Review: Fate of the World
After playing around with it for a while I’ve come to the conclusion that whoever the target audience is for Fate of the World, I’m sure not one of them. The sequel to BBC Climate Challenge, Fate of the World is essentially a global climate change simulator. Though what it feels like is a video game version of a board game designed by Al Gore. In Fate of the World, you play as the head of the Global Environmental Organization and it’ll be your job to deal with natural disasters, dwindling food and energy resources, political upheavals, and international conflicts.
Conceptually, it’s not a bad idea for a game. Fate of the World essentially picks up where most classic RTS games leave off. You’ve just become ruler of the world, but now your job is to fix it and generally keep the damned thing running smoothly. And much like fixing the actual world, achieving victory in Fate of the World is actually quite difficult. Now this normally isn’t a problem for me. I applaud games that both provide a challenge and encourage me to actually think about what I’m going to do. Sadly though, developer and publisher Red Redemption pretty much dropped the ball on this one and Fate of the World fails in a number of critical spots. Its learning curve is rather steep and very little is ever explained; instead leaving it up to players to figure out how to actually play the game (the practice/tutorial scenario really doesn’t help any). It also plays a bit too much like a board game, except without the entertainment that comes from playing against your friends. And finally, Fate of the World just isn’t very fun.
At its heart, Fate of the World is an educational game designed to teach you about global climate change and the impact it can have on both mankind and the Earth. Each of the game’s six missions provides players with a specific goal such as increasing oil output while maintaining political and environmental stability across the entire world. In order to achieve these goals, players intervene by altering social policies for a region, introducing new technologies, or sending in a military force in order to stabilize a chaotic region.
Rather than achieving these goals by building factories, shifting resources and financial aid from region to region, or working with and manipulating various world leaders in order to alter their policies, world altering change is actually achieved by playing cards from a deck. That’s right, someone actually thought that the best way to teach people about global climate change was through a PC card game. Cards cost money to play and their duration varies from card to card. In order to play a card in a region, players purchase card slots for that region. The deck of cards does change depending on what players do, but usually it’s along the lines of playing a card that adds a new headquarters to a region, which in turn unlocks new cards. Once players have decided what cards they’re going to play they hit the “next turn” button, and 5 years passes as the world reacts. As dull as that may sound, I assure you that actually playing Fate of the World is far duller.
The big problem with Fate of the World is that while a lot of time and energy went into researching the topic and designing the way in which these systems all interact, it feels as though no time actually went into designing the game part of the game. The only form of interaction that players have with the game is in choosing from a list of cards for each region. If North Africa is experiencing a nasty drought, it’s solved by picking the “Water Management Program” card, and if South America is experiencing political instability it’s instantly solved by the “Provide Security Assistance” card. The only real strategy lies in knowing which cards unlock the options you need to fix a particular region. Sure each card has a lot of text explaining what it does, and the in-game wiki explains each in further detail, but none of that really matters as each card also has a simple explanation of what it does in game terms. It’s nice to know how 2nd generation bio-fuels work, but all you’ll really care about is that they reduce emissions and make the country happier by one point. Once you know that, it’s just a matter of looking at the list of problems each region is facing, and then picking the appropriate cards.
The game fails to provide players with motivation to actually learn more about global climate change. Each mission comes with multiple ways to fail such as making a region angry with you or allowing global warming to increase beyond a certain level, but those are avoided the same way as ever other issue in Fate of the World; find a card in the deck that says that it fixes the problem and then play it. As Fate of the World’s gameplay is overly simplistic, its difficulty comes from a sharp learning curve which is only exacerbated by a rather poorly designed tutorial. Aside from teaching them how to buy card slots and play cards, the game leaves it up to players to learn how to identify the issues that each region faces, balance regional good will, and reduce global warming. Once players learn how to do that though, the game’s difficulty plummets.
What’s truly disappointing about Fate of the World is that the gameplay isn’t compelling and the game just isn’t very fun. Rather than being an engaging and exciting game that educates players about global climate change, it’s little more than an environmentalist themed game of solitaire with a deck that never gets shuffled. I’m not afraid to admit that I consider global climate change to be a serious issue, and that I loved Al Gore’s movie, An Inconvenient Truth. However, when I play Fate of the World, I can’t help but feel that this game is letting the side down. If the gameplay had been exciting and engaging, then it might have introduced more people to the facts about global climate change. Instead it’s a game that will only appeal to those who already feel strongly about the issue and are willing to play a dull game in a vain attempt to show their support. Everyone else will just be bored by it. Fate of the World feels like the kind of educational game that we were introduced to back in the 1990’s in an elementary school computer lab, but ignored once we found out that minesweeper was more entertaining.
What I wanted from Fate of the World was an entertaining game that taught me about global climate change and forced me to use that knowledge. Instead Fate of the World turned out to be an exceedingly dull card game and it failed to reach a level of compelling gameplay. With great disappointment and a heavy heart, I have to say Fry it.