Realpolitiks, developed by Jujubee, is a grand strategy game that seeks to bring the depth and complexity of games like Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron to the Nintendo Switch. However, while the ambition is commendable, Realpolitiks falls short in delivering a truly immersive and engaging experience on the handheld console. In this review, we will explore the strengths and weaknesses of Realpolitiks, examining its gameplay mechanics, interface, and overall accessibility.
A Strategy Game Set in the Modern World
At its core, Realpolitiks is a strategy game set in the modern world, allowing players to take control of various contemporary countries and shape their destinies. The game presents players with the challenge of transforming their chosen nation into a global power, with multiple paths to achieve this goal. Players can opt for a democratic approach, focusing on economic potential and diplomatic pragmatism, or they can adopt authoritarian or totalitarian ideologies for a more aggressive and assertive approach.
The game’s choice of subject matter is timely, given the ongoing state of global politics. Realpolitiks incorporates satire into its gameplay, featuring loading screen art that playfully depicts world leaders like Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un. While the game does not reach the nuanced depth of its inspirations, it offers a commendable attempt to bring a complex grand strategy game to a handheld platform like the Nintendo Switch.
Vast Systems and Complex Decision-Making
Realpolitiks impresses with its vast array of systems and mechanics. Each nation in the game has its own unique ideology, national GDP, and relationships with neighboring states, which directly influence the resources and options available to players. The game forces players to make strategic decisions about the allocation of resources, such as maintaining infrastructure, investing in military expansion, or prioritizing citizen well-being. However, the game’s tutorial mode fails to effectively convey the depth of these systems, leaving players to figure out the mechanics on their own.
Navigating the complex diplomatic landscape of Realpolitiks can be challenging, especially in the freeform mode, where players have the most freedom to expand and form alliances. However, the game imposes unnecessary limitations on players’ actions, allowing only two tasks to be performed at once. While time can be sped up to complete tasks more quickly, this narrows the window for achieving the highest rankings. Additionally, some important actions, such as voting in the UN or deciding on military interventions, are automated, providing little feedback and diminishing the sense of agency and control.
Three Modes, Limited Scope
Realpolitiks offers three main gameplay modes: The World is Not Enough, The Dawn of Tomorrow, and New World Order. The World is Not Enough allows players to pick a nation and expand their influence as they see fit. The Dawn of Tomorrow presents a post-nuclear war scenario, where players must rebuild their state from the ashes. New World Order levels the playing field by giving every nation the same starting statistics and the race to become the highest-ranked country.
While the freeform mode offers the most scope for strategic decision-making, it also magnifies the game’s shortcomings. The limited number of concurrent tasks and the automated nature of certain actions hinder players from fully immersing themselves in the game and crafting their desired narrative. The depth promised by Realpolitiks is not fully realized, leaving players with a sense of unfulfilled potential.
Porting Challenges and User Experience
Realpolitiks was originally designed for PC and mobile platforms, and its transition to the Nintendo Switch presents some notable challenges. The game’s mechanics, designed with a mouse and keyboard in mind, feel cumbersome and clunky when played with the Switch’s analog sticks. Additionally, the small screen real estate in handheld mode makes it difficult to navigate the game’s interface, which features small buttons and submenus.
The Switch version of Realpolitiks does offer additional DLC content, providing ample gameplay for strategy enthusiasts. Performance-wise, the game runs relatively well, with only occasional instances of slowdown. The touchscreen functionality of the Switch can be used to navigate the game, but the smaller screen size compared to tablets makes the experience fiddly and less intuitive.
Conclusion: A Struggle for Balance
Realpolitiks aspires to be a grand strategy game in the vein of Europa Universalis and Hearts of Iron, but it falls short of achieving the same level of depth and immersion. The game’s complex systems and mechanics are hindered by a lackluster tutorial and unnecessary limitations on player actions. While the port to the Nintendo Switch offers additional DLC and relatively stable performance, the interface and controls are not optimized for the handheld console.
In the end, Realpolitiks finds itself in a challenging position, trying to strike a balance between accessibility for newcomers and long-term engagement for genre veterans. While it may appeal to die-hard strategy enthusiasts looking for a new experience on the Nintendo Switch, casual players may find the game overwhelming and frustrating. With some improvements to the user interface and a more streamlined gameplay experience, Realpolitiks could have been a standout title in the grand strategy genre.