Pros: Good aesthetically, interesting premise, simple game mechanics...
Cons: ... doesn't always feel like your decisions make much actual difference...
Fate of the World: Tipping Point is a game based around scientific observations of the effect people are having on the environment, and projections of how the future of the planet will unfold without urgent action. The game puts you in command of the GEO, a global organisation tasked with trying to preserve the world’s ecosystems – however, you can’t directly make policy, but have to try to help governments to make wise (or at least wiser) decisions on how they do things.
The world is split up into continental and sub-continental regions, and you can recruit agents into any of them. Once there, you can use an agent to start up an office – Energy, Transport, Welfare, Environmental, Political – which you can then use to do achieve other things. For instance with a Welfare Office set up, you can initiate medical and educational programmes, raising that area’s HDI (Human Development Index) and making that area more friendly towards you. Other offices let you influence policy and raise awareness of different issues, while with a political office set up you can intervene to help stabilise a region – unstable regions can result in your agents’ untimely demises. Although there are many challenges in the game, dealing with politically unstable regions is probably the most difficult.
Each game turn represents 5 years, for which you can buy agents, and for each agent you can buy one “card” representing certain actions and initiatives. Of course you need money to do both of these, which is raised by your agents across the world. The actions you can take include moving regions away from or towards using certain energy sources, helping to raise living standards or encourage social change. Of course, not all of your actions will be possible, and you always have to keep a strict eye on your budget.
Where Fate of the World: Tipping Point becomes really interesting is in the large range of scenarios you play – each one is effectively a separate game with different objectives; each scenario has its own win and bonus objectives, as well as lose conditions. You might have to raise living conditions in Africa, get the economy to a certain point, prevent particular environmental catastrophes etc – in one scenario you even get to be the bad guy, trying to speed up global warming (with bonus points for triggering global thermonuclear war!).
The very complex issues dealt with in the game are distilled into an extremely simple gameplay mechanism, although the sheer amount of statistical information that you can access is rather overwhelming at first (after a while you realise that much of it isn’t strictly speaking essential to helping you make your decisions, although it’s still relevant). It does something feel that you’re achieving much (this may be intentional), and the odd very strange mathematical oddity (on one notable occasion, North America’s pollution output jumped 123% despite me having several environmental initiatives in place) made me wonder if the random element of the game was set a little too high.
Aesthetically the game is pretty good, with impressive graphics, a stylish user interface and fairly atmospheric music. Once you get used to how the game works, the interface is fine. There is an Easy Mode for each scenario, but you can’t win any of the achievements (there are a lot of those) unless you play in Normal Mode. I haven't really played the game in Easy Mode - it just doesn't seem as much fun!
As a game it’s quite good; the game would get boring quickly if it weren’t for the plethora of different scenarios to play. As it is, you’ll get lot of gameplay out of this. Of course it’s designed to be more than just a game, and to get you thinking about global issues, and it does a decent job of this too. All in all, Fate of the World: Tipping Point is an enjoyable, interesting and enlightening game. I'm giving it a rating of 4 stars, although for the game alone without its thought-provoking message, it might have only been a 3.
OS: Windows XP or above
CPU: 2.2GHz or above
RAM: 2Gb (3Gb recommended for Vista / Windows 7)
GPU: 512Mb card
DirectX: 9 or above
HDD Space: 1Gb
Fate of the World: Tipping Point is available for PC and Mac (PC version reviewed, tested on the Packard Bell iPower X9810)
More indie strategy games:
Hegemony: Philip of Macedon - unite Greece as Alexander the Great's dad
AI War: Fleet Command - multiplayer space RTS
Blue Libra - Homeworld in Miniature!
Auralux - possibly the simplest strategy game ever?
Age of Fear - small-scale yet epic fantasy
More PC strategy games:
The Battle for Middle Earth
Civilisation: Call to Power
Shogun: Total War
Heroes of Might and Magic 3
Heroes of Might and Magic 5
Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2
This review was a rather belated entry to the Environmentally Friendly Write-Off.
You can enhance your video gaming experience by getting a set of good, cheap headphones.