Suzerain is a visual novel/simulation game about running a state. You take the role of Anton Rayne, a recently elected President of the shaky state of Sordland, surrounded on all sides by enemies, allies, and miscreants. It is up to you to take control of the situation and lead the country through a tumultuous term that will shape the future of the country.
The game is an incredible labour of love by the team at Torpor Games, and it shows in the world you interact with. Astute players will recognise parallel analogies to other states in our world, but be surprised that each country is fleshed out enough to stand on their own. You have the Agnolia, a small nation to your north which Sordland has been especially overbearing towards. To your west are the jingoistic and opportunistic Rumburg, looking to capitalize on your ascension by escalating a conflict that would see a war in their favour. To the south, the Wehlen, a nation beset by violence that presents a consistent problem. There are many more countries that you interact with during your play, and each need to be handled delicately, lest the balance of power shift away from your favour.
It is not going to be an easy task to steer this country. You take control of Sordland after a contentious scandal toppled the former president, leaving you to clean up a recession, an exceptionally neglected and jingoistic populace; an especially backwards one remarked upon by almost everyone in your cabinet. It’s going to take a lot of skill and leadership to manage these complex webs of interconnected relationships and use them to your advantage. Will you decide to move towards a more egalitarian or fair society? Or will you fall to temptation and give your presidency dictatorial powers? The choice, and the people who will make this dream a fruition, is yours.
Whichever path you choose, you must interact with a rich set of characters with their own set of unique personalities and wants. The Oligarchs for instance, wish to assert their power over you and force sweeping privatization reforms, while the Old Guard oppose wish to keep Sordian companies in Sordian hands. Each player in the game, from the highest statesman to the people you interact with, have in-depth bios that describe their behaviours, histories, and relationships which are essential to understanding their motivations, attitudes, and behaviours as you progress through your term. Everyone, from your own family to media moguls and rival politicians, are people you have to interact and manage over the course of your premiership.
As I was playing this game I was quite enamoured during my first run, and found almost seven hours had passed before I knew about it. The story really does go and grab you from the outset and keep you hooked as you are forced to navigate crisis after crisis, from War, ethnic tensions, and the country almost breaking apart once more to Civil War. There is a degree of replayability in this game as you attempt to steer the country into different directions, and no two playthroughs are roughly the same.
In my own playthrough, I attempted to move the country into a more egalitarian and equitable future, but had to privatize a lot of national resources to pay for the infrastructure and government reforms that would make it possible. Meanwhile, I had to juggle possible war with Rumburg and dealing with the cold-war tensions from the two major blocks. On top of all this, I had a revolt in my cabinet that saw me face a leadership challenge that I barely won, followed by a tumultuous election that saw my party swept aside for the real forces of change in the country.
Overall, it’s a very niche, very addictive politically-oriented visual-novel that sunk its claws into me for almost 20 hours. I would definitely recommend giving it a play. The developers are currently hard at work patching some of the small things in the game, but you would hardly notice them; it is a very solidly built game.
Suzerain is available on Steam for Windows and Mac. I bought this with my own money.