For the first couple hours, I really didn't get Fate of the World. The game repeatedly and unrelentingly kicked my ass, and if that's what I wanted out of something game-related I'd just go to PAX and shout “Ebert was right.” My every action was met with an opposite reaction, generally ending with some variation on the phrase “Russia, North Africa, the Middle East, and the Lost City of Atlantis have gone to war, and it's all your fault.”
But why? As the head of the fictional Global Environmental Organization, I was just trying to improve environmental policies and stop the world from ending catastrophically. Why did everyone hate me? Well, put simply, it was because Fate of the World doesn't work like other games. It's a strategy game that tasks the player with regulating the entire planet's environmental policies to keep Global Warming from running rampant. Turns out, those “other games” are wrong; saving the world isn't easy. Swinging a sword or waving a wand won't make all your problems go away. Instead of cracking skulls, Fate of the World made me crack books and pore over graphs. And I loved it.
In most Fate of the World scenarios, the objective is simple: survive. Hold out until the year 2120. Don't let the global temperature increase by more than three degrees. Oh, and there's also that whole “everybody going to war and killing each other” bit. It's probably best to avoid that as well. But those are merely the explicit rules. Unspoken, however, is Fate of the World's central tenet: learn. That, it turns out, is why all the major world powers hopped aboard the Hate Bandwagon as soon as I began trying to steer them in the right direction. I simply hadn’t learned enough. I didn't understand the social climate or the regular climate, and seeing as Fate of the World is a constant tug-of-war between those two forces, I had a lot of work ahead of me.
Fortunately, Fate of the World was happy to oblige. That is because it's an educational game, but an incredibly clever one. I was forced to learn about real world issues to succeed, and the beauty of Fate of the World is that real-world knowledge isn't some tacked-on edutainment element, it's an integral game mechanic. As soon as I took the time to learn some actual facts about Global Warming, I was handsomely rewarded.
Paradoxically, that single word - “simple” - is both a perfect descriptor and the antithesis of Fate of the World. The game itself unfolds in an almost turn-based fashion, with each turn representing five years. In order to actually enact policies, all I technically had to do was purchase policy cards for major world regions and then press a giant button that advanced to the next turn. Piece of cake, right? In a word: no. In more words: you might want to sit down.
For one, policies span an incredibly broad range of categories—from energy and environmental safety to tech and the general well-being of a region's people. As a result, striking a balance between keeping people happy and, you know, not extinct tends to be quite the juggling act. Plus, things have a tendency to spiral completely out of control at the slightest provocation. For instance, I didn't pay enough attention to the Middle East's slow tech advancement and before I knew it, the region had kidnapped two of my representatives, sprouted a number of armed conflicts, and generally devolved into the problem child of my increasingly dysfunctional global family.
It is important to note that Fate of the World is not unfair. Rather, it rewards decisive action only after careful study and planning. So at first, I dove in blind, and really shouldn’t have been surprised when things immediately went south. But I stuck with it, and that's when I began to unravel Fate of the World's brilliance.
The game made me feel like I was constantly right on the cusp of getting it—like I was just a turn or two away from everything falling into place. So I dug deeper. I looked over each and every fictional news report. If I didn't understand a concept or term, I looked it up in the in-game wiki. I discovered the vital importance of the game's hyper-detailed telemetry graphs. When not playing, my precious zone-out time was devoted to rearranging my overstuffed brain to make room for all these new concepts.
And then, finally, things started clicking, and I was no longer the worst GEO leader in history. I knew what Rocky felt like after he finally ascended those steps in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. And that's when it hit me: Fate of the World had tricked me into learning. It had played on my expectations as a gamer—my desire to master systems and worlds—in order to make me obsess over a topic of real relevance. Gaming industry, take note: this is how you make an educational game.
Well, mostly. Fate of the World has its share of flaws. Foremost, the in-game wiki—though packed with valuable information—is a nightmare to navigate. There's no search function, and I had to go back to the main menu and manually pop it open every time I wanted to look up a term. Honestly, if there'd just been a link system (like in an actual wiki) that allowed me to click on each term and immediately go to its corresponding page, it would have been fantastic. As of my playthrough of the game, however, that feature had not been implemented.
All told, Fate of the World is an excellent game and perhaps an even better educational tool; its sink-or-swim approach to teaching really worked for me. Rare is the game that sticks with its players after they've finished it. Even rarer, however, is a game that could very well make an impact on the rest of someone's life. With Fate of the World, I feel like I've found just that.
Fate of the World was developed and published by Red Redemption Ltd. It is available on PC and Mac. A PC copy of the game was reviewed.
Nathan Grayson is a freelance games writer currently based out of Dallas, Texas. His work has appeared in Maximum PC, GamePro, GamesRadar, The Escapist, and VG247, and he can be found on Twitter @Vahn16. Secretly, however, he's actually a machine powered by vengeance, spite, and chocolate.
Watch the trailer for Fate of the World: