually uninhabitable before either running out of money or being lynched in your own headquarters. It’s a great twist to the formula, and adds to plenty of content that should keep strategy enthusiasts happy as they attempt once again to beat the scenerios.
However, there are issues with the title that could turn the punters away. Entering the experience in a casual nature will potentially have you running for the hills, with the graphs and statistics overloading your senses. Those without patience will not get on well with FOTW. This is due to what I would describe as an overly-busy user interface, but I sympathise with the fact there is so much information to give to the player that is too important to omit. It is by no means a mess, but it does force the player to take time to figure out what everything means. While extra tutorial measures, or perhaps a scenario which introduced new features slowly, would have perhaps been more beneficial to newcomers, the amount of information to learn would have made it seem almost patronising to some players. As I said before, patience will be important, but fear not; there is an easy mode button that gives players a helping hand whilst learning the ropes, although it disables achievements in the process.
What FOTW does well is emphasise that there really isn’t an ideal way to tackle the problems our world is facing, and that hard choices have to be made by someone that will not only affect our fellow human beings, but the wild life we hold so dear as well. In one play through I managed to cause the extinction of the Black Rhino to my own dismay, and on the final turn of the same game I found out I had wiped out the Black-Footed Weasel from North America, with the news accompanied with a picture of the animal looking incredibly innocent.
At least the Red Pandas made it out alive. I do love those little guys.
- Excellent potential as an educational tool
- Plenty of content to keep strategy enthusiast happy
- Challenging moral choices available to the player
- The limited tutorial tips throws players into the deep end quickly
- Overly-busy user interface will frustrate impatient players
- All the cute animals will die, and you'll feel guilty
The short version: Red Redemption have crafted a unique and highly educational strategy title that can provide many hours of entertainment, but if there’s one thing Fate of the World will teach you, it’s that life is very, very cruel. Those without patience will have a hard time with the overly-informative UI, but those that persevere will be rewarded with a rich experience.